Franklin County Biking Paradise

What’s more appealing than than bicycling by historic houses and pastures dotted with cows? Or pedaling alongside meandering streams and vibrant fall foliage? Franklin County, Massachusetts offers up the New England landscapes of your dreams. Breathe in the fresh air and see it all close up, along the many bike trails running through the small towns and countryside.  

The Franklin County Bikeway criss-crosses the region with roughly 240 miles of bicycle routes, including both non-motorized bike/pedestrian trails and designated bike lanes along streets and highways.

You’ll find designated bicycle loops and routes suited to every skill level.

"Biking is one of the best ways to connect with the local scene and scenery," Brian Pearson of Adventure East says,  "take the day and explore the valley on one of several scenic and fun routes. We are sure you won't go hungry." 

"Our Farm tour is one of our favorite rides. Riding through the beautiful farmlands you can stop at local stands and fill your pack with local ingredients for a picnic. Then take a short scenic hike and enjoy one of several conservation areas on the route. Surrounded by wild forest and the sounds of nature, you literally will taste the valley. That's why we like to call it 'edible valley'".

Adventure East offers both guided and unguided tours on their fleet of 24 flat bar 10 speeds offering a fun and comfortable experience for their gentle 15-30 mile rides. Their shop door in Sunderland is always open and welcome riders to drop in for water bottle fills and  support any minor maintenance needs.

A sampling of their favorite routes includes River Road Loop, one of the most popular rides in the valley and right out their front door.  Leaving the Adventure East shop in Sunderland the ride crosses over the Connecticut River and onto River Road in Deerfield, starting a gentle 10-mile uphill through scenic farmland. Crossing back over the river, you are taken into Turners Falls and towards Montague and the now famous Book Mill on the banks of the Sawmill River.

The Mount Toby Route - Mount Toby, a 1,300-foot peak within the Metacomet Ridge, is considered one of the most biodiverse areas in New England. It is also one of the few forests in Massachusetts that was never clear cut during the intensive agricultural periods of the 18th and 19th centuries. Surrounded by the towns of Sunderland, Leverett and Montague, Mt Toby is the centerpiece of this scenic New England bike ride. Find other rides like Green River RIP  on the Adventure East website.  

Photo Credit: Brian Pearson of Adventure East

For Ryan Boeding, "my riding, and the reason I started Frontier Cycling Tours , is to highlight and show the great cycling routes in Franklin County and Western Massachusetts that most riders might not think about. There are the tried and true, never a let down paved roads, punctuated with the Franklin County byway bike signs, but also the off the beaten path gravel roads some might not know about. It is easy to get lost in a sense, and just enjoy the ride, finding a place to stop for a coffee or beer when you come across a place. Even the coop in North Leverett is a nice stop as you're bumping along Rattle Snake Gutter and Montague Roads riding gravel."

Frontier Cycling offers a diverse range of routes and rides to choose from. All rides are customizable according to the experience you wish to have and Ryan likes to talk with each group ahead of time and discuss personally your experience and comfort on a bike. Here are some of his local tour ideas.

Do-it-yourself tours

Maps of all Bikeway Routes in Franklin County, produced by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, available at the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, offer several bike “loops” along with detailed information about the mileage and difficulty of each route. Also available are online bike maps of the Connecticut River Byway, eastern Franklin County, western Franklin County, and central Franklin County.  

Eastern Franklin County

The south eastern section of Franklin County (Leverett, Sunderland, Deerfield, and Montague) offer many road miles of level pedaling along riverfronts, and villages. For instance, the Leverett-Amherst loop, 13.4 intermediate miles, travels from Millers Falls Road through Montage Center and connects to North Amherst. The River Road Route (18.7 miles) begins at the southern end of the Canalside Trail Bike Path near the East Deerfield Railroad Yard, where there is a parking lot, and travels on River Road over the Deerfield-Sunderland bridge, connecting to the 9.4 mile Connecticut River Route, between Montague Center and Route 47 in Sunderland.

For a rigorous, advanced climb, take the 16-mile Franklin County-Vermont loop beginning at West Gill and Hoeshop roads, traveling north to Vermont and looping back to Mount Hermon Station Road.

Central Franklin County

In central Franklin County, there are intermediate bike touring loops through Greenfield and Turners Falls. An easy and interesting ride is the 3.6 mile Canalside Rail Trail. It crosses a few vehicular roads, but is mostly all bikes and pedestrians, from the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls to Deerfield. This trip offers glimpses of Turners Falls’ 19th century industrial architecture, the Connecticut River, the Power Canal and plenty of redwinged blackbirds in summertime, through a long stretch of meadows.

Greenfield has a 7.2 mile Leyden Road-Plain Road loop that includes the Riverside Greenway Bikepath, from the end of Woodard Road to Nash’s Mill Road, ending near the Green River Swimming Area. This stretch of paved path is out of vehicular traffic, while the rests of the loop is on shared roadway.

Western Franklin County

Western Franklin County, at the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, is hilly and offers a more challenging terrain for advanced riders. The 31-mile West County loop begins at Route 112 in Ashfield, traveling downhill into Buckland and Charlemont, along the Deerfield River. From Charlemont, it follows 8A into Plainfield, then heads east onto Route 116, which leads back to Ashfield.

Downhill & Cross-country

The Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Charlemont offers beginner-to-advanced downhill biking at its Thunder Mountain Bike Park. Ride the ski lift 1,000 vertical feet; then take your downhill bike on whichever trail is suited to your skill level and sense of adventure. Berkshire East rents downhill bikes, which have hydraulic disc brakes, strong suspension, knobbier tires and are designed for downhill use.

Thunder Mountain Drop Photo Credit: Douglas Mason, Berkshire East
Thunder Mountain Berm Photo Credit: Douglas Mason, Berkshire East

“When we opened, we were voted ‘Top Bike Park in New England’ on MTVParks.com. We have beginner-to-expert trails, including natural terrain as well as machine-built trails and jumplines,” says bike park director Gabriel Porter-Henry. “We’re currently building new trails, including an advance pro-jump line. We’re (also) a full-service mountain bike park.” Lessons are available to inexperienced downhill bikers, and the network of trails is set up as a progression, for people to use as their skills improve.

With the Deerfield River running right through town, Charlemont has become an outdoor adventure center with whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing and zipline treetop tours, among other activities. In recent years, at least 30 miles of public mountain bike trails have been carved out the wooded hills from Berkshire East through the property of Zoar Outdoor Adventure Resort, a whitewater rafting and zip line resort. Some of these bike trails were laid along old ski trails that are no longer used, said Lessels. Members of the New England Mountain Biking Association also helped to build the trails. These trails are open to the public, but they are self-guided trips. Trail maps may be seen at Berkshire East and Zoar Outdoor. Both businesses have lodging and camping sites for those who want to extend their stay.

When biking further east, Riverside Picnic Area provides a perfect place for a rest and rejuvenation spot during a summer or fall bike ride. Located in Northfield along River Road and the Franklin County Bikeway, the riverside picnic tables and rest rooms offer a scenic spot to refill water bottles, stretch your legs and enjoy the beautiful Connecticut River. The area is open Memorial Day through Columbus Day and run by FirstLight Power.

Just across Route 63 from Riverview is Northfield Mountain’s Visitor Center and extensive trail system. (Please check hours of visitor center operation before visiting) Enjoy a quiet mountain top rest with three state views before an exhilarating descent. Perfect for the adventurous mountain biker, the hilly terrain offers over 20 miles of well-maintained trails. Choices include challenging uphill routes, thrilling downhill rides and meandering across the mountain’s forested trails.

More Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

Time
Event Information
Location

March 01

Nice and Easy Walks

March 02

Reading the Forested Landscape

March 02

Reading the Forested Landscape

March 02

INDOOR STORYWALKS®

March 02

Carnegie Public Library Book Sale

March 02

Factory Talk: The John Russelll Cutlery Factory**

March 03

Valley Tea Dance

March 04

Franklin First: Youth Financial Education Program