This town of just over 15,000 people sits east of the distinguished college town of Amherst, and is known for an historic fair celebrated every September.
The Belchertown Fair remains a heartwarming spectacle, with time-honored attractions and events from a parade along Main Street to livestock displays.
Sensational views abound in Belchertown, from the easternmost peaks of the Mount Holyoke Range to the seemingly boundless expanse of the Quabbin Reservoir, the largest inland body of water in the state.
From Belchertown it’s possible to embark on a westward hike along the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, or head east into Quabbin Park climbing to inspiring lookouts in the hills on the southern shore of the reservoir.
1. Mount Holyoke Range State Park
Belchertown is in the eastern foothills of the Holyoke Range, an east-west traprock mountain ridge stretching to the east bank of the Connecticut River in Hadley and South Hadley.
The range is part of the Metacomet Ridge, which traces the Connecticut River Valley for some 100 miles, from Long Island Sound to the MA-VT border.
From Belchertown you can get onto seven miles of the ridgeline at the Mount Holyoke Range State Park, mostly within the town of Amherst. Crossing the ridge here, and taking in peaks like Long Mountain (920 feet) and Mount Norwottuck (1,106 feet) is the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, which hugs the ridge for 116 miles.
In Belchertown you can pick up the trail at Bay Path Rd, off Bay Rd and will soon be wowed by views for miles over the Fort River Valley.
There are more than 30 miles of trails in the state park, and for a long-distance hike you can continue west into Skinner State Park.
2. Quabbin Reservoir
Belchertown’s northeast corner touches the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts. Covering 38.6 square miles, the Quabbin Reservoir was built in the 1930s, wiping four towns from the map in the process.
Together with the Wachusett Reservoir, this is the primary water supply for Boston. Water travels from the former to the latter along the 25-mile Quabbin Aqueduct, one of the longest aqueduct tunnels in the world.
From the awe-inspiring Winsor Dam, measuring 2,640 feet long and 295 feet high, there’s a view right up the west side of the reservoir.
The Quabbin Visitor Center is in the Quabbin Administration Building, with displays explaining the reservoir’s history and importance to Greater Boston with mind-boggling facts and figures.
3. UMass Cold Spring Orchard
The University of MAssachusetts Amherst has an agricultural research orchard in Belchertown.
Here, UMass scientists look for ways to reduce the amount of hazardous chemicals in fruit growing, study different trees’ resistance to pests and disease, and explore ways to produce more fruit with less space.
For the public, UMass Cold Spring Orchard is a place to visit to admire awesome vistas of the Mount Holyoke Range, and also purchase delicious apples in later summer and fall.
More than 100 varieties are grown here, among them Macoun, Cortland, Red Delicious, Honeycrisp and McIntosh, and you’re free to bring a picnic to make the most of the bucolic scenery for as long as you want.
4. Belchertown Town beach
Just off Route 9, Arcadia Lake is a beautiful spot, with a backdrop of tall rolling hills to the east and west.
In the summer, you can relax on the shore at the Town Beach, which has a large patch of sand, a roped swimming area, and amenities including picnic tables, charcoal grills, an outdoor shower and changing rooms.
You can rent pedal boats here during the season if you want to see more of the lake. In the off season, the town beach is the home of the Five-College sailing team—away from the shore, Arcadia Lake is noted for squally winds that test even the most accomplished sailors.
5. Belchertown Center Historic District
To get a sense of Belchertown’s history you could take a look around the center, which is preserved as an historic district.
At the core is the common, which is unusually large at 1,200 feet in length, and features a Civil War memorial and a bandstand that dates back to the 19th century.
In the summer, look out for concerts here by the Belchertown Community Band. Bordering the common are more than two dozen houses built in the 18th and 19th century, most with wood frames. Arguably the finest single building in the district is the Clapp Memorial Library (1887) at S. Main St.
Built in the style of a Romanesque basilica, this was funded with a bequest and is still maintained by a trust.
Crowning the building is an octagonal lantern, part of a tower eight feet in height. Inside, take a look at the marvelous stained glass windows in the transepts, with an allegorical depiction of Literature in the south, and St. Cecilia, patroness of music in the north.
6. The Stone House Museum
Founded more than a century ago, the Belchertown Historical Association takes care of this impressive Federal style house, open for tours on Saturday afternoons in summer.
The Stone House was constructed in 1827 as a wedding gift for the daughter of a wealthy local landowner.
The interior is presented as it would have looked in the 1840s, and you can check out nine rooms filled with period items including fine 18th and 19th-century ceramics, furniture, quilts, musical instruments and historic costume.
One room is reserved for the museum’s special exhibit, zooming in on a particular aspect of town history and updated every couple of years.
The Ford annex here was built with funds donated by Henry Ford, displaying preserved farm tools, cobbler tools, looms, spinning wheels, sleighs and carriages.
7. Quabbin Park
Most of the Winsor Dam and its spillway is next door in Ware, which gained land to the north when the reservoir was constructed.
Here, Quabbin Park is on a peninsula on the shore of the reservoir, and contains a few worthwhile spots easily reached from Belchertown.
The park has 22 miles of forest roads and hiking trails, one of which leads to the top of Big Quabbin Hill.
Capping the summit is the Quabbin Observation Tower, which has an extraordinary panorama sweeping out for 60 miles in all directions.
Other prominent lookouts in the park include Ball Mountain Hill and the Enfield Lookout, which can be reached by road or on foot from the observation tower.
8. Norwottuck Rail Trail
This is all on the railbed of the Central Massachusetts Railroad, first laid down in the 1880s and later absorbed by the Boston & Maine Railroad.
On the Belchertown side, the eastern portions of the trail cut through a remote landscape, past reservations like the Lawrence Swamp and the Brickyard Conservation Area, with opportunities for detours, especially on the secluded banks of the Fort River.
A little further on, the trail grazes the south end of the campus for the prestigious Amherst College.
9. Metacomet Lake
Next to Arcadia Lake there’s a 74-acre great pond that is prized as a fishing location in Belchertown.
Beyond that, Metacomet Lake is a stunning corner of the town, ensconced in woods, and with a public boat ramp on the eastern shore, just off Poole Rd.
This is a good spot to visit at sunset, and is the only part of the lakefront that has shore fishing. The lake is stocked with trout every spring and fall, and in winter people head here for ice fishing, with trout and chain pickerel regularly caught at this time of year.
10. Robert Frost Trail
On Belchertown’s western boundary, the Norwottuck Rail Trail intersects with another long-distance path.
This is the Robert Frost Trail, weaving along the eastern side of the Connecticut River Valley for almost 50 miles, from the Mt Holyoke Range State Park in the south to Wendell State Forest in the north.
The trail is named for the famous poet, who spent much of the 1920s and 1930s in the area, teaching at Amherst College.
You can hike for several miles without straying far from Belchertown, as the trail runs along the western boundary after coming down from the Metacomet Ridge, passing by the village of Dwight before entering Lawrence Swamp along Hop Brook.
There’s a convenient parking lot at the intersection with the Norwottuck Rail Trail on Station Rd in Amherst.
11. Phoenix Fruit Farm
This farm has been part of the community in Belchertown for more than 60 years, and opens its doors to the public in summer for pick-your-own fruit.
Phoenix Fruit Farm is on more than 100 acres, with marvelous views over Quabbin, which is less than a mile to the north.
One of many things to recommend this place is that it’s 100% pesticide-free—while the fruit may not win any beauty contests, these trees are part of a rich ecosystem.
The season begins with strawberries around June, and then you’ve got peaches, normally ready to pick during August.Then come apples, starting around mid-September and continuing into October.
12. Jessica’s Boundless Playground
Built in 2014, this wonderful facility is part of the expansive Chestnut Hill Recreation Area, and has been designed to be universally accessible.
This means that the play structures at Jessica’s Boundless Playground have wide and shallow ramps instead of stairs, able to accommodate wheelchairs.
Underfoot is a soft, rubberized surface, and in the absence of tree cover the playground has giant umbrellas offering a lot of shade.
Away from the main structure there’s an assortment of freestanding components like a “Roller Table” and “Oodle Swing”, creating inclusive, multisensory play experiences. Outdoor fitness stations set close to the playground allow caregivers to keep active while they supervise.
13. Cold Spring Country Club
Despite the name, this highly rated 18-hole course is semi-private. Cold Spring Country Club opened in 2012 and has a layout by Mary Armstrong, set in rolling hills with distant views in every direction.
There are five sets of tees on each hole, and a noticeable difference between the tight and technical East side, and the more open and forgiving West side.
One of several memorable holes is the 15th “Seclusion”, a par 3 with magnificent panoramas, and a large, accommodating green cushioned by a slope to the rear that rescues long approach shots.
14. Belchertown Fair
Every September, Belchertown celebrates its agricultural roots with a fair dating back more than 160 years.
Across three days, the Belchertown Fair packs carnival rides, live music, kids’ entertainment, great food, and all kinds of classic fair exhibits.
One of the signature events is the parade, running along Main Street on the Saturday morning, and featuring a slew of local organizations, services and clubs, along with the award-winning Belchertown High School Marching Band.
There’s also a host of displays in the Exhibit Hall, for everything from quilts to scarecrows, while the 4-H tent gives children the chance to see farm animals up close.
In the pulling area you can view demonstrations for a range of skills, from K-9 unit handling to hay bale tossing and horse pulling.
15. Belchertown Farmers’ Market
Mid-June through September there’s a weekly farmers’ market every Sunday on the Town Common. On a normal week there are as many as 20 vendors, and everything you see is locally grown, locally raised or locally made.
Think seasonal vegetables, poultry cuts, grass-fed beef, eggs, honey, maple syrup, cut flowers, baked goods, spice mixes, handmade candies, popcorn, dog treats and more.
Craft vendors are also well-represented at the market, selling jewelry, home decorations, bath bombs, yarn, handcarved wooden items—the list goes on.