The Manhan Rail Trail
The biking trails around Northampton and Amherst can get crowded, so it can be a nice change to head to some of our region’s other trails, including Easthampton’s Manhan Rail Trail.
It gets crowded, too, but its farther reaches are often less so, particularly south of Easthampton. It’s there the trail winds behind the Williston-Northampton School into a leafy wilderness, and ends at Coleman Road in Southampton. Start at that end, and your ride soon brings you into Easthampton’s downtown. That’s where the off-trail distractions get most interesting.
Right beside the trail, just off the Williston campus, you can trade one set of round things for another by enjoying a Tandem Bagel or two and a coffee at a former train depot. You’ll also find the many shops of Cottage Street. You can get your sweet tooth on at Mount Tom Ice Cream. Another must-see is Book Moon Books, run by literary power couple Kelly Link and Gavin Grant. It’s got bound wonders of a particularly well-curated sort, heavy on our many regional authors. This stretch also hold’s Luthier’s Co-op, an instrument shop, bar, and performance space.
In the other direction, you’ll find gems as well. Union Street holds Shelburne Falls Coffee, and if you’re feeling spicy, La Veracruzana’s Easthampton location sits right next to Glory of India. Go farther yet, and on Main Street, you can visit Old Town Hall. This old building is finding new life with City Space, which is turning it into an arts-centric destination. Current residents include The Big Red Frame and Elusie Gallery, and Easthampton City Arts (with a gallery and a studio residency program).
Hit the bike trail from downtown, and you’ll get to the other busy part of town – the mill buildings along Pleasant Street. It’s clear from the street side that they’re busy places, and they hold such an enormous list of tenants it would take another story to scratch the surface. But there’s a whole lot of action on the other side, the one you can see from the bike trail.
The Eastworks Building is less accessible from the trail side, but is host to many artist studios and small businesses, including the popular Riff’s Joint restaurant. The mill buildings stretch quite a way, however, and the next buildings up, Mill 180 and Paragon Arts and Industry, contain plenty of destinations, including two breweries, Abandoned Building and New City. There’s also a replacement for what was an indoor park – the indoor CFE Farmstead, focused on “social hydroponics” and offering food and drink.
From there, the bike trail returns to rural splendor, offering a great ride through the fields to the Oxbow on Route 5 south of Northampton. Or take the other spur, which heads north to Northampton along Route 10.