|From Elachee Nature Ctr|
The center itself is a major stop for schoolchildren in the area. It has a lot of information at the Nature Museum on dinosaurs and fossils, native birds, and even astronomy. I know a lot of folks find my site when looking for “fun things to do with kids.” This particular spot seems to fit the bill. And at $3 admission for adults, $2 for children 2-12 (Aug 2007), it doesn’t dent the pocketbook much. REI even lists this as a place that makes hiking fun for children. And if you wish to skip the museum and just hike the Trails, there is no cost at all (Parking is even free).
There are several trails running through the Elachee Grounds, including several short trails near the museum center. The most adventurous trails are the East Lake and West Lake Trails that extensively explore the Elachee Creek Watershed. These two trails combined will put you at 4.5 miles roundtrip and contain enough diverse elevations to give your heart a gentle workout.
You will see a dense hardwood forest. You will run along side and cross the creek with enough small cascades to fill your ears with gentle sounds. Birds abound in the region and the center folks do everything they can to attract and maintain the avian population (I wish I knew more about birds and plants, but alas I do not).
The highlights of the trail are crossing a well built 150 foot long suspension bridge. It sits only six or eight feet above the water, so falling is not a huge concern. And I have never seen a bridge of the sort with sturdier construction, making it about as safe for kids to shake and jump on the bridge without fear of injury. The other is the lake at the end of the trail: scenic, beautiful and filled with local trying their best to catch a big one. The trail itself is very well shaded (except by the lake) making for cooler temperatures in the hot summer months.
It is very nearby the Chicopee Woods Golf Course (the Elachee Nature Center is in the much larger Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center), which is a well regarded Public golf course ($40-$60 green fees), and an extensive mountain bike trail system . So you can bring your bikes, clubs, and a picnic lunch and make a day of it. You will pass both on your way to the Center parking lot.
Approximate Time: 3 hours
Approximate Distance: 4.5 miles
Trail Surface: Compact Soil, Wooden Bridges, Some Pavement.
Features: River Views, Riverside Walk, Suspension Bridge, Small Cascades, Lake, Nature Museum
Overall Rating: B+
Scenic Quality: B+
Hours of Operation: Closed Nights, Major Holidays
Facilities: Near the Museum, Near the Aquatic Center (Lake)
Maps: At Trail Head, Signs Throughout, online here