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Bear Swamp
pioneer-valley Ashfield, MA
312 acres
Photo Credit: R. Cheek

Hike three miles of trails, some steep in places, to a nearby beaver pond and terrific views of hillside orchards spreading below and the distant Green Mountains.

What makes Bear Swamp a special place?
To early settlers, Bear Swamp was truly rough terrain: steep, wooded hillsides and exposed bedrock descending to boggy wetlands and swamp. Nonetheless, all of the land was cleared for forest products, pasture, and even hayfields. But contemporary explorers will find a landscape of hard beauty, with field reclaimed by forest and the dark lowlands illuminated by colorful wildflowers in bloom.

Return to the Wild
Other than remnants of water mills and maple sugaring works, man’s imprint here has been largely swallowed by the return of the forest. And along with the oak and cherry, maple and birch and evergreens, have come clusters of lowland vernal pools, shaded from the sun.

The trees provide habitat and nesting places for myriad bird species. Come spring, several species of warblers announce their arrival, as mallards and wood ducks murmur in the ponds and freshwater marshes. And from the seasonal pools emerge the insistent songs of spring peepers and wood frogs. Great-horned owls and barred owls hoot in winter, while pileated woodpeckers loudly hammer home their presence on dead pines all year long.

Trails
3 miles of trails. Moderate hiking, strenuous in places.

The aptly named Fern Glade Trail passes through carpets of ferns and wildflowers. Take the Beaver Brook Trail, also accurately named, to where an aging stone dam supports a beaver dam. If you love a grand vista, follow the trail to Apple Valley Overlook. From this promontory, a panorama takes in both apple orchards in the near distance and, on the northern horizon, the Green Mountains of Vermont.

When to Visit
Open year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours.

Facilities
Picnic table at Apple Valley overlook.

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