Snowshoeing in Western Mass
Snowshoeing is, by far, the winter sport with the shortest learning curve. Strap on a pair, stand up, walk. Done! Yet that simple move opens up new worlds of exploration atop the snow you’d otherwise have to slog through.
Only some area trails make for good cross-country skiing, but many offer acres of snowshoe fun. The real bonus is that you can often access places that are unreachable in the foliage-filled months. A comprehensive Valley snowshoe list would have to be quite long, so here are a few standouts among the many choices.
A particularly rewarding spot is Mount Toby, a large mountain beside the Connecticut River north of Amherst in Leverett. Access it via Tower Road, and you get almost a four-mile trail to explore. The trail takes you to the very visible firetower. Once you’ve arrived there, you find views limited by the trees many times of year. But in the leafless winter, those same views open up.
Fairly near Mount Toby, you’ll find Rattlesnake Gutter. It is, happily, neither a gutter nor full of rattlesnakes. But it’s a fun, somewhat challenging hike that will bring you past some cool rock formations in the wilds of Leverett.
If Mount Toby and Rattlesnake Gutter have a drawback, it’s the lack of nearby places to, say, grab a hot chocolate. Not too far to the north, though, you’ll find the Montague Bookmill. If you don’t know this destination, trust us: it’s worth the trouble to get there. It’s got well-curated used books, a restaurant (Watershed), and the Lady Killigrew pub. Next door is Sawmill River Arts gallery, and an outpost of used CD and record purveyor Turn It Up.
Nearer the amenities of larger towns, you’ll find good snowshoeing, too. In Greenfield, the striking Poet’s Seat tower is a good beacon. It sits on a large parcel of land where you’ll welcome to snowshoe. Afterward, it’s a short trip to the busy downtown. (And there really was a poet – Frederick Goddard Tuckerman.)
Amherst and Northampton offer lots of nearby destinations for your snowshoeing pleasure. Among the standouts: Amherst’s Robert Frost Trail, accessible via the Amethyst Brook Conservation Area. And just south, the Mount Holyoke Range boasts an extensive network of wintry trails. Put your snowshoes on and take the path less traveled in Western Mass!