Trails of Williamstown: Breaking out of the box

Students at the College love the great outdoors. But way too many runners spend their time cruising up and down Route 43 (or even worse, doing all their running in the gym). If you feel like you’re spending too much time in Sawyer and not enough in nature, or your daily run is feeling stale, the many trails of the Purple Valley are the cure for what ails you. Break free from the roads and the treadmill, and you’ll find a world of fresh air, greenery, wildlife and, yes, a lot of mud. And while running the trails of Williamstown is a wonderful experience any time of year, the vibrant October foliage makes fall one of the best seasons to be out in the woods. A bit of exploring is all it takes to find dozens of trails in and around Williamstown. Below are four great trails to start with, all within running distance from the College.

The distance indicated is from the center of campus.

Stone Hill Trails (4-8 miles)

Anyone who was around for “Siberian Mountain Day” in 2009 is familiar with the trails running up to and beyond Stone Hill. To reach these trails, take South Street to the Clark and run around to the parking lot on the backside – you’ll see the trail head on your left. There are a variety of paths you can take, but most will take you to the top of the hill, where you can enjoy a great view of Williamstown. Run to the back of the field and you’ll find a gated path that leads you to Stone Bench. Take a moment to sit down on the bench and enjoy your surroundings – this part isn’t optional! Then head home or continue down the trail, which will eventually deposit you on Scott Hill Road, near Mount Greylock Regional High School.

 

River Path (3 miles)

This short but beautiful run takes you along the Green River. Run east down Route 2 until you reach a chain link fence enclosure. You’ll see the trail to your left (if you cross the river, you’ve gone too far). The trail follows the river and ends at a small side road. Take the road to Cole Avenue, turn left, and you’ll find yourself back on Route 2. Fallen trees have a habit of lying across this trail, but that just adds to the fun. Just don’t try to climb one across the river, like a friend of mine once did. He got stuck hanging upside down in the middle of the river.

 

Hopkins Forest Trail (5-8 miles)

To reach Hopkins Forest, take Route 7 north to Bulkley Street. At the end of Bulkley take a right onto Northwest Hill Road, then a left at the entrance to Hopkins Forest. The main trail will take you uphill (you’ll see the maple shack on your left) to a fork. You can stay straight for a longer run, or turn left for a shorter loop. These trails are among the widest in the area, so they’re a great place to run with a group. I’ve also seen a few owls on runs there, so be on the lookout if you’re running at dusk.

 

Hopkins Special Trail (10 miles)

For this out and back, run like you’re going to Hopkins Forest but continue up Northwest Hill Road past the bridge. You’ll see the trailhead on your right less than a quarter mile up the road. This trail is a bit rougher than the Hopkins Forest trails, but the beautiful view of the river is ample payoff. The trail ends at a farm near the Vermont border. Enjoy your view of the amber waves of grain, then head back the way you came and steel yourself for the long stretch of uphill ahead.