August 3, 2012

Mt. Greylock, north route

Successes are fun, cycling is fun and hills are, well can be, fun. Today's ride was fun on all three counts.  Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts, has two paved routes to the top, as well as trails, at least one that permits  mountain bikes. Not a mountain biker, I stick to the paved roads.

Success is a funny thing: after having achieved something, it seems so natural to up the ante for the next thing. Finish a 100K successfully ... try the 150K. Remembering my one and only descent of the steep side of Greylock as too fast, with hairpins too tight to be really fun, and hearing repeatedly from way stronger cyclists what a bear the climb is, previously I've only ridden up, and down, the easier side. But today success and climbing were both called for, and riding the familiar eastern route would only provide climbing. So today  it was the north, steep side, both up and down, from North Adams ... the intimidating route. And ... it was fun! Not so hard as feared (guess all the climbing work I've been doing has helped) and it didn't take as long as imagined.


I parked the car near Rt. 8 in North Adams, and turned quickly up Notch Road. As for the road itself, it was worrisome at first: fissured, holes and loose gravel. Happily, as soon as the road entered the park at the gates in the photo, the road surface was perfect, all the way to the top.

It was definitely steep in places. Ride with GPS reports the steepest sections as over 15% ... and that's steep. I stopped twice for photos, and still can't figure out how to make a steep road look steep in a photo. I know the tip-the-camera trick, which is funny once you know to look for the trees growing sideways out of the ground behind the toiling-uphill-cyclists. Believe it or not, this image is of a steep road.

Once mostly up, the road flattens out and crosses a ridge before joining the route from the east to the summit. That flattish section felt fast fast fast, after all the climbing. You can see the summit once just before that flat section, as in this photo. The view provided a very visual, and encouraging, understanding of the couple miles left to the top. Queen Anne's Lace, and Primrose, are both lovely, and both emigrated from Europe.

The top was hazy, and not very crowded today, with no other bikes to be seen, though 3 or 4 went past me on their way down. As for the descent ... it was fun this time, didn't feel too fast, and though I rode the switchbacks carefully, it wasn't white knuckle riding.  It was fast, but manageably so ... perhaps I'm also learning something about descending.

Compared to the western route up there are only very limited views on this side. That is probably just as well, it is considerably steeper. I like the thought that the cars going past me are paying attention to the road. No views, but the light in the forest was magnificent, continually changing, shining with greens of all kinds of hues.

My computer told me 9.1 miles to the summit, 2697 feet climbing. Ride with GPS agrees with the mileage, says it is 2883 feet, average grade 8% and with a max grade of 15.7%.   The Ride with Gps link is here.

Now when that one success leads to another challenge phenomena kicks in, it will no doubt lead to riding both sides the same day.

For some Mt. Greylock history, and other photos, see these two reports: Two Days, Two Climbs or  Mount Greylock.

Postscript: The September 2012 issue of Bicycling Magazine includes Mount Greylock as the best ride in Massachusetts. They suggest ascending from Lanesboro and descending to North Adams. Who knew?


  1. Great job! That really does sound like a bear of a climb. The elevation profile sounds about like one of the more difficult climbs in the Southeast (Hogpen Gap), but I have a feeling yours is more difficult. As you know, I would like to conquer this some day, and am probably crazy enough to attempt both sides on the same day. Hopefully you'll be able to join me.

    I share your frustratin about photos not showing up as steep. I've only had a couple that truly reflect how they look in person.

    1. Hi Aaron,
      Thanks! I think your home climbs are the harder. Years and years ago I did some backpacking in the Smokies, and they are definitely higher. Doesn't necessarily mean steeper, I know, but my memory is thinking that it was the only place in the east that reminded me at all of the west. Similar to the Berkshires, since they are part of the same mountain chain, but I suspect much tamer here.

      It would be fun to ride together, so long as you wait for me at the summit! I have no doubt, absolutely none, that you'll be fine riding both routes same day.

  2. Nice pictures. The descent photo gives the best indication of steepness.

  3. Hi M. Charnamit,

    Thanks! I agree about that photo ... and the light during the descent was just incredible. Cameras never catch that, either; I think because the way light shifts in a forest can't be shown in one still image, but is part of its magic.

  4. You can find cue sheets and route maps for a loop from nearby Williamstown that takes you over Mount Greylock or around it using the beautiful Ashuwilticook Rail Trail at


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