Take a Hike!

Feeling connected to nature through walks around the Amherst area

Lucy Smallman / Daily Collegian.

Lucy Smallman / Daily Collegian.

By Lucy Smallman, Collegian Correspondent

Come along with me as I share the best ways to feel connected to Amherst. I find that becoming familiar with Amherst can genuinely make it feel like home. Here are some tips and trips to help spice up your weekly routine outside of University walls. Hence the title, we’re going on a hike. A few, actually.


Puffers Pond. Lucy Smallman / Daily Collegian.

One of my favorite locations, Puffers Pond, is located not far from the Townhouse Apartments. At Puffer’s Pond, you can swim, find hikes, do yoga or simply lay on the sand and hangout. I usually do a combination of the four. This place has become my haven. It was the first place I went off campus with friends my freshman year and it was like finding a little diamond in the rough. As a coastal girl, I was skeptical about choosing a school far from the beach. However, I discovered Puffers Pond, and while I’m not fond of the water snakes, I still quite like it. The Mill River Trail by the pond is just over 2 miles and makes for a great hiking or running path. If you’re looking for something shorter, there’s a shorter trail that encircles the whole pond. There’s even a spot to cliff jump. If you swim over to the left side, you can climb the rock wall (with some difficulty) and practice your cannonballs! The bottom line is, there are numerous fun activities here you can do with friends or yourself; and if you haven’t been to Puffers Pond yet, I’m personally offended.


Lucy Smallman / Daily Collegian.

Another outdoor walk I recommend is along the Connecticut River. There’s a quiet, flat trail off of North Lane that hovers over the river and it is radiating with sunlight. I do this walk every couple of weeks when I need to clear my head but don’t have time to do a full hike. Like Puffers Pond, it’s great for a short jog or just a casual stroll with yourself or friends. If you’re not in the mood to walk, there’s several cool spots to set up a blanket and just soak in the sun for a while.

Calling all my bikers and/or rollerbladers to the front! If you haven’t been to the Norwottuck Rail Trail yet, you’re doing it all wrong. This eleven-mile paved trail is the best way to enjoy Amherst’s scenery. Here, you can still get a taste of the Connecticut River, stop for a picnic and even reach Northampton to walk around and grab a bite to eat. It’s the best of all worlds. The last time I did this with my roommate, we were six miles in and decided we didn’t want to walk anymore but were too stubborn to turn around and leave the same way we came. Thankfully, the trail breaks off back to the main street. While it’s not an ideal shortcut, and you might get honked at several times by friends who refuse to stop and pick you up, it’s worth the adventure of trekking down Russell Street. Pro tip: be prepared to walk the full eleven miles and have a car waiting for you at the end.


Lucy Smallman / Daily Collegian.

Finally, in all its glory, there is Mount Norwottuck. If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, you can try one of the moderately challenging hiking trails only 15 minutes away from campus. Nearby, an adorable market called Atkin’s Farm is where you can pick up deli sandwiches, pastries, fresh fruit and more to enjoy a picnic at the summit. I have done this hike over 20 times and I still find something new each time I go. From the peak, you can see stunning views of Amherst and Sunderland. On the eastern side of the mountain, as you make your way down, you can also find scenic landscapes of Granby and Belchertown. My favorite spot at the summit overlooks the entire campus, which isn’t hard to spot with the Du Bois Library smack dab in the center. You can really make this one a whole day trip if you wanted to. It’s a great spot for journaling, picnicking, sunbathing and more. The views are incredibly breathtaking, especially during prime foliage time. Just be sure to bring lots of water.

I hope you consider making an adventure to a few of my go-to spots outside of campus that help make me feel at home. You don’t have to be an outdoor enthusiast to enjoy them, either. Grab a friend, pack a lunch and get outside. You won’t be sorry.


Lucy Smallman can be reached at [email protected]