Welcome to Northfield and the Gateway Towns of Bernardston and Gill, Massachusetts! Here are just some of the things you can do while you’re in the area. Some form natural “self-guided tours.” Each heading contains links to even more information about our area and the wider Pioneer Valley.
Sample Locally-Grown Foods and Flowers
The Connecticut River supports some of the richest farmland in the world, and agriculture and horticulture thrive in the three gateway towns. Visitors can spend a day browsing farm stands and greenhouses brimming with local produce, herbs and beautiful plants and flowers. You can pick your own berries in season, and purchase unique farm products such as artisanal cheeses, maple syrup, and flours ground from local wheat. Several farms raise their own beef cattle, dairy cows, sheep and goats. For a list of farmers markets, farm stands, CSA’s, pick-your-own farms and farm-to-table restaurants, visit www.farmfresh.org and search on Northfield, Gill or Bernardston. We’re an ideal location from which to take in regional festivals such as Fibre Twist (http://www.fibertwist.com/) in September and Cider Day (www.ciderday.org) in early November.
Enjoy the River
Several river access points provide opportunities for boating, kayaking, canoeing and fishing in the three towns. In Gill, those include the French King Bridge on Route 2 between Erving and Gill, and the Barton Cove Recreation and Camping Area, operated by the area’s largest recreational facility, the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center, located in Northfield. On weekends between mid-June and early October, NMREC operates a narrated river cruise from Northfield to Turners Falls where you can view nesting bald eagles. The state boat on route 63 at the North end of town offers water access for paddlers and power boaters alike.
Hike the Extensive Trail Systems
The New England National Scenic Trail runs from Erving, Mass. through Northfield to Warwick, Mass. and up to the New Hampshire border, where it is still known as the Metacomet and Monadnock Trail. Hikers should be aware that sections of the original trail may have been moved to accommodate the new designation. Consult the (www.newenglandtrail.org ) website for the most up-to-date information on the transition.
Numerous additional trails run all through Northfield. Although their name is a misnomer today because of their lush tree cover and abundant plant and animal life, the Bald Hills is the actual name for the gentle range that faces you as you cross the Connecticut on Route 10 heading toward downtown Northfield. The range offers numerous marked trails and the summits provide dramatic views of Mount Wachusett to the east, Mount Monadnock to the northeast and Mount Ascutney to the northwest. Download maps free of charge at www.northfieldmasstrails.org/ In that guide, trail heads and parking areas are marked with a “P” and include: Alexander Hill Road Access, Coller Cemetery Road Access, Bass Road Access, and King Philip’s Hill in west Northfield. Perhaps the best known system of trails in the Gateway Town area are the 26 miles owned and maintained by the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. For more information on outdoor activities they offer year-round, visit www.gdfsuezna.com/northfield-mountain-nature-programs/.
Bicycle the Back Roads
The Franklin County Bikeway provides a great way to tour the Pioneer Valley through a combination of bike paths, bike lanes and bike routes/shared roadways. Starting in downtown Northfield, it runs through Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Deerfield, Montague and Sunderland. In addition to this official bikeway, there are numerous scenic rides in and around the three town area for varying skill levels, some of which lead up into Vermont and New Hampshire and loop back. For more information visit www.massbike.org/.
Go Birding, Fishing and Boating
The majestic Connecticut River is the fourth largest river in the United States, originating at the top of Vermont near the Canadian border and running all the way to Long Island Sound. The miles of waterways, broad meadows and vegetation protected as part of the Connecticut River State Park make areas in Northfield and Gill a haven for birders, fishing and boating enthusiasts. Public access to the river is possible at a number of locations:
- Pauchaug Brook Wildlife Management Area, the Massachusetts Division of Conservation and Recreation’s 161-acre wildlife area, located one mile north of the center of Northfield on Route 63: concrete boat ramp and ample parking for vehicles and trailers. Pauchaug Brook is stocked with trout for fishing
- Barton Cove, Gill: 1.5 miles east of Turners Falls on Route 2; recreational motor boats, canoes and fishing boats
- Bennett Meadow Conservation Area, on the west side of the river off Route 10
- Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center riverfront picnic area, Ferry Road, Northfield.
While noted on our map because of its historic significance, the Schell Memorial Bridge in Northfield, which spans the Connecticut, is not open to the public. A popular subject for painters and photographers, the Schell is best viewed from riverbank locations up or downstream from it, such as the Pauchaug Brook boat ramp area.
Experience the Lively Arts Scene
Antique shops and artist studios dot the local landscape and may be open on either a regular, seasonal or ‘by appointment’ basis. Many artists exhibit their work locally at private galleries, in public buildings such as libraries, or in local restaurants.
Regular monthly ‘art walks’ take place year round in Amherst, Northampton and Brattleboro. Historic Deerfield, Yankee Candle, Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory in South Deerfield, Kringle Candle in Bernardston, the Five Colleges, Shelburne Falls, Turners Falls and downtown Greenfield offer unique shopping, restaurants, music venues and other attractions–all within easy reach of the Gateway towns. Brattleboro and Southern Vermont, and Keene, New Hampshire add to the mix with shopping, galleries, restaurants, colleges and more attractions. Follow our twitter feed on our homepage for what is coming up in the area.
Third Annual Great River Challenge Off-Road Triathlon, 2021 to be announced.
A USA Triathlon-sanctioned, non-traditional “paddle-run-mountain bike” triathlon held at the beautiful Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center in Northfield. The Center offers a waterfront park on the Connecticut River for the paddling leg of the race and 25 miles of groomed trails for the running and biking components. Indoor restrooms, indoor and outdoor picnic spaces and a vendor area where we will have registration, food, community groups and gear tables, live music and family-oriented activities. Visit www.greatriverchallenge.com for more information and our Facebook page www.facebook.com/greatriverchallenge.
Special Day in Northfield, Old-Fashioned Holiday Celebration, First weekend in December
Each year, the merchants and non-profit organizations of Northfield invite the public to experience the holidays the old fashioned way at “Special Day in Northfield – A Holiday Celebration” held on the second Saturday in December 15 from 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. This lively and popular annual event features free horse-drawn hay rides, seasonal foods and a variety of craft, theater and musical events throughout the day, including Victorian carolers and visits with Santa. For a reminder and a program in the fall, send us your email using our “Request a Brochure” tab.