36 Hours in Western Massachusetts
08.03.21 - 4 min Read
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At RISE Amherst, we’re locals who love this community and its natural treasures, so we put together a guide with our favorite spots to visit for the infrequent traveler and the more adventurous. Plan a perfect day and be sure to pick up something at RISE’s Amherst Massachusetts dispensary to help you enjoy what the Pioneer Valley has in store.
It’s summer, and luckily there are plenty of sights to see right here in Amherst. Take a look at our guide and head out to satisfy your wanderlust.
Let’s start off easy. It’s not every day someone can recommend a dispensary as a top tier destination, but this is one of them–although we may be just a little biased. Beyond offering a wide selection of products and exciting merch in our boutique, the dispensary itself is a sight to behold. The mural that wraps around our building in the Mill District, and was created by the artist @Zaeos in a juried selection process involving the Amherst Public Art Commission and Commonwealth Murals in November 2020. It features interesting depictions of wildlife you might see while out and about in the area. Additionally, any stop at RISE is sure to make any of your other stops more relaxing and interesting. RISE Amherst is open from 8 AM – 9 PM with plenty of easy parking.
If you’re looking to relax, fish, or try your hand at bird watching, Puffer’s pond should naturally rise to the top of your list. The pond is sizable at 11 acres, and offers everything from peace and quiet to perfect places to swim. Start your time there with an easy but rewarding hike around the edges of the water, and make sure to catch the falls on your way in and out. Puffer’s Pond hours are from 6:00 AM until dusk. Swimming is allowed but no lifeguard is on duty – swimming is at your own risk.
Sometimes you need a little bit more than a gentle stroll around a pristine body of water. If you want to get your legs moving and see some of nature’s majesty, Mt. Holyoke’s network of trails is a prime location to visit. And if you’re just looking for some casual sightseeing, you can simply drive to the top to take in the views. Be sure to check out the Summit House, and see which landmarks you can identify when you’re up there. The visitor center bathrooms are open daily from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM and free parking is available at the park entrance.
After a trip to Mt. Holyoke Range State Park, it’s only a quick twenty four minutes to nearby Mt. Toby State forest—and it’s got a little something for everyone. You can choose from multiple trails ranging from easy to difficult, and catch glimpses of interesting wildlife on your way to the summit. Mt. Toby State forest’s dog friendly, so you can bring your four legged friend along, too—just don’t forget to bring a leash. The top rated trail is Mt. Toby State Trail, which runs about 4.4 miles round-trip and typically takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Just across the Connecticut river you’ll find the Mount Sugarloaf state reservation, which offers an incredible view of the Pioneer valley and the river you’ll cross to get there. Pick one of the trails for a relaxing hike, or just drive to the top to enjoy a picnic on the pavilion (don’t worry, there are tables). And if you want an even more compelling look at your surroundings, climb the stairs to the observation tower to get up just that much higher and take it all in.
Located in the heart of Downtown Northampton, Progression Brewery is a local brewery that crafts and brews “A Higher State of Beer” in every pint they pour. They offer a charming patio to soak up some sun and enjoy some great food in addition to a generous indoor space featuring exposed brick for when the sun sets. While there’s something for everyone on the menu, you can never go wrong with a classic—we recommend you give their Taproom Burger a shot. Make sure to stick around and maybe catch some live music or even livelier conversation, too. It’s nearly impossible not to find something you’ll like at Progression.
The New England Peace Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa located just northeast of the RISE Amherst dispensary. It’s the perfect place to stop for a moment, appreciate interesting architecture, and get lost in the simple pleasure of your own thoughts. Park in one of the provided lots, enjoy the brisk walk up the trail that leads to the pagoda, and spend some time enjoying the peace and quiet of this exceptional monument. And if you’re looking for something to remember it by, we recommend getting an origami souvenir that you can take home with you. The Peace Pagoda is open from sunrise to sunset everyday, if you can work it out, you can start and end your day in this blissful place.
If you want a moderate hike and the chance to see something that is quite literally cool, Sunderland Caves is a great option. A pleasant three mile hike awaits you along the Robert Frost trail, just make sure to follow the signs for the caves. While you can technically hike the caves, make sure you’re experienced enough and have a flashlight. Either way, you can admire it from afar during a pleasant jaunt around the area. The parking isn’t posted on Google maps, but we promise it’s there.
We’ve put together this handy map for you to go off and choose your own adventure.
Remember that no matter what you decide to do, it’s hard to go wrong with a sunny day in Western Massachusetts. And if you plan just enough of it, you can not plan the most enjoyable part—taking in everything this beautiful part of Massachusetts has to offer at your own pace. And while you’re here, we hope you’ll stop by and see everything we have to offer, too.