[Last updated Summer, 2012]
Northampton, Massachusetts, indeed all of Western Massachusetts is beautiful; why not come for a ride and enjoy the great scenery, food and culture?
Sources for rides include the Rubel bike map for Western Massachusetts (due for an update in 2011), Google Maps bicycle directions, and various websites which allow riders to search for routes. Here are some resources and descriptions for finding places to ride in and around Northampton, Massachusetts.
- Northampton -The Manhan Rail Trail and the Norwottuck Rail Trail
Northampton is the hub of two different extensive rail trail systems, the 104 mile Mass Central Rail Trail, which heads east towards Boston, and the 84 mile New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail which heads south towards New Haven Connnecticut. Neither trail is complete in full, but there are substantial sections which are beautifully ridable.
Rail trails in Northampton can take you through downtown, past the grocery store, out to Look Park, across rivers and over to Easthampton, Williamsburg, Hadley and Amherst via the Norwottuck Rail Trail and the Manhan Rail Trail. Friends of the Northampton Trails & Greenways produces maps of the trails in Northampton area and for the center of Northampton.
These maps are from 2009, and there have been many improvements since then, most notably the connection from Northampton to Easthampton is completed. This link takes you to the 2011 map. Paper copies are also available in shops all over town.
Norwottuck Rail Trail
State of Massachusetts map of the path which connects Northampton to Easthampton, Williamsburg, Hadley, and Amherst. Site includes maps, but the better map is the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways listed above, and the Manhan Rail Trail map listed below, under Easthampton. From Northampton east across the Connecticut River is section of the Mass Central Rail Trail.
“The Northampton Cycling Club is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote fun, fitness, and health through the sports of cycling and triathlon to athletes of all ages and abilities in the Pioneer Valley.”
Beyond the rail trails, there are hills to climb all over, and beautiful farmland to explore in Hatfield, Hadley, Westhampton, and Southampton.
Easthampton’s Manhan Rail Trail
Trail goes through downtown Easthampton’s shops and dining areas, but passes along waterways and through beautiful woodland areas. Connects with Northampton’s rail trail via a bike bridge over Route 10. This beautifully landscaped trail includes parks, playgrounds and benches. The Friends of the Manhan Rail Trail group has a beautiful artists map of the trail on their site. The 3/4 mile extension to the Southampton town line is open as of October 20, 2011. This bike path ends just off of MA Route 10 and two shopping centers where you can find food and drink. The last piece to complete the entirely off road bike path is a bridge over the Manhan River. The bridge is installed! This makes the bike trip between Easthampton and possible to do completely off-road.
More information on parking and services is available at the Friends of the Manhan Rail Trail website.
Home to three of the Five Colleges, Amherst is reachable by the Norwottuck Rail Trail, and both the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College are reachable by extensions off of the Norwottuck. Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways have included these rail trail extensions to UMass and Amherst College on their maps.
The section of Norwottuck between Hadley and Amherst was built with glass embedded in the asphalt to make it pretty. Unfortunately, that kind of pretty and bikes do not play well together. So take your tire tube patch kit, a pump (know how to use them), or take the parallel MA Route 9. Car drivers are not used to seeing bikes on Rte 9, so do ride with extreme caution.
Fortunately, after much delay, progress is being made on scheduling repairs.
- Southwick – The Jog Rail Trail
- Westfield – The Columbia Greenway Rail Trail
Both Southwick’s trail and Westfield’s trail are sections of the New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail. Try the newly opened ‘Jog’, Southwick, MA‘s six mile section which connects directly with Connecticut’s Farmington Valley Greenway which currently stretches 22 miles from Massachusetts into Connecticut. Work progresses on extending the Southwick rail trail several more miles to the Westfield line, which will increase the total mileage to over 30. Southwick rail trail map here. Southwick’s rail trail can be found on Coangamong Road, just off of MA Route 10 in Southwick. This trail is part of the New Haven & Northampton Canal Trail which is slowly being pieced together.
is scheduled in Summer, 2011, to pave has paved the part of it’s rail trail from the Southwick line up to the first intersection in Westfield at Shaker Farms Road. I’ve put up a post on directions to the Westfield Columbia Greenway Rail Trail section starting at Shaker Farms Country Club. More on Westfield’s rail trail plans here.
There is also a trail along the Connecticut River in Springfield, The Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway.
Franklin County Bikeway
On-road routes and the off-road Canalside Rail Trail. These routes provide connections to Hampshire County (Northampton, Amherst, Easthampton areas) to the south, and to Vermont to the north.
Greenfield provides parks, swimming, and food. Deerfield has Historic Deerfield and beautiful farmland right next to the Deerfield River. A favorite part of this bikeway is the 4 mile Canalside Rail Trail between Deerfield and Montague, with a park at Turners Falls. The web site includes maps and information on future plans to extend the bikeway. Here’s a beautiful web page with photos and a description of the Canalside Rail Trail. [thanks to freewheelers.org]
Franklin County Freewheelers
Former cycle touring group listing of ride cue sheets (directions) of popular rides in the Pioneer Valley and up to New Hampshire and Vermont. Most rides are on roadways. Cue sheets include suggestions for places to eat and restroom facilities. Some facilities listings are out of date as the cue sheets have not been updated, but are a good starting point.
Other scenic places to ride include River Road, which goes along the Connecticut River in Hatfield, Whately, and Deerfield on the western side of the river. The return journey on the eastern shore has a little more traffic in sections, but has places of loveliness. The roads along the river from Montague, into Sunderland and Hadley are peaceful, passing farms and waterfalls. If you stay on Route 47 into Hadley, the road eventually connects with the Norwottuck Rail Trail, allowing trips east into Hadley or Amherst, or west into Northampton and Easthampton.
The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail parallels Route 8, and connects the towns of Adams, Lanesborough and Cheshire. 11.5 miles of beautiful riding past lakes and terrific wildlife viewing opportunities. North Adams’ government is working in 2011 to connect to the path.