Birding · Fall Colors · Historical Significance · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
Be careful/respectful during hunting seasons, particularly for pheasant and deer.
This constantly changing route is a grand tour of the Leyden Wildlife Management Area and adjacent public lands, which I recommend hiking clockwise so the long hilltop views open up ahead of you. You may recognize many of the iconic skylines of the region off in the distance, from the Holyoke range to the south, Mt. Monadnock and Mt. Grace to the north and east, and the hills surrounding the Deerfield River
Valley to the west.
Need to Know
Be prepared for seasonal wet spots, some brambles, tick-proofing.
This land was recently protected through a partnership between various governmental and environmental organizations, and perhaps most importantly, a local farm family. Much of the land is maintained for wildlife and access to various habitats, and wildlife abounds in variety and abundance. There are no formal trails per se, so, if new to the area you might want to keep an eye on the GPS track, or just explore. With a few exceptions, the loop follows the most prominent paths, though it is mowed on a three-year rotation, so there is some variation from year to year and season to season.
The terrain offers a variety of hiking surfaces from singletrack to wood roads to mowed paths. There may be a few short stretches that are brambly. The last 1.9 miles is on a maintained dirt road, though it holds its own in terms of beauty. The road allows views up to the open ridgetop that you traversed at the start of your hike, and it passes through working farms. At one, a sheep farm, you may be greeted by a border collie and a couple Great Pyrenees Mountain Dogs, whose size, curiosity, and bark are a good fit for protecting the sheep herd. They may intimidate you, but in my experience, they are very friendly and no threat to hikers.
The woodland reservoir you pass is a water supply, so please resist any temptation to cool off so we retain access to this beautiful place, and, of course, protect our neighbors.
Be extra mindful during pheasant and deer hunting seasons in particular. There is no hunting on Sundays.
As summer approaches August, you'll be surrounded by ripening native lowbush blueberries, an exquisitely tasty treat in spite of their tiny size, but you may well expend more energy harvesting from these now-untended plants than you get from the eating. These fields seem to be ideal tick habitat, so be sure to protect yourself to avoid Lyme Disease and other tick-born diseases. During summer in particular, I find it necessary to check my legs as I exit each field. I have better luck after extended dry spells, but there is no time I go up there without taking this threat very seriously.
This track includes a couple out-and-back spurs to highlight two of the several alternative trailheads, all marked by yellow steel gates. These spurs are delightful regardless of where you enter, especially the open hillside access to the southeast (Oak Hill Rd in Greenfield). Skipping them would bring the loop closer to 5.5 miles.
The trickiest turn is at the end of the very first set of fields. The mowed path turns left, and soon after you'll want to go right and into the woods. Next up, on the woodland doubletrack, resist the wood road to the left that goes out to road access. Finally, after the third large field (Ball Mountain), the prominent mowed path you've been following seems to dissolve on the bank as you approach the woods. Head straight and slightly right, perhaps through some not particularly disagreeable brambles, toward three oaks on the edge of the woods where the easy-to-spot woodland trail resumes.
Flora & Fauna
Deer, bears, coyotes, woodcocks, raptors, grouse, turkeys and many others.
History & Background
Lowbush blueberries moved into this region when the last glaciers receded, and hilltop blueberry barrens have been managed by humans in the area for many centuries, continuing still.
Shared By: Glenn Caffery