Everything in New England used to be something else. This history is why I love this region and the East Branch Trail at the Chesterfield Gorge is one of the best examples of what I am talking about. This 9-mile trail is beautiful, scenic and it serves as a reminder of those who used the land before us.
New England has a lot of history going back hundreds of years. During that time the region has seen wars, logging, settlement, hurricanes, blizzards and just about everything else you can imagine. That is why a foray into a seemingly uninhabited area of the woods may lead you to an old stonewall, a cellar hole or some other reminder that someone has been there before you.
The East Branch Trail starts at the Chesterfield Gorge and is one of the many properties managed by the Trustees of Reservations. The trail looks like a scenic double track trail that follows the Westfield River for 9 miles to Knightsville Dam.
If you look closely you will see you are on what used to be a road lined by remnants of old stone walls, cellar holes and rock quarries. According to the Trustees of the Reservations there is even remnants of a 1762 bridge that used to be part of the road between Boston and Albany, NY. British prisoners were marched across it during the Revolutionary War. People worked and made their lives in this area and there is something interesting about that.
The East Branch is worth checking out even if history isn’t your thing. Its 9 miles of rolling double track presents an opportunity for an easy hike or relaxing long run. The flowing waters of the Westfield River add wonderful ambient noise with regular views of the rapids below. I hear the fly-fishing is pretty good to! Since this is an out and back you can make the run/hike as long or short as you would like.
The Chesterfield Gorge is the icing on the cake and is definitely worth checking out pre or post run. The 70-foot rock walls make it easy to see why it is called the Grand Canyon of Massachusetts. The gorge is right at the parking area for the East Branch Trail on River Road in Chesterfield, MA
The East Branch Trail is a great place for a long run where you can be inspired by the history of those who the land before you got there.
One thought on “Stepping into history on the East Branch Trail”
Thanks for the excellent info, Grant! This helped confirm the “run-able” state of the East Branch Trail. I wasn’t sure if the trail was clear all the way from the Gorge down to (or up from) Knightsville Dam – but your post cleared it up. Really helpful!