Painter beside the Housatonic River in Great Barrington. Photo by Patricia Harris for the Boston Globe.
If you're looking ahead for a reason to get outdoors and enjoy the fall weather, the Upper Housatonic Valley Natural Heritage Area has more than 40 to offer. Designated by Congress in 2006, the Heritage Area organizes an annual series of Heritage Hikes to highlight the historical, cultural, and natural resources along the 60-mile stretch of the Housatonic River from Kent, Conn., to Lanesboro, Mass. This year's walks (along with a couple of train rides and canoe trips) are scheduled for the weekends of September 18-19 and October 2-3. Walks range from 1/4 to 3.5 miles. They explore the history of former mill towns, follow the paths of old stone walls, or retrace Native American hiking trails. You can also visit a historic apple orchard, watch for migrating birds in a wildlife sanctuary, or visit some of the area's noted estates and gardens. Most events are free, but some require advance registration.
Check www.heritage-hikes.org or call 413-394-9773 for information and a schedule.