Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Discovering Sugarloaf

I've lived in the Pioneer Valley for almost 2 full years now and have been a regular participant at local running races (and been a member of the excellent Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club), but I've only just recently discovered the fantastic running trails on North Sugarloaf Mountain. A few days ago, Jen, who used to run there years ago when she lived and worked close by, took me to her old stomping grounds. And I'm so glad she did! We parked at the tiny parking area off of Hillside Road (the one second-closest to River Road) and headed up the main trail from there.

There appears to be a small network of trails here, some official and some not. At present, there's no map to be found and no signs at the junctions and it seems like it could be a bit confusing, but it doesn't really matter. The place isn't THAT big and if you get lost running the worst that happens is you end up down on a road and have run several miles back to where you parked.

Anyway, we headed up a trail that zigzagged back and forth, nearly doubling back on itself several times in tight hairpin turns, looping and swooping and meandering for about a mile up to the trail that runs along the summit. It was spectacularly good running. Sort of like the mountain bike trails on the south side of the Holyoke Range only with more forgiving footing.

view from the summit ledges on North Sugarloaf Mountain

At the top there's a nice view to the west out over South Deerfield from a precipitous open rock outcrop. We took the trail south from there, immediately dropping down the south side of the hill towards South Sugarloaf Mountain. About a quarter mile down, we took a somewhat obscure left turn onto a trail that runs along the east side of the hill back towards Hillside Road. There are a few short ascents along the way, but mostly it's gradual descent.

All around, it was a very pleasant surprise, and I'm really surprised I haven't run there before given that it totally seems to be right in my wheelhouse. I'm psyched to go back and explore the other trails there, along with the Pocumtuck Ridge Trail that runs north from there (which I hear makes another good trail run).

running along the summit ridge

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