Robert Frost Trail to extend through Hadley, South Hadley 

  • Lithia Springs Reservoir in South Hadley KESTREL LAND TRUST

Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2021

HADLEY — A hiking trail that currently runs from the Notch in Amherst to the Wendell State Forest will be extended through Hadley and South Hadley and the Skinner and Mount Holyoke Range state parks.

The Kestrel Land Trust project, being supported by a $20,000 pledge from an anonymous private donor, will designate a section of trails that pass by the Hadley Reservoir land as part of the Robert Frost Trail, completing the original early 1980s vision for a 42-mile hiking trail honoring the poet, according to information provided by Christine Volonte, Kestrel’s stewardship director.

The designation of the trail through the reservoir was recently approved by the Hadley Select Board following a request from Kestrel representative Liam Cregan, who explained that a route was selected on an existing trail that stays on Department of Conservation and Recreation land.

“Essentially these trails already exist, and what we’re asking for is to designate them as part of the Robert Frost Trail,” Cregan said.

For those who begin at the Mountainside Trailhead on Hockanum Road, or Route 47, the trail climbs to Taylors Notch, descends to Lithia Springs Reservoir in South Hadley, then goes up again between the Seven Sisters and Mount Hitchcock before gently dropping to the northern side of the ridge toward West Street in Amherst, or Route 116, at the Notch.

The project is part of what Kestrel is calling the Robert Frost Trail Revival and will include upkeep of about 25 miles of existing trail that goes along public and other protected lands. Part of the $20,000 will also be used for bridge replacement in the Lawrence Swamp Conservation Area in Amherst.

The trail was originally created to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Frost’s 1963 death and centered on the location of a home where Frost stayed next to the Amethyst Brook. Then Amherst Director of Conservation Pete Westover led the original project, which received support from municipal and state officials, private landowners and volunteers associated with Kestrel.

Kestrel has twice received recent funding from the MassTrails program to support the revival project, first in cooperation with Amherst in 2019, when trail enhancements were made, and this year for maintenance of sections that run through the Mount Toby State Forest in Sunderland and the Ruth M. McIntire Conservation Area in Leverett. The Mount Toby sections were created in 1987 with funding awarded to Kestrel from what was known as the state’s Department of Environmental Management.

The next work that will take place, likely to be complete no later than next spring, includes formal designations of the trail in the Skinner and Mount Holyoke Range state parks. That will include making and installing signs for the trail and blazing the path with volunteers from the Circle K International and Outing Club chapters at Mount Holyoke College.

For Hadley officials, the Select Board’s approval comes with a provision that the trail will not interfere with any currently allowed recreational uses on the properties.

The revived trail also is being supported with cooperation and permissions from Amherst College, Peckham Industries, Inc. and the New England Mountain Biking Association.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.