Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Top five places to hike in western Massachusetts

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Jay Adan/Flickr

Jay Adan/Flickr

Stress can be debilitating. No one can completely free themselves from it, especially with upcoming midterms. However, there are some fantastic and helpful ways to cope with stress.

One of my personal favorite methods of relief from an overanxious mind is to take a hike. No, I am not being sassy by saying “take a hike,” I mean it literally and wholeheartedly. When life feels like the walls are closing in on you, you can escape these barriers by exploring the outdoors. The fresh chill of fall days will awaken your mind and allow you to see the beauty surrounding you. The expansiveness of nature will never cease to amaze and luckily, Amherst has a multitude of hiking gems waiting to be discovered.

Bare Mountain, Holyoke Mountain Range

If you do not have too much time available, but are looking to exert yourself, the Bare Mountain trail is perfect. The one-mile-long hike never fails to take my breath away, literally. Though short, the trail consists of a steep and quick ascension that will keep your gluteus maximus sore for at least a day. The incredible views will leave you in awe. Do not let lack of time excuse you from some self-care. A little will go a long way, and a visit to Bare Mountain will help accomplish this.

Amethyst Brook Conversation Area

As a well-traveled section of the Robert Frost Trail to Mount Orient, Amethyst Brook has the flexibility of being a short walk or long hike depending on what you desire. Bring a book or journal and embrace the calming effects of the oxygen-rich environment around you.

Another therapeutic element, besides the wooden bridges and picturesque brooks, is its dog policy. Many dogs and their owners frequent Amethyst due to the accessibility and tranquility. Why wait for the therapy dog days in the Student Union if you can visit Amethyst any time and make some furry acquaintances?

Mount Sugarloaf

One of the more well-known hikes around Amherst, Mount Sugarloaf does not need much description. The sights speak for themselves, and actually received such great praise that Mel Gibson used the mountain to film the movie “Edge of Darkness.

From the summit, you can see the Connecticut River Valley, the Berkshires, most of South Deerfield, and possibly even W.E.B. Du Bois Library on a clear day.

The Summit House

Do not let a lack of motivation prevent you from experiencing nature. If you are not feeling a hike, you can drive up to the Summit House at Mount Holyoke on their paved roads. The Summit House provides an array of sights. The pure history of the well-preserved, 19th century architecture is only one of the many intriguing elements.

The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies

Not everyone has access to a car, or time to figure out the bus schedule. For those people though, there are still options. A quick walk off the northeast side of campus leads to the Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies. If you just need to get away from responsibilities, take a walk or bike ride over, and relax in the fields of endless greenery.

The grounds are extremely well-kept, and a perfect place to have the kind of self-reflective, lying-in-the-grass moment. Looking up at the clouds while lying in a bed of plush grass is an ideal way to vacation from everyday anxieties and troubles. Sometimes the fundamentals can be forgotten, and a 15 minute meditation period can remind us all of the peacefulness found in simplicity.

Winter is coming soon, so do not wait for the weather to get too cold before exploring some of these great locations. Mid-Oct. may be one of the best times to hike around the Pioneer Valley due to the colorful and exuberant foliage. I highly recommend taking a camera when visiting any of the above, but do not forget to take mental snapshots too. The beauty of these vistas can occupy your mind just enough for all your other stresses and anxieties to slip away. Whether you are looking for a physical or mental escape, take a hike.

Hudson Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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