As a typical broke college student, I've found that going on a hike is one of the best ways to explore Western Massachusetts without paying a single penny.
Two weekends ago, I hiked Mount Sugarloaf for the first time with my boyfriend as a cheap, local date idea. After barely surviving the early September heat, it was one of the first days that truly felt like fall, making it a perfect time to hike. Mount Sugarloaf is located roughly fifteen minutes from campus in South Deerfield and offers both well-defined hiking trails and a car access road where you can pay $5 to park at the summit and enjoy the view with less work. We chose to hike the mountain ourselves and spent about 45 minutes from start to summit, including breaks along the way for scenic pictures like the one above!
I would be lying if I said this was an easy hike — it was not. Some of those breaks I mentioned before were definitely not just for pictures. This hike had one of the steepest inclines I've ever personally experienced so don't feel bad if you need to pause to catch your breath! Despite the steep elevation, it is an extremely rewarding trip! By the time you get to the summit, you'll feel like you've gotten a good workout in for the day and can move onto enjoying the beautiful Western Massachusetts scenery. From the peak, you can see UMass's famously tall W. E. B. Du Bois Library and the towers of the Southwest Residential Area, all named after American presidents: Washington, Patterson, Coolidge, John Adams, and John Quincy Adams. There's an observatory built on top of the mountain that features three different levels you can explore; the view from the very top was incredible and one that I think every UMass student should see at least once before they graduate!
For those of you who want to enjoy some time outdoors without the commitment of hiking up such a steep mountainside, I recommend checking out Mount Warner in Hadley. Mount Warner is even closer than Sugarloaf and features a much gentler two-mile loop with attractions like Lou's Rock and two vernal pools!