Weekend Backpacker: Boston
Robert Frost Trail
Amherst, Massachusetts, to Montague, MassachusettsHolyoke Range State Park
Notch Visitor Center, Rte. 116
Chances are if you're in Boston, you know somebody going to school or working in the five college area of central Massachusetts, where the Connecticut River splits the state. Also known as the Pioneer Valley, this region makes a great day or weekend trip. Hook up with hiking friends from UMass, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire, or Amherst colleges and hit the trail. Don't expect big mountains. Here the walking is over lovely but modest ridges and through miles of pastoral fields and woods.
The Robert Frost Trail meanders from Amherst northwards to Montague (40 miles), passing over Mt. Orient, Pulpit Hill, Long Mountain, Rattlesnake Knob, and Mt. Toby, ending in Wendell State Forest. With numerous road crossings, hikes of any length are feasible. You're never far from the villages, and some sections pass behind suburban developments. Deep wilderness this is not. Several miles are relatively flat. None of several state parks offer camping, but there are commercial operations. One convenient site is White Birch Campground, Whatley, Massachusetts (800-244-4941).
Mass Turnpike from Boston to Exit #8 (Palmer), north on Rte. 181 to Belchertown, west on Rte. 202 to Granby, west on local road to South Hadley, north on Rte. 116 to Holyoke Range State Park (Notch Visitor Center has water, toilets, maps, advice).
Hiking permits not required.
Maps and Guidebook
Guide to the Robert Frost Trail, 3rd edition, 1997, $4.95, with color topos, published by Amherst Area Trails Committee, available at EMS, other outfitters in the valley, and bookstores, or from Kestrel Trust, Box 1016, Amherst, Massachusetts, 01004.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication