You may have noticed while driving around Western Mass that the views are breathtakingly beautiful. In fact, these drives have special designations as Scenic Byways. Each one offers a chance to explore the most picturesque parts of our region, while also leading you to areas of arts and culture, agricultural and industrial heritage, natural wonders, and recreation. There are 7 scenic byways in total which stretch across Western Mass, reaching many towns and points of interest.
Mount Greylock Scenic Byway
Starting in open farmland in Lanesborough, this byway runs through the forested Mount Greylock State Reservation, and to the contemporary arts mecca of North Adams. You can reach the summit of Mt. Greylock at 3,491 feet elevation by car! This quick elevation gain means that you’ll experience a variety of climates and ecological systems. Be sure to check the road conditions before you go - this byway is most accessible from late May to mid-October. However, the 70 miles of trails are open year-round. Click here for more information about Mount Greylock Scenic Byway.
Jacob’s Ladder Trail Scenic Byway
This byway, also known as the “first of the great mountain crossovers” runs between Lenox and Russell, traversing unspoiled and historic landscapes. In 1910, Jacob’s Ladder Trail was celebrated as the country’s first auto road over a mountain range. Today, driving along Jacob’s Ladder Trail you can access the Wild and Scenic Westfield River, the Appalachian Trail, October Mountain State Forest in Lee, and other places to explore outside. If you are a train enthusiast, you’ll want to check out the Keystone arches, or stone railroad bridges in Middlefield, Becket, and Chester. Click here to see what else you’ll find along Jacob’s Ladder Trail.
At the western end of Route 116 is the lovely town of Adams with artists’ galleries, small boutiques, and cafes. Then as you drive along, this byway seems more like a country road, travelling through open spaces. On the eastern end is South Deerfield, with many historic buildings and monuments paying tribute to the settlement era and early European immigrants. South Deerfield is also home to Yankee Candle’s flagship store with restaurants, a Christmas shop, and hands-on demonstrations. Find out what else is accessible from Route 116 here.
Route 112 runs North to South, with one end at the Vermont border in Colrain and the other in Huntington, Mass. Along the way, you can stop at plenty of farms for fresh produce and other agricultural products. Some farms even offer the chance to pick-your-own. Be sure to stop in Shelburne Falls and check out the thriving art scene. There are plenty of artists’ galleries and shops, as well as restaurants and cafes offering delicious farm-to-table food.
Route 112 is also a challenging yet beautiful route for road cyclists. Mountain bikers can explore the extensive network of trails running through the DAR State Forest, Charlemont, Ashfield, and Knightville Dam recreation area in Huntington. Click here for more information about Route 112.
Connecticut River Scenic Byway
The Connecticut River Scenic Byway is part of the National Scenic Byway with the Massachusetts stretch running along family farms, through historic town centers, and offering picturesque views of forests, rolling hills, and pastures. The Connecticut River Valley has long drawn people to its rich soil. The Norwottuck peoples farmed the land before the Colonial era, which then drew even more farmers to the area. Today, the area continues to host an active farming community. Along the Connecticut River Scenic Byway, you’ll find plenty of farm stands, farm stores, as well as shops and restaurants which sell the local products.
Along this route you’ll also find plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities such as hiking up Mount Holyoke, Mount Sugarloaf, and Mount Toby to take in the stunning views. You can also launch a canoe or kayak from several easy points of access to the Connecticut River in Sunderland, South Hadley, and Hadley.
At the southern end of the byway is Mount Holyoke College, part of the Massachusetts’ Five College Area. With so many colleges in one area, there is always a vibrancy of culture and education, as well as many opportunities to enjoy the arts created at these institutions.
Find out more about the Connecticut River Scenic Byway here.
Mohawk Trail Scenic Byway
The Mohawk Trail is a 69-mile scenic byway whose history dates back 10,000 years when Native Americans first began hunting and trading along this same route. The trail as we know it today opened in 1914 as one of the first auto-touring roads in the country. Today it continues to be a popular destination for a scenic daytime drive and a way to reach some wonderful places across the region.
The route crosses and parallels five major rivers - the Millers, Connecticut, Green, Deerfield, and Hoosic. The Millers and Deerfield River offer some exciting sections of whitewater. There are several local outfitters who offer tours on the river, including Zoar Outdoor, Berkshire East, and Crabapple.
At the western end of the route, you can reach the town of North Adams, home of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. You can also check out the other art galleries in town and grab a bite at one of the local eateries. Learn more about the Mohawk Trail here.
Route 122 Scenic Byway
Route 122 is the Western-most route which links the towns of Orange and Paxton. This route passes the northern end of the Quabbin Reservoir and consists mostly of back roads driving through quiet, pristine lands. Along the way lies many opportunities for camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, and many other ways to get outside and explore nature.
You’ll find a lot of historical landmarks along Route 122. Check out the historic town of Orange at the northwestern end of the route with its many 19th and early 20th century homes and mill buildings. Then head to Paxton on the southeastern end of the route and explore Moore State Park, which was once the site of grist and sawmills from 1747 through the early part of the 20th century. Find out what else is on Route 122 here.
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