Five Pioneer Valley nature walks to visit before the winter hits

Get in some last few hikes before the snowy weather makes its way to Amherst, with these five nature walks


Corinne Arel / Daily Collegian

By Corinne Arel, Staff Writer

Winter is just around the corner, evident by the cold weather slowly rolling in. Whether you’re looking for an easy nature walk through the woods, a picnic in the park or a more adventurous hike uphill, these five areas in the Pioneer Valley are the perfect places to get your last few hikes in for the fall.

  1. Puffer’s Pond

Located just outside of the UMass campus in Amherst, Puffer’s Pond is the perfect place to spend a crisp autumn day. Open from 6 a.m. to dusk, trails including the Robert Frost trail, the Julius Lester trail and the Ray Stannard Baker trail are all scattered across the pond, welcoming all who chose to explore it. There is also a 0.8-mile hike that travels around the outskirts of the pond ending at the beach front of the pond. With the beautiful waterfall that juts off of the 11-acre pond, this trail is also a great spot to read a book, hang out with friends or partake in recreational fishing. Dogs are only allowed on Puffer’s Pond’s trail and must be leashed, owners are required to pick up after them. There is also an array of wildlife where ducks, cranes and hawks can be frequently viewed.

Corinne Arel / Daily Collegian


  1. Silvio O. Conte Nature Trail

Named after environmentalist and Massachusetts congress member, Silvio O. Conte, this 1.1 mile loop located in Hadley is a great trail for an early morning stroll through nature. The universally accessible boardwalk trail travels through 260-acres of different grasslands, floodplains and wetlands. Along the hike there are several lookout points where you can observe wildlife, mountains and the Fort River Division. The Silvio O. Conte trail is also a perfect place for families with the trail housing different activities such as nature bingo and the mobile app, Agents of Discovery, that can be played while walking the trail. To explore the conservation area, trail goers are required to keep pets on leashes, pick up after them and hold onto any trash they have.

Corinne Arel / Daily Collegian


  1. Lake Wyola State Park

Looking for a quiet place in nature a little further off campus? Lake Wyola State Park located in Shutesbury, is just the spot. Only 30 minutes north of UMass, this park overlooks Lake Wyola, a beautiful waterfront where you can swim and fish. During the summer season, beginning on Memorial Day until Labor Day, parking for Massachusetts residents is $8 and $30 for non-Massachusetts residents. Open from 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. during the summer, alcohol and littering is not permitted. After spending the day at the lake, head across the street into the park where there are picnic areas, grills, horseshoe pits and volleyball courts. The park is also accessible with handicapped restrooms and ramps into the lake. Lake Wyola State Park is one of many hidden gems in the Pioneer Valley that is the perfect scenic getaway any time of year.

Corinne Arel / Daily Collegian


  1. Quabbin Reservoir Watershed

Right off Amherst Road in Amherst, the Quabbin Reservoir (gate 11 entrance) has three main trails that all lead to the Quabbin Reservoir. Parking is free at the gates and the dirt trails are perfect for a brisk walk or run. The Quabbin Reservoir which holds 412 billion gallons of water, helps supply nearly three million people with drinking water. Due to the protection of the reservoir, no pets are allowed, off-road biking is prohibited and fishing is limited to specific areas. The trail that leads from gates 11-12 is a 5.6-mile hike that guides to the water. With a slightly shorter hike of 4.7 miles the gate 11 trail also follows a similar path. The dirt trails are rocky and a little rugged which is good for any adventurous nature walk.

Corinne Arel / Daily Collegian


  1. Emily Dickson Trail at Groff Park

Just past Amherst Center, the Emily Dickson trail is sandwiched between Groff Park and the Norwottuck Branch Mass Central Rail Trail. This 0.9-mile hike will take you alongside the Fort River. The trail is best hiked when dry, as the hike has some rather rocky and rigid parts. Traveling past farmlands and several different streams, the Dickinson Trail has a plethora of scenic views. One unique aspect of the trail is the poetry box located about a quarter mile into the hike. Dedicated to local educator, Charles V. Parham Jr., the poetry box is filled with notebooks, paper and writing utensils for anyone to share a poem, story or drawing. If you need a quiet place to reflect or wander in nature, the Emily Dickinson Trail is the place for you.

Corinne Arel / Daily Collegian

 Corinne Arel can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @CorinneArel_09.