Looking to get out of the office and into the fresh air? Been meaning to do more physical activities and eat more fresh fruit? What about getting in some fun outdoor activities with the family before the cold weather hits? Picking your own apples is the perfect way to check these items off your list.
Franklin County has orchards dotting some of the most scenic landscapes in Massachusetts. Pick from century old trees located in orchards that have been in the family for generations or from newer experimental orchards. While you’re at it, take a break, bring a picnic lunch, and take in the scenery or refuel at some of the orchard restaurants. Here are four of our favorite pick your own spots.
Clarkdale Fruit Farms
303 Upper Road, Deerfield, (413) 772-6797
Pick Your Own daily 9am-5pm
Farm Stand open daily 8am-6pm
This fourth-generation family fruit farm located in the beautiful hills of Deerfield grows heirloom apple varieties from trees planted by the first generation of Clarks in1912. As true New England farmers, the Clarks are not ones to rest easy and continue to plant new varieties every year. Clarkdale offers eight pick your own apple varieties to choose from including Macintosh, Ginger Gold, Gala, Empire, Cortland, Macoun, and Jonagold. Looking for that hard to find variety that you won’t find in your local supermarket? The Clarks actually grow over 40 apple varieties including Esopus Spitzenburg, Wolf River, Akane and Pound Sweet. If you’re looking for more for your cornucopia, their farmstand, open 8am-6pm daily, also carries pears, nectarines, plums, grapes and more. They accept credit cards and SNAP EBT. While you’re there, don’t forget to take your picture in front of the iconic Clarkdale apple.
Let’s face it, there are only so many whole apples you can eat, so they conveniently have a few tasty recipes on their website like Lavinia’s Apple Lemon Custard Pie
New Salem Orchards and Preserves
67 South Main Street, New Salem, MA, (978) 544-3437
Pick Your Own Saturday and Sunday, 9am-5pm
Spectacular view overlooking Quabbin Reservoir? Check. Location on a farm established in 1750 with 125 year old fruit trees? Check. A barn with fresh pressed cider, just baked cider doughnuts, local cheeses, preserves and apple butter? Yup. You’ll definitely want to bring a picnic lunch and make a day of your trip to this orchard in the historic town of New Salem. The views here are spectacular year round but for a real treat, come at the peak of foliage where you will likely find friends and neighbors savoring hot mulled cider in the barn kitchen. If you hit it right, you may find a pop up cider or vinegar making workshop.
Bear Swamp Orchard
1209 B Hawley Road Ashfield, 413-625-2849, 413-768-7989
Organic Pick Your Own and Hard Cider Tasting Room open Fridays - Sundays, 10am – 6pm
Stroll through this ten year old small family-owned certified organic solar powered orchard perched on a hilltop in Ashfield with panoramic views that span Vermont and New Hampshire. With more than 60 different cultivars in varying degrees of production, the Gougeon family grows many great heirloom varieties. Since 2010, the family has focused on identifying new apple varieties that have seeded naturally and grafting them into the orchard.
This is definitely a picnic worthy spot and while you are there, say hi to the chickens and Shetland sheep. Aside from apples you will also find hard ciders, sweet ciders, vinegar (raw, un-pasteurized, untreated), jams and jellies, baked goods, and maple syrup. In case you did not get enough of a workout while you were picking, the orchard borders the Trustees of Reservations Bear Swamp Reserve which offers miles of scenic hiking trails and views of its own.
Pine Hill Orchards
248 Greenfield Rd, Colrain, MA 413-624-3325
Pick Your Own Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm and Monday holidays
Restaurant open Monday – Friday, 6am-2pm and Saturday and Sunday, 7am-2pm
Matt Shearer, a member of this family-owned 75 acre orchard in Colrain, says people come for the apples but stay for the animals. After picking Macs, Courtlands, Jonagolds, Spencers, Honey Crisps, Macouns, and Galas, he finds visitors lingering for hours at the pond with the cows, goats, potbelly pigs, donkeys and ducks. The on-site restaurant serves delicious comfort food every day from early morning until 2 pm. And there’s more. The orchard’s market has hard and sweet cider, fresh baked pies, cider doughnuts, maple products, crafts, and local meats.
Tips and resources
Call ahead to find out which apple varieties are currently available for picking or just show up and be surprised. If you’d like to do your own research before heading out, this interactive Apple Finder has pictures, tartness levels, and descriptions of more than 120 varieties grown in New England.
Still have not satisfied your apple appetite? You can immerse yourself in all things apple with workshops, tours, tastings and more at Franklin County CiderDays. This annual event, held the first weekend in November, features the longest running hard cider tasting in the country.
Why not get some creative ideas on what to do with your apples by taking cooking classes from James Beard Award winning Chef Sanford (Sandy) D'Amato at Good Stock Farm?
South Deerfield, MA
The ViewWhether you arrive at the top of Mount Sugarloaf’s south summit by driving (just a few minutes) or walking (about a half-hour) up the winding auto road, or by hiking up one of the marked trails, once the Connecticut River comes into view you’ll have no doubt that agriculture is alive and well in this valley. Lined with trees and productive farmland, and an occasional red barn and white steeple in the distance, this spectacular and quintessential rural New England view is both serene and inspiring.
Before it was called Sugarloaf (sugar was once molded into cone-shaped loafs for shipping), the indigenous Pocumtuck people called the mountain Wequamps, believing it was a giant greedy beaver killed by the god Hobomok and turned to stone. The south summit is the head, the north ridge its back. Directions and information about picnicking, trails, and parking here.
While You’re There:Visit Historic Deerfield, an authentic 18th-century New England village. Tour beautifully restored museum houses with period architecture and furnishings, see demonstrations of colonial-era trades, and explore world-famous collection of early American crafts, ceramics, furniture, textiles and metalwork.
French King Bridge
The View:If you are traveling on Rt 2 you are definitely going to want to pull over when you reach the French King Bridge for its beautiful form, impressive height, and breathtaking views of the Connecticut and Millers Rivers and surrounding landscape. This steel three-span cantilever arch bridge over the Connecticut River, connecting Gill to Erving, opened for travelers in 1932 and won the American Institute of Steel Construction’s Most Beautiful Steel Bridge Award. From the parking area at the end of the bridge, you can walk to the center and take in the view of the river winding through a dramatic undeveloped landscape including the Wendell and Erving State Forests. For a view of the bridge itself, follow the path down the bank.
While You’re There:Get a hearty meal at the French King Restaurant right next to the bridge and then head out to the Erving State Forest or Wendell State Forest for hiking, XC skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, and water sports.
If you’re the type of hiker who is all about the view, then High Ledges is the hike for you. You can park your car at one of the clearly marked parking lots and take the 1-mile moderate trail straight to the overlook. The trail meanders through fields of wildflowers, where birds, butterflies, and other critters can be seen. Large rocks create perfect seats to gaze at the 3-directional view of the Village of Shelburne Falls, the Deerfield River Valley, and Mt. Greylock in the distance. If you can peel your eyes away, you will also see a large chimney, the remnants of Dutch and Mary Barnard’s cabin. After reaching the summit, you can continue hiking on the series of trails. The trails all loop around, so you can pick the distance you would like to do. Directions and more information here.
While You’re There:
You’ve just seen the Village of Shelburne Falls from a bird’s eye view, now see it up close. Head west on the Mohawk Trail and turn left at the Sweetheart sign to get to the village. There you can check out the amazing art galleries and shops, find a good book at any of the 3 bookstores, and eat quality fresh food at any of the restaurants or cafes. See what else is happening in the village and the surrounding hilltowns at shelburnefalls.com.
Connecticut River Waterfront and Industrial Canal
Turners Falls, MA
Across the Connecticut River from Barton Cove, Turners Falls has no shortage of great waterfront views. Unity Park is the ideal place to picnic and observe migrating birds and fall foliage as well as glorious sunsets behind the Gill- Montague Bridge. It is also a spectacular vantage for full moon and eclipse events with an unobstructed sky and shimmering moonlight frosting the water. A short walk along the scenic waterfront bike path winds you around to the canal view complete with 19th century mills, smoke stacks, and post-industrial vistas.
While You’re There:
Along the bike path you’ll find the Great Falls Discovery Center, dedicated to the natural, cultural, and industrial history of the Connecticut River watershed. The Center’s four acres of native plants, butterfly gardens, and open lawn are a peaceful retreat with especially beautiful views of Turners Falls' historic mill district. Take in some comedy, theater, dance, or music at the newly renovated, 320-seat Shea Theater, grab dinner at The Rendezvous, or plan your trip so it coincides with any number of town festivals. Information on these and many more events in Turners Falls can be found at www.turnersfallsriverculture.org
Enjoy a long western vista from the beautiful 1912 sandstone structure Poet’s Seat Tower, so named for the area’s attraction to poets such as Frederick Goddard Tuckerman long before the tower was built. Reach Greenfield's topmost point by hiking or by walking up a paved road then climbing winding staircases in this peaceful location conveniently located to downtown. From Main Street, turn left onto High Street and turn right at Maple Street. At the end, bear right to the top of the hill. There is a parking area on the left and you can walk up to the Tower.
While You’re There:
Visit Greenfield’s newly minted Crossroads Cultural District downtown for eclectic shopping, eating, and entertainment. Favorite eating spots include Tex-Mex comfort food breakfast and lunch at the Brass Buckle or everyday-special locavore fare and modern cocktails for lunch and dinner at Hope & Olive. Browse John Doe, Jr. Used Records and Books for just the right music or visit one of the oldest family-run department stores in the country, Wilson’s. At night, hear all kinds of music at the Root Cellar or the Arts Block.
New Salem, MA
What tour through scenic beauty would be complete without a waterfall? This special spot, managed by The Trustees of Reservations, indulges you in waterfall splendor with a minimal trek to get there. According to The Trustees, “on its way to the Quabbin Reservoir, the Middle Branch of the Swift River cascades into an intriguing woodland pool at the bottom of a secluded gorge. Here, along a short, quarter-mile trail, you have two choices: go to the left and you can explore the enchanting waterfall; head to the right to follow the stream as it tumbles through large boulders past the site of an old mill." Directions and info here.
They also explain that "...in 1675, the great chief Metacomet (known to European settlers as King Philip) met here with neighboring chieftains to plan attacks on Hadley, Deerfield, and Northampton. A black bear shot on the property gives the reservation its name."
While You’re There:
Visit the Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest man-made public water supplies in the country; stop by New Salem Preserves for some hot mulled cider, just picked apples and fresh warm cider donuts on the weekend. Check out more activities here. visitnorthquabbin.com
If one waterfall were not enough, here’s another coupled with panoramic views of the Highlands and foothills of the Berkshires. If you want a strenuous hike you’re in luck but there is also an easy way up. Chapel Brook is also among the impressive sites managed by The Trustees . As they describe it, “We think it’s the rugged beauty of the landscape, like much of the Highlands a blend of steep and deep forests, sensational summit views, and streams that surge and trickle with the seasons. The brook is tranquil – except when spectacular Chapel Falls are in full roar! – and rugged Pony Mountain has a kick. Although Pony Mountain is only 1,420 feet high, the hike to the top is exhilarating. The Summit Trail rises to meet the abrupt, vertical, 100-foot rock face of Chapel Ledge (which attracts experienced rock climbers). You’ll want to be in good shape to tackle this trail. A less-daunting, half-mile trail leads around the western side of Pony Mountain to its summit." Info and directions here.
While You’re There
Get a Big Time Breakfast at Elmer’s, where half the fun is the charmingly amusing menu.
While You’re There:
Take in Northfield's classic New England architecture or treat yourself to a wine tasting at Cameron’s Winery. After reading about all of Northfield's attractions, you may want to extend your stay at Centennial House B & B. Too tired for another hike? Come back for biking, boating, skiing, and hiking at Northfield Mountain.
Franklin County has much to offer throughout the year. Find out more!
Check out the events calendar.
The thermometer has plummeted, but that does not mean the end of downtown street festivals! The 2017 holiday season officially kicks off the day after Thanksgiving in Franklin County, Massachusetts! Here are some festive and glowing celebrations to bring you out into the village centers.
Moonlight Magic: Friday, November 24th, starting at 4 PM
Downtown Shelburne Falls
Just a turn off the scenic and historic Mohawk Trail in the Berkshire foothills, you'll find the picturesque village of Shelburne Falls. A designated Massachusetts Cultural District, this village kicks off Franklin County's holiday season with the annual Moonlight Magic events!
Join in the Lighting of the Village where stores, galleries and restaurants will stay open late for special holiday promotions. Vendors will be offering a rich assortment of items, including baked goods, crafts, delicious food, hot drinks and entertainment!
Find more info here.
JingleFest: Friday, December 8th, 5-7 PM
What could be better than a holiday celebration in Everyone's Hometown? Jinglefest is a fun event for the whole family! Bring the kids to complete holiday crafts, have hot cocoa, march in the parade, see Santa and more! Shoppers, vote for the business with the best-decorated window and you could win a free shopping spree! Also happening to help downtown come to life is the Greenfield Local Cultural Council’s Storefront Window Performance/Installation Art! Some of the finest artists in our region are creating art in downtown Greenfield’s storefronts to celebrate the holiday and beautify Main Street for all the shoppers. And, speaking of shopping, don’t forget to pop over to the first Greenfield Holiday Pop-Up at the Pushkin, celebrating local artisans with art, music, food and libations! Jinglefest 2017 is going to be Greenfield’s largest event of the holidays, so don’t miss it!
Find event details on the JingleFest event page on Facebook.
It's a Wonderful Night in Turners Falls!
Friday, December 15th, 3-9 PM
Downtown Turners Falls
Shopping, Dining and Seasonal Cheer
Planned throughout this vibrant and artsy downtown along the Connecticut River are festive holiday activities for the whole family: art exhibitions, live music, restaurant specials, performances and unique gift buying opportunities. Children and adults alike are encouraged to put a wish list in the Magic Mailbox. Santa arrives at Spinner Park (Avenue A and 4th St.) at 6:30 PM. Play the “Holiday Open Door Promo” and enter to win $150 in gift certificates redeemable at 25 participating downtown businesses. More information at turnersfallsriverculture.org
12th Annual Special Day in Northfield Holiday Celebration: Saturday, December 9th, starting at 10 AM
12th Annual Special Day in Northfield Holiday Celebration, (second saturday in December), Starting at 10 AM Free Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides, Santa, Live Music at Participating Locations, Live Theater, WHAI Radio Personality Nick Danjer, Hands on Crafts for Kids, Holiday Sales and Gifts, Indoor Craft and Farmers Market, Seasonal Foods, Members of the Pioneer Valley Regional High School Band, the Redemption Christian Academy Chorus, a Bonfire at Northfield Golf Club and more. Event times, descriptions, age recommendations and pricing (if any) appear below.
Information at (413) 498-5921. Schedule updates on Twitter and at at 413-498-5921.
Midnight Madness: Saturday, December 9th, from 6PM- 12 AM
Downtown Orange and Athol
Midnight Madness is a great way to shop locally for excellent gifts, get tremendous discounts and support our local economy. The North Quabbin Chamber and Visitors Bureau, store owners and artisans from around our area are getting ready for another terrific event.
The night features a sleigh full of prizes with products and gift certificates from local businesses and artisans including three prize packages worth over $2,000 and of course, deep discounts, some up to 50% or more!
Stay tuned to the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce facebook page for details.
Starry Starry Night: New Year's Eve
Plans are underway for Orange's 22nd annual New Year's Eve celebration, Starry Starry Night! The event includes performers, ice sculptures, hayrides, parades, fireworks and more. Check the Orange Revitalization partnership page for details...