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On just about every trip, you can always count on finding something special in the places most other visitors don’t look.
For anyone considering a summer trip that’s short on big cities and long on peace and quiet, the Route 116 Scenic Byway is one of the best options around.
Zigzagging its way through Western Massachusetts, this road takes travelers from the eastern outskirts of the Mohawk Trail to the heart of the Berkshires, passing through a number of towns that are each well worth a stop along the way.
South Deerfield & Sunderland
Photo: Stebbins House in Historic Deerfield via MOTT
While many of the most special sights in Western Mass are untouched landscapes, one of the truly unique attractions on Route 116 is a place that’s been re-built. Historic Deerfield, a masterfully restored 18th-century English settlement that still maintains a wide display of early American handmade crafts and artifacts, sits at the eastern end of the trail. The town offers a look at historic architecture, as well as workshops and lectures, and the iconic Deerfield Inn is right there.
To see another piece of Americana, visitors can follow their noses to Yankee Candle Village in South Deerfield, one of the area’s best-known attractions. The village houses more than 400,000 candles and its gardens count more than 10,000 flowers, which will be in bloom throughout the warmer months.
In Sunderland, located a very quick drive from South Deerfield, travelers can find a number of gorgeous natural spots. The truss bridge connects the two towns and offers great views of the Connecticut River; Gunn Brook Falls, pictured at the top of the post and located just a few miles off Route 116, is another a must-see for any fan of the outdoors.
Conway & Savoy
Moving west, there are a whole lot more opportunities to connect with nature. Animal enthusiasts can bring their binoculars to Conway Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, which counts bears, bobcats and coyote among its sightings, and offers a number of trails that loop through quiet forestry, over rocky ledges, and past historic stonewalls.
And, while you’re in the area, why not check out the oldest standing covered bridge in America? Burkeville Covered Bridge was constructed in 1870 and is still straddling the South River nearly 150 year later.
Photo: Burkeville Covered Bridge in Conway, MA via MOTT
For some more fresh air during your trip, check out Savoy Mountain State Forest, an idyllic reserve with places to fish, swim and picnic in quiet. Those who like to rough it can also consider an overnight among the trees, as Savoy has cabins for campers.
Plainfield & Cheshire
In Plainfield, you can truly escape from it all, as the town is home to fewer than 600 residents. The “Hidden Walls, Hidden Mills” program helps visitors uncover the history of the landscape through five self-guided tours, each of which has an accompanying map. You can stay in Plainfield, too, at the Brookwood B&B, which will keep you comfy and full.
Cheshire, Massachusetts, one of the next stops along the trail, features plenty of open space for outdoor pursuits, which can be enjoyed along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.
Photo: Ashuwillticook Rail Trail at Farnum’s Crossing in Cheshire, MA via MOTT
Cheshire is also home to the eponymous Cheshire Cheese Press Monument, a landmark commemorating the 1,234-pound wheel of cheese given to President Thomas Jefferson by the townspeople all the way back in 1802; the wheel was made with cheese from every cow in town, and it was so heavy that it had to be transported by sleigh instead of stagecoach.
Adams marks the westernmost point on the Route 116 scenic byway and, like the rest of the towns, has more than enough fun to fill a day or two. The Forest Park Country Club, a nine-hole public course situated at the bottom of the majestic Mount Greylock, gives golfers a chance to hit the links against the backdrop of Massachusetts’ highest peak.
There’s also the birthplace and museum of renowned female suffragist Susan B. Anthony, an Adams native who went on to advocate for the abolishment of slavery and equal rights for women.
Photo: Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum via MOTT
To grab a bite, try some steak or the signature shrimp bar at the Bounti Fare Restaurant. To rest up, book a stay at the famous Bascom Lodge, which is nestled atop Mount Greylock and comes with some kind of a view.
Photo: Looking south from Bascom Lodge via MOTT
You can learn more about the attractions spread across Route 116, as well as the rest of the Western Massachusetts scenic byways and what they have to offer, here. For more Pioneer Valley and Berkshires activity ideas, just click here.
Photo at the top: Gun Brook Falls by Evan Gregg