Local trails a refreshing change of pace

By Chelsea Whitton

Chelsea Whitton/Collegian

It seems like spring is here at the University of Massachusetts.

However, soaking in some sun doesn’t mean only staying within the University grounds. There are plenty of alternatives to lounging around the campus pond nearby.

The town of Amherst and Amherst College have plentiful opportunities to appreciate the new season such as conservation lands and trails. Unlike the crowded student union lawn or Southwest beach, the conservation lands behind Amherst College are quiet, calm and isolated from the normal hustle of college life.

The Norwottuck Rail Trail, about a mile away from campus, is an 11-mile stretch from Belchertown to Northampton and a great way to get exercise. These trails carve through woods and surround ponds and wetlands, offering a peaceful getaway sure to get your mind out of your studies, albeit temporarily.

The town of Amherst has 1,965 acres of conservation land, more than 40 open fields and 80 miles of foot trails which are maintained within the town border, according to the Amherst Conservation Department website.

The protected wetlands are perfect whether you’d like to sit and get some sun, see diverse plant species or maybe have a chance to see sunning snapping turtles, snakes or even better – beavers.

The pond within the Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary has a clean trail following the diversified water body, which is home to viewable Great Blue Herons which provides wooden bridges over small streams and benches to rest on. The variations of trees, such as ancient northern red oak and red pines provide enough shade and patches of dwarf ginseng flowers speckle the floor of the woodland.

Taking a break from the concrete and brick of the UMass campus and heading into the wild with friends can help clear your mind for the final push of the semester.

Chelsea Whitton can be reached at [email protected]