First Day Hike in Nature: A Time for Family Reflection

Set The Tone for the Year: Connect with Nature!

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For many, New Year’s Day is a time for peace, quiet, and calmness. Though it’s the beginning of something new, it’s also a time to reflect on all that life brought during the past year in preparation for what’s soon to come. Luckily, New Year’s Day in western Massachusetts offers us a beautiful landscape within which to reflect. As 2019 begins, families can connect to the world around them by participating in facilitated First Day hikes or by exploring on their own through the chilly landscape.

Five Featured First Day Hikes

Make sure you dress accordingly and arrive early.

  1. Tuesday, January 1 at 10am-4pm in Lanesborough at Mount Greylock State Reservation. Self-guided hike and open house.
  2. Tuesday, January 1 at 10:30am in Granville at the Granville State Forest. Meet at the Park Headquarters. Warm up afterward with a fire and warm beverage.
  3. Tuesday, January 1 at 12noon-1pm in Windsor at Notchview. Guided snowshoe hike.
  4. Tuesday, January 1 at 1pm in Turners Falls at Great Falls Discovery Center. Meet in the Great Hall. Hot chocolate will be served following the hike.
  5. Tuesday, January 1 at 1-4pm in Amherst at Holyoke Range State Park. Meet at the Notch Visitor Center. Warm beverages follow.

Families who prefer a more personalized beginning to the new year can create their own adventure, using some of our winter tracking resources as a catalyst for nature-based discoveries. Additionally, families can make a game of learning to look closely at their surroundings using Mass Audubon’s winter installment of nature bingo, a 5″x5″ bingo-style card that requires players to find an assortment of interesting nature treasures to win. The winter bingo card includes things like feathers and acorns, as well as more difficult to spot things like animal burrows, birds’ nests, and evidence of woodpeckers. Unstructured family outdoor time can help to set the tone for the year – if your family intends to make 2019 a nature-filled year, then local exploration is undoubtedly where the year should begin.

Depending on snow conditions, there are many excellent spots in western Massachusetts that are worth exploring as a self-directed First Day Hike. In addition to the exciting nature that there is to observe, a view from above can help to provide some much-needed perspective at the start of a new year. In Franklin County, Shelburne Falls’ Fire Tower Trail offers a steep (but relatively short) hike to the fire tower atop the ridge that overlooks the village and the Deerfield River Valley. On a clear day, views can stretch as far south as the UMass campus! Atop the same ridge, Mass Audubon’s High Ledges offer a similar view, and miles of trail make for endless options for hikes. From the ledge itself, families can see the Deerfield River snaking through West County and, most days, Mount Greylock is visible, too!

In the Berkshires, families can explore Stockbridge’s Ice Glen, a beautiful miniature valley of mossy, ice-filled stone caves. It’s a short hike, and intrepid folks can lengthen the trip by also adventuring to Laura’s Tower, which offers (at the end of some very steep stairs) views of the rolling hills that make up the western edge of the state. In the northern Berkshires, the Berkshires Natural Resources Council’s Hoosac Range trail provides either a short or very long hike across the mountains that make up North Adams and Williamstown’s southeastern border. From a stone bench at a clearing on the trail, families can watch traffic flow in the towns below.

Pioneer Valley families can put some vertical space between them and the bustle of the valley by adventuring up Mount Holyoke, either by trail or by road. Skinner State Park offers panoramic views of Northampton, Hadley, and Amherst, and its trails connect to the miles of trail that traverse the Holyoke Range – meaning that hardier folks can extend their exploration to include the tops of even more small peaks!

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