Western Mass. trail worth the hike

I travel to Western Mass. for military duty once a month.  One thing I look forward to when I go there is the opportunity to hop on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail from the Notch in South Hadley, a course commonly called the Seven Sisters.

This stretch of trail, blazed in white dots, is as beautiful and scenic as any trail you might find in New Hampshire.

The trail along the Mt. Holyoke Ridge offers hikers and runners beautiful views of the Pioneer Valley, the Connecticut River and the town of Amherst, Mass.

Start at the Mt. Holyoke State Park Notch Visitor’s Center.  You can run (or hike) East or West on the trail, but begin this one on the opposite side of the road by heading West over the Mt. Holyoke Range.

This ridge run starts by topping Bare Mountain (the summit is bare, as the name implies) where you will have spectacular views in all directions.  From there, the trail plunges into the woods.

Some stretches of trail are lined with beautiful, flowering bushes.

It’s about five miles to the other end of the trail.  The ridge has numerous overlooks that offer spectacular views of the Pioneer Valley and the Connecticut River.  The trail itself is standard New England fare, with lots of loose rocks to turn your ankle on and plenty of climbing over large rocks and ledges, like the one below.

The Mt. Holyoke Ridge trail offers plenty of technical terrain, like this section where travelers have to do some climbing.

Round-trip, the run is around 11 1/2 miles and has about 3,500 feet of elevation gain, so don’t tackle this trail unprepared.  I recommend planing this excursion so you’re on the ridge at sunset when you can watch the sun’s rays stretch out over the Pioneer Valley.

Also, if you’re the competitive type, try the Seven Sisters Trail Race, which is held on this course each May.

This rock and embossed poem lie on the side of the trail.

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