Historic Auto Trails of Massachusetts
Historic auto trails predate the U.S. highway system created in
1926. Such trails were usually given evocative names and marked with colored
bands painted on utility poles.
Western Massachusetts is endowed with many scenic historic auto trails.
These trails were popular with residents and visitors, and generally crossed
the Berkshire Hills and related ranges. They therefore typically follow
an east-west direction. Early tourist maps and brochures of the Berkshires
promoted these scenic roads. The trails continued to be marketed as scenic
attractions long after highways were numbered; and, indeed, until the present
Another trail in nearby Vermont:
Mohawk Trail - Mass. Route 2 &
2-A from Boston to Williamstown. Dedicated October 22, 1914. Crosses Hoosac
Mountain and Greenfield Mountain. The most famous scenic highway of the
region. While many of these trails originated as Native American paths,
only the Mohawk Trail maintained any Native American
Taconic Trail - MA/NY Route 2 from
Williamstown to Troy, N.Y. Promoted beginning in the 1910's. Traverses
Petersburgh Mountain. Constructed beginning in 1925 and finished in 1930.
Jacob's Ladder - U.S. Highway 20 from Westfield to Pittsfield, Mass.
Dedicated on September 24, 1910 at the Summit on Morey Hill in Becket.
Lebanon Trail - U.S. Highway 20 from Pittsfield to Lebanon, N.Y.
Built over Lebanon Mountain by 1916. Part of the Pittsfield-Albany Road.
Berkshire Trail - Mass. Route 9 from Northampton to Pittsfield.
Summit at Windsor Hill.
Crane Trail - Mass. Route 8 from Becket to Dalton, Berkshire county.
At Dalton, it joins the better known Berkshire Trail. This designation
was used primarily in the late 1920's.
Knox Trail - Mass. Route 23 from Russell to Egremont in the Berkshires.
Named after General Henry Knox who brought cannons captured from the British
at Fort Ticonderoga along this then stage route during 1775-76 to support
Gen. Washington's siege of Boston.
Skyline Trail - This twenty-one mile trail connects Route 8 to Jacob's
Ladder through Huntington to Hinsdale. This is not a state route, but merely
a series of local roads often called "Skyline Trail" in Middlefield
and Chester. Though, the Chester section, for example, is also called "Chester
Lafayette Trail - Mass. Route 143 from Hindsale to Worthington.
Connects to the Crane Trail in Peru, Massachussetts. Named after General
Lafayette, who spent the night in Worthington in 1825.
Most trails would have some sort of food or lodging even if just a simple
farmhouse turned auto camp or tourist home. In the town center, you might
find an inn-restaurant from the stagecoach era. In the cities, you could
stay at a full-fledged hotel. The busier trails also included souvenir
stands, and perhaps a summit house with a wooden look-out tower to better
enjoy a vista. Souvenirs included souvenir china and glasses, postcards
and booklets, decals, pillow cases and pennants.
Molly Stark Trail - Vt. Route 9 from Brattleboro to Bennington.
Scenic outlook on Hogback Mountain. Just north of the Mohawk and Taconic
Trail, with which it eventually merges towards Troy, N.Y. The name arose
by the early 1920's; the route remains popular with tourists today.
Muddy River Press hopes to publish Historic Auto Trail Guides that cover
all of these trails. The first is already available for the Mohawk
Trail and the related Taconic Trail.
"Muddy River Press" and "Historic Auto Trail Guide" are
trademarks of Muddy River Press.
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