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As I am sure you may have noticed by now, Amherst and its surrounding towns boast beautiful scenery, often best viewed from the peak of a hiking trail. We are fortunate enough to have access to countless hiking spots all within a short drive from UMass, and here I’m sharing a bit about my favorite trails as well as hikes I want to embark on soon!

Seven Sisters
My favorite hike, and the one I do most often, is the Seven Sisters trail across Skinner State Park. The trail gets its name because of the seven summits that you travel across from start to finish. In its entirety, the hike is six miles long, but there are several starting points that can shorten the distance. I usually park my car at the Mount Holyoke Range State Park and walk across the street to the Robert Frost Trail. This route takes about 20-25 minutes if you are moving at a steady pace, and the incline is constant but definitely manageable. If you are into rock climbing, there are a few natural rock formations along the way that make for a fun bouldering opportunity. 

View from the top of one of the Seven Sisters trail peaks
Overlooking the Amherst area from the top of the hike

South Sugarloaf Trail
The summit of this hike has the most beautiful views of the Connecticut River Valley, and is just a 15-minute drive from campus located on Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation. This specific loop is 2.2 miles long, and takes on average a little over an hour. Speaking from personal experience, the hike is not leisurely but rather strenuous, however, it is totally worth it for the views. But don’t fret, you can also drive your car up to the summit if you are not feeling up for the challenge. Fortunately, the trail is open year-round and is always beautiful.

 I would suggest visiting in the fall, when the leaves have begun to change colors — as the view is rather breathtaking.  

View of the Connecticut River from the summit of Mount Sugarloaf
View from the top of Mount Sugarloaf

Mount Tom
Located just across the Connecticut River in Holyoke, Mount Tom State Reservation is a great place to visit if you are looking for a quick hike. Out-and-back it is 1.2 miles long and is usually bustling with other hikers, bikers, and walkers. Back in 1960, Mount Tom opened as a ski resort and for many years was the most popular winter destination for skiers in the area. However, in 1998 the resort was closed, and is now the hiking mountain that we know today. If you are interested in diving deeper into the history of Mount Tom and checking out the remnants of the resort, you can find plenty of history left over. There are also plenty of tables and spaces to spread out if you are interested in grabbing your friends for a picnic on the mountain!

Cliff view from a lookout spot at Mount Tom State Reservation
Cliff view from a lookout point at Mount Tom

Quabbin Reservoir Trails
Located just east of UMass Amherst, the Quabbin Reservoir covers 39 square miles and holds 413 billion gallons of water. While you may not be able to swim in the Quabbin, as it is the source of drinking water for three million people, you can enjoy the numerous hiking trails around it. There are 11 highly rated trails but some of the most popular ones are Soapstone Hill which is 2.7 miles, Rabbit Run Rail Bed which is much longer at 8.2 miles, and Dana Commons which stretches 7.2 miles and is home to the historic abandoned town that thrived before the flood that created the reservoir. Hiking through the Quabbin Reservoir is something I have on my to-do list this summer and I can’t wait to check it out!

Trail at the Quabbin Reservoir that follows along the reservoir itself
Trail following alongside the reservoir

 

All of these hikes will without a doubt be beautiful any time of the year, as Western Massachusetts is known for its beautiful woodland scenery. Whether you are just interested in exploring the area or want a peaceful nature escape, these hikes will not disappoint. If you are searching for more options or want to join a group on a hike, the UMass Outing Club is an organization on campus that leads hikes and all sorts of outdoor activities throughout the school year — and a few in the summer as well.

Be sure to get outside and explore all that this beautiful region has to offer!