When I tell friends it's possible to hike from Connecticut to New Hampshire through the Connecticut River Valley, they usually say something smart-alecky like, "Sure, if you walk in the breakdown lane on I-91." That's when I hit them with news of a 117-mile footpath that artfully rides a corridor of elevated wildland from the basalt ridges of northern Connecticut clear through central Massachusetts to a dramatic finale on the craggy summit of 3,113-foot Mt. Monadnock.
The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, or M&M, is a trail of two minds. It beguiles with quiet rivers and mysterious hemlock ravines, then hurls you onto wind-buffeted, sun-seared mountain balds with Panavision views. Southern portions of the route, especially along the Mt. Tom and Holyoke ranges and the Pelham Hills, are reminiscent of English country walking: You hike a densely wooded ridge punctuated with spill-away vistas of pastoral beauty to each side. In northern Massachusetts, the M&M becomes a wilderness trail, a guise it maintains as the mountains grow taller and road crossings become less frequent.
LENGTH: 117 miles.
RATING: Moderate; long, easy ridge hiking broken by short, steep ascents and descents.
WHERE: Approximately 120 miles (2 hours) west of Boston. To reach my favorite stretch of trail, follow MA 63 south from MA 2. At the intersection with MA 47, turn left onto North Leverett Road, which you follow for 3.5 miles to the Village Co-op. They'll let you park if you ask nicely. Follow the trail north for 25 miles to Mt. Grace.
MAPS: Get the Guide to the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail ($10.45, Appalachian Mountain Club's Berkshire chapter; 413-549-4124).
CONTACT: Call Chris Ryan of the AMC at the phone number above.