Autumn in the Pioneer Valley

The Pioneer Valley, much like the rest of New England offers a wide range of farms and orchards to pick your own. Apples and pumpkins are abundant in the fall. This year the leaves are brilliant, and the apples are sweet. You will need to wear a mask and likely bring your own bag.

In Franklin County

  • Apex Orchard in Shelburne
  • Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield
  • New Salem Preserves in New Salem
  • Pine Hill Orchard in Colrain
  • Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway
  • Quonquont Farm in Whately

In Hampshire County

  • Austin Brothers Valley Farm in Belchertown
  • Bashista Orchards in Southampton
  • Dickenson Farm in Granby
  • Kielbasa Orchards in Hadley
  • Outlook Farm in Westhampton
  • Park Hill Orchards in Easthampton
  • Sentinel Farm in Belchertown
  • Small Ones Farm in Amherst

Mike’s Maze (Open until November 11) has been voted the Best Corn Maze in the US. Now that is saying something, considering that while New England is known for its maple syrup, apples and pumpkins, it is not really famous for corn like some mid-western states are. Mike and his artist friend have been designing mazes for the past 20 years or so and each year gets bigger and better. Located on Mike’s farm at the foot of Mount Sugarloaf this is the perfect place to view the foliage with the kids and enjoy a most entertaining afternoon. You can ride a horse drawn wagon, fire the potato cannons, pick out a pumpkin and enjoy the farm fresh food at the Corn Café. This is all in addition to finding your way out of the maze! There is a playground, a tube slide, and pedal carts. You can find out more at After being cooped up with COVID, Mike’s Maze is a pleasant family adventure to do while socially distancing.

Hiking, Walking & Outdoor Activities

A crisp Autumn day is the best time to take a hike. The views at higher elevation are spectacular and the air smells like the colors of a sunset.

Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Trail in Hadley which is a beautiful and fully accessible boardwalk that includes dozens of ecosystems in the one-mile loop.  It is a great place for children, elderly folks, wheelchairs, birders, and even dogs on a leash. It is a quietly magnificent merging of forest, marsh and open plain. There is a large parking area to leave your car while you walk.

Joseph Allen Skinner State Park is a state-owned, public recreation area located in the towns of Hadley and South Hadley. The state park surrounds Mount Holyoke, the westernmost peak of the Mount Holyoke Range. At the summit is the historic Prospect House, an old hotel first opened in 1851.  The park is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The park offers scenic views, picnicking, and over 40 miles of trails including an 11-mile stretch of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail.  It is accessible from Rt 47 in Hadley. The Summit House offers summertime concerts sponsored by the Friends of the Mt. Holyoke Range.

Mount Tom State Reservation encompasses the Mount Tom Range and is located just north of the city of Springfield. The reservation is noted for its biologic diversity, high cliffs, and rugged scenery. Recreational activities include hikingpicnickingcanoeingfishingcross-country skiingsnowshoeing, and ice skating. The 110-mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail passes through the reservation as do several low-profile seasonal auto roads. The reservation is also a popular place to observe seasonal raptor migrations.

Mineral Hills Conservation Area Fifteen minutes from downtown Northampton exists a special place that seems a world apart from the nearby bustling cultural center. The Mineral Hills is a hilly forest with dramatic ridge-top views, wetlands, beaver ponds, and an abandoned rock quarry. There is an extensive wooded trail system here marked by signs and numbered intersections thanks to the Friends of the Mineral Hills. The trails pass by rock outcroppings and provide several different views of the large quarry, both from the bottom where you can peer into the rocky pools and a dramatic cliff-edge view from above. From the upper quarry edge, you can see the Mount Holyoke Summit House on a clear day. This is a great place for wildlife tracking, as porcupines are among the creatures who are likely to show their presence. The conservation lands are owned by the City of Northampton and portions are monitored by Kestrel through a Conservation Restriction. The Friends of Mineral Hills maintains the trails.

Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation is a state-owned, public recreation area managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation located in South Deerfield, just west of the Connecticut River. The state park includes the summits of North Sugarloaf Mountain and South Sugarloaf Mountain, as well as 1.75 miles of frontage on the Connecticut River and two river islands. The park is part of a larger park designation called the Connecticut River Greenway State Park. Portions of the park property along the river are used by the University of Massachusetts Amherst for agricultural research. The state maintains an automobile road and an observation tower on South Sugarloaf, open from late spring through the fall foliage season. The reservation is accessible via Route 116. Parking for a fee is available at the base of the mountain and at the summit of the auto road. The reservation is open for hiking, picnicking, and scenic viewing. Hiking trails include a section of the 20-mile Pocumtuck Ridge Trail. Canoe and kayak camping is allowed on the islands.

Rail Trails: Norwottuck, Manhan, Northampton A network of excellent, paved bike trails weaves throughout the Pioneer Valley, and runners are included in the numerous trail users who take to these recreation paths year-round. Three bikeways — all connected — make up the main commuter paths in the Five College area. Hop on any one (or connect them all) for an out and back of your desired length. These paths are plowed in the wintertime, so although they sometimes get icy, they make for decent off-season running.

Norwottuck Rail Trail: The Norwottuck Rail Trail stretches 11 miles along the former Boston and Maine Railroad, linking Northampton, Hadley, Amherst, and Belchertown. The quietest and most scenic part of the trail is a roughly 3 mile stretch along the east end of the trail from the Fort River access point to the trail’s terminus at Warren Wright Road. This section cuts predominately through conservation land, with great views of the Mount Holyoke range from the Fort River, Brickyard Conservation Area, and Lawrence Swamp. There are several dirt single track side trails to explore here as well. Another notable section of the trail is the extreme west end, which crosses over the Connecticut River on a wood planked former railroad bridge. East of here, the trail borders the somewhat congested commercial area along Route 9, but it does cut through some nice farmland as well.

Manhan Rail Trail: After the Norwottuck Rail Trail crosses the Connecticut River, it soon becomes the Manhan Rail Trail, which cuts through downtown Northampton, crosses I-91, and carries on south into Easthampton, where it roughly follows the Manhan River into downtown. It’s about 7.4 miles one-way. A lovely section is the area around Easthampton’s Lower Mill Pond with its historic mill buildings and manicured greenery.  

Northampton Bikeway: Between the Norwottuck and Manhan trails, a third bike path cuts east to west across Northampton, linking the downtown area with the neighborhood of Florence. From King Street (Route 5) in Northampton, the path continues west behind woodsy residential areas to the heart of Florence where it cuts through the lovely grounds of Look Park. From here, the path bends north into Leeds and follows a nice stretch of the Mill River (including a dammed falls) upstream almost to Haydenville.Total is 5.4 miles

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