Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Crotched Mountain Accessible Trails

View of nearby ridge from the top of the Gregg Trail.
Looking for an accessible hike in gorgeous New England mountain scenery? Get yourself to Crotched Mountain! It’s worth the drive!

Recently Tom McCarthy and I found our way to Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire for an autumn treat. It was a 2 hour drive from Amherst, Massachusetts. We’ve been curious about two accessible trails at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center that offer a hiking opportunity on the wilder side and wanted to get some “state of the art” inspiration. These are the longest accessible hiking trails in a mountain environment in the U.S. and are recognized by Yankee Magazine and New Hampshire Magazine as the best wheelchair accessible trails in 2013.

The two trails start from the same trailhead near the intersection of Route 31 and Verney Drive in Greenfield, NH, where you may bump into other wheelchair hikers as we did. The Gregg Trail travels gradually up 200 feet in a little over ¾ mile through field and forest to an overlook with views in all directions, including Mt. Monadnock to the south. The Dutton Trail takes you downward on a 2 mile loop into and around a wetland pond area. We hiked the Gregg Trail and marveled at the details of trail design and wonderful natural highlights along its length. 
You can check out this trail on YouTube and get a good feel for the type of opportunity it offers. Still there is nothing like experiencing it for yourself! Moving through the elevational changes of habitat; enjoying the changing colors of the vegetation, the scents in the air, the sounds of the forest; and seeing the emerging views as we traversed the gentle switchbacks was delightful. It is an opportunity not often available for people using wheelchairs. Two sections on the trail are being managed for low bush blueberries, so go in summer if you want a taste!

The Crotched Mountain Accessible Trails were designed by Peter S Jensen and Associates of Great Barrington, MA. They specialize in environmentally sound trail and land stewardship planning and innovative trail design and construction. You can find out more about them at

Prepare for the trip by reviewing and printing the trail map which is well designed and provides clear information about what to bring. Make sure you check the website to be sure the trails are open, as they may be closed during muddy conditions and the winter season. There is an accessible portapotty at the trailhead and a wheelchair accessible café nearby in the quaint town of Greenfield.

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