Happy trails: hiking routes in and around Amherst

By Annamarie Wadiak

(Daily Collegian Archives)
(Daily Collegian Archives)

In these last few days of the semester, try to take time away from your finals and papers to get outside and enjoy the weather. Amherst and its surrounding towns in the Pioneer Valley are beautiful and full of all sorts of natural activities for you to enjoy. Hiking is a great way to get outside and explore. If you are interested in hiking, here are a few trails you might want to try out.

If you like a challenge, take on Mt. Tom. Located on 125 Reservation Road in Holyoke, about 25 minutes away from campus. Mt. Tom offers 22 miles of trails. One of these routes is the New England National Scenic Trail (NET)/Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (M-M Trail). You can enter this trail by going through the main entrance and driving up to the second parking area. There, you will see the trail entrance. You can either go right or left here, as the trail extends both ways. I suggest following the trail up to the antennas and windmills (which can be found on the trail map). On this trail, the elevation gets pretty high, and the higher you get the more cliffs there are, which make for great views and photo opportunities. The top is extremely rocky and very steep, so make sure you wear some durable, non-slip sneakers or boots. This hike is a commitment. It is a long way up, and the climbing can be difficult in certain places, but it is well worth it if you like to challenge yourself and hike on the edge.

If you like short and sweet, Mt. Sugarloaf is your mountain. Mt. Sugarloaf is located on 300 Sugarloaf Street in South Deerfield. It is about 10 minutes from campus, and the mountain is open from 9 a.m. to sunset. You can park at the bottom, right off the road, or you can drive up the road trail to park at the top of the mountain. The hiking trail itself is short and leads straight up to the top. If you are looking for a bit of adventure, there are one or two detours along the way to the various lookouts located along the trail. At the top of the mountain, there is a wide, grassy area with a visitor center where you can eat a packed lunch or sit and enjoy some relaxation time. The view from the top stretches across the valley and offers a fantastic view of the sunset.

If you like adventure, explore Mt. Norwottuck and the Horse Caves. Located in Granby, Mt. Norwottuck includes many miles of hiking trails to travel along. To hike to the summit, park at the Visitors Center and start your hike following the Metacomet-Monadnock (M-M) trail (the white trail) to the top. At the top, there is a beautiful view of the valleys and mountains around the area, as well as a nice rocky place to sit and take a break.

The fun part begins when you head back down the mountain and toward the caves. To get to the caves, follow the trail down the opposite way that you came up, but make sure you are watching the trees for the markers, because they get a little thin toward the top. If you stay on track, you will run into the caves in about five minutes. You will be climbing down the mountain in the opposite direction, so this part can be a bit confusing and it is easy to get lost. Make sure you take a trail map at the beginning of your hike, and you may want to download the app AllTrails, which acts as a GPS for hiking trails and will help you find your destination. The caves are a blast to climb through and hang out. Plus, the caves have some history behind them. According to the Department of Conservation & Recreation, the caves may have acted as a hiding place for Daniel Shay during his 1790s rebellion.

Once you are done exploring the caves, continue following the white trail until you hit an intersection where it joins with the Robert Frost trail, at which point you should take that trail back to Visitor Center. Put time aside for this hike. The hike itself is short, but there are so many places on it to explore.

There are so many options for hiking around this area. These trails are only a few options, and you can explore them all before the end of the school year.

Annamarie Wadiak can be reached at [email protected]