The Conservation Department manages and maintains an extensive trail network covering 80 miles of paths in Amherst alone, and helps maintain regional trails that extend through the neighboring communities of Shutesbury and Leverett. This trail network includes a hierarchy of three integrated systems that help make Amherst a walkable community:
Major Regional Trails, which also includes an interstate trail
Local Literary Trails
Major Regional Trails
There are four regional trails that crisscross Amherst, connecting it with outdoor areas such as the Mount Toby Reservation in Sunderland, the Mount Holyoke Range, and with community destinations such as downtown Northampton. These trails include the K.C. Trail, the Robert Frost Trail, and the Norwottuck Rail Trail. The Norwottuck Rail Trail is a paved path heavily used by cyclists, pedestrians, families, commuters, and tourists. The Town of Amherst includes a large portion of the 8.5 mile Norwottuck Rail Trail which connects Northampton, Hadley and Amherst, and provides users with excellent opportunities for biking, rollerblading, walking, and cross-country skiing. Numerous long-distance hiking trails such as the Metacomet-Monadnock and Robert Frost Trail also provide outstanding opportunities for walking and hiking.
Local Literary Trails
The literary trail system recognizes the connection between Amherst‘s literary tradition and its beautiful and diverse landscape. Over a dozen trails named after authors, poets and artists that have lived in Amherst bring outdoor enthusiasts to the many special places and refuges found in the community. The implementation of this trail system connects residents and visitors to the character of Amherst‘s natural resources and teaches them about an important element of the Town‘s cultural history through interpretive signs, and a literary trail guide and brochure.
Most of the trail mileage in Amherst can be walked along local trails that connect the Major Regional Trails with local conservation areas, the village centers, recreational facilities and existing neighborhoods. These trails, like the Regional Trails, are in constant need of maintenance from overuse, degradation from the climate, and age of the infrastructure and facilities.