5 Great Outdoor Adventures in Western Massachusetts
You may not know it yet, but being in Western Massachusetts is a delightful experience no matter what time of year.
1. Golfer's Paradise
Plan a golfing vacation in Western Massachusetts, and you’ll never need to cover the same ground twice. The Ranch Golf Club in Southwick ranks at the top of the list statewide because of its uniquely challenging holes and breathtaking views of the hilly countryside. No matter your skill level, you’ll enjoy other favorite regional courses as well, such as Shaker Farms Country Club in Westfield and Crumpin-Fox Club of Bernardston.
2. Fabulous Foot-Powered Treks
Painstaking trail upkeep and the sheer variety of landscapes in the western region of the state make it a favorite destination for hiking enthusiasts. Whether you prefer a leisurely Saturday hike through Western Massachusetts’ forest lands or more challenging terrain with overnight camping, you have a number of options at your fingertips. One popular starting point for hikers is Mount Tom State Reservation in Holyoke, which offers 22 miles of easy to moderately challenging walking trails for day hikers. Be sure to check out Bray Lake, and pack a picnic so you can maximize your time in this beautiful natural environment.
3. Scenic Cycling Trips
Whether it’s autumn and the foliage is at its brightest or spring when Western Massachusetts is in bloom, you’re sure to enjoy a scenic cycling trip where you can experience the scents, sounds and sights of nature first hand. One of the many routes intended especially for bicycle travel is the 11-mile Norwottuck Rail Trail, connecting Northampton, Hadley, Amherst and Belchertown. Public parking and easy access is available in Hadley center on Railroad Street, at Connecticut River Greenway State Park in Northampton, and behind Whole Foods Market on Route 9 in Hadley.
4. Extreme Whitewater Experiences
If you love the thrill of whitewater rafting or if you have always wanted to try it out, Western Massachusetts is the ideal place to experience this extreme adventure. The Deerfield River, located in the Berkshire Mountains, provides the twists, turns and thrills you’re looking for, with rapids ranging from class one to class seven. You can reserve spots for your group on your choice of several whitewater rafting trips, each tailored to suit your comfort level and thirst for adventure. Sign up for your guided rafting trip at such local outfitters as Zoar Outdoor, Berkshire Whitewater or Crabapple Whitewater, who will supply all the gear and safety equipment you need to fully enjoy this memorable Deerfield River joy ride.
5. Parks and Rec Adventures
Western Massachusetts boasts some of the most magnificent public parks in the country, including Forest Park in Springfield, one of the largest city greenspaces in the U.S. Forest Park features a zoo, aquatic gardens, and outdoor amphitheater, and winding wooded trails. During the holiday months Forest Park hosts a popular high-tech lighting display, known as Bright Nights. Look Park in Northampton is laid out over 150 acres of lovingly landscaped grounds and offers not only walking paths through meticulous gardens but also picnic tables, tennis courts and children’s play areas. You’ll even find activities geared toward tweens and teens, such as bumper boats, pedal boats and miniature golf. Everyone in your group will enjoy a ride aboard Look Park’s historic steamer train, which offers an alternative way to enjoy the verdant environment. With all of the municipal parks throughout this part of the state, you may even choose to host an outdoor bash with friends and family. You can find local companies that provide equipment rentals, table and chair rentals, and even bouncy house and tent rentals, or consider a photo booth rental to really make it a party to remember.