After cleaning up from a snowstorm, my thoughts turned from working in the snow to playing in it. The Trustees property Notchview came up in my research for a new place to explore, so I decided to check it out!
Notchview is in Windsor, MA, about 2.5 hours from the Boston area, with the Mass Pike to I-91 to Route 9 the most direct way to get there. Notchview has 25 miles of trails on 3,108 acres to explore via cross-country skis and snowshoes. Cross-country trails include 5 miles groomed for skate skiing. Ski and snowshoe rentals are also available at Notchview.
After gearing up and purchasing my trail pass, I checked the map and headed out following the red-blazed Pileated Trail. This was the shorter of the two loops and served as a good warm-up. The trail is easy to follow and often is in view of the ski trails. The start of my trek was very overcast but warm, and I was soon shedding a layer as I made my way on the gently rolling trail. While the views from the Pileated trail were frequently obstructed by the trees, I saw many interesting things on and around the trees such as small animal tracks, tree growths, and moss. One of the fun things about hiking in the winter is noticing things usually covered by leaves.
The Pileated Trail would be an excellent trail to introduce kids to snowshoeing. It is pretty gentle but has just enough up and downhill sections to give kids a feeling that they are in the backcountry. After meandering around for a bit, the trail joins the other dedicated snowshoe trail, Barred Owl. At this point, you can either start the longer loop or head down a steep but short trail to end up back at the base area. I decided to head towards the base area.
After a quick snack break, I headed up the ski trail Circuit Trail. Snowshoeing is allowed on the ski trails, but you need to stay on the very edge of the trail to avoid ruining the groomed ski tracks. Soon I crossed the Quill Trail and rejoined the Barred Owl snowshoe tail. Following this trail away from the base area, I crossed the Circuit Trail again, where the Barred Owl Trail joins an ungroomed intermediate ski trail called Mixed Woods. This trail was gorgeous but more challenging, as it involved some longer and narrower downhill sections. There were some areas where I would have had to step off the trail to allow a skier to pass had I encountered any fellow adventurers.
The trail runs parallel to a stream and levels off for a bit before the Barred Owl and Mixed Woods Trails part company. At this point, the snowshoe trail heads uphill on a rather steep grade. Doing this circuit in reverse of what I did would be a slightly easier but still challenging option.
The steep uphill climb again crosses the Circuit Trail and joins the ungroomed Elbow Tucker Trail for a short section – again, watch out for skiers and be courteous by stepping aside to let them pass. Once the Barred Owl Trail leaves the Elbow Tucker, the trail gradually levels off. Also, the sun finally made an appearance!
The trail continues its more leisurely pace in a more open forest. This allows for some lovely views into the woods. After crossing the groomed Quill Trail, I came to a trail junction where the red blazes went in two directions. Since I was headed back to the base area, I turned right and quickly crossed the ungroomed Whitehouse and Bridge cross-country trail junction.
Continuing on the Barred Owl Trail, I spotted a solitary building deep in the woods. When I asked back at the visitor center, I was told this was a pump house built by Lt Col. Budd, the previous owner of the property. After not seeing anything but woods for a few hours, it was certainly an interesting sight!
Pump house built by Lt Col. Budd, the previous owner of the property.
A short while later, I connected back with the Pileated Trail at the point of the short, steep downhill section that goes back to the base area. A welcome sight after a 2.5-hour snowshoe covering over 2 miles!
I did not have a chance to cross-country ski, but I have to give the groomers a shout-out – the trails looked beautiful! There are mixed groomed classic and skate trails, groomed classic only trails, and ungroomed backcountry trails. The ski trails are nicely marked, and the snowshoe trails are blazed and easy to follow. There are no markers at the snowshoe/ski trail junctions, so make sure you have a map from the visitor’s center to help keep track of where you are on the loop.
The base area includes a visitor center, picnic tables, Porta Johns, and a ski patrol/first aid building staffed by a volunteer ski patrol. There are storage cubbies, ticket windows, rental equipment, and snacks in the visitor center. While gearing up or warming up, check out the new Notchview merchandise for sale! The newly expanded store offers hats, vests, snowshoes, and other items for sale. The inside of the visitor center is closed on weekends; however, there is a cozy outside seating area with chairs, picnic tables, and fire pits. The parking area is close by, making it easy to use your car as a locker.
Trail pass, rental rates, and all the other details can be found here.
Dogs are welcome at Notchview but need to stay on the trails on the opposite side of route 9 from the main base area.