THE TRAILS OF RICE NATURE PRESERVE

 

We appreciate your cooperation in helping us maintain this property. Wet areas tend to expand and degrade the land when hikers go around them.  Please make an effort to stay on the trail by stepping on rocks, logs, etc. Large groups are requested to avoid scheduled hikes during mud season. Sturdy footwear is recommended.

 

HIGHMOOR TRAIL is the primary access to all trails in the Preserve (RNP) and begins at the rotary at the end of Highmoor Drive.  Marked with white blazes on trees along the route, it enters the woods and passes the kiosk where hikers will find pertinent information, before it proceeds upward until it comes to a T with the Rachael Phelps Trail where two white blazes signify a left turn.

 

RACHAEL PHELPS TRAIL, also blazed in white, is an easy climb on old farm roads that breaks through the woods and opens to a stunning view of the orchards below.  Be sure to hike up a little further where on a clear day, you can see terrific views of the Connecticut River Valley, the Mt. Tom range and the foothills of the Berkshires. This much alone is a fine hike, about a mile roundtrip, for children and others desiring a rewarding and reasonably easy hike.   Watch for circling Red Tailed Hawks! The Phelps trail continues upward, leads through the upland meadow, and ends at a junction with Sunrise, Tom Leary Rise, and Underpeak.  Rachael Phelps was a Springfield teacher who left funds to the Allen Bird Club that helped save this land. 

 

UNDERPEAK TRAIL, blazed in clear red, is the first trail that branches off to the right from the Phelps Trail going up, mostly on an old farm road in a serene ravine, but sometimes scrambles over rocks.  The quiet hiker will be rewarded by sights and sounds of wildlife, perhaps a fox, a glimpse of a scarlet tanager or a shy hermit thrush, and surely a Red-bellied Woodpecker. It curves around the base of the peak and rises sharply at the end to meet at the junction area with the Sunrise, Phelps and Tom Leary Rise.

 

TOM LEARY RISE, blazed in bright blue, is named in memory of one who coordinated the efforts of many to establish the Rice Nature Preserve and who laid out the trail system. This second trail branching to the right from Phelps does rise rather abruptly, offering a few views to the southwest, past Rattlesnake Peak and over the elevated height of land until it meets the junction of Phelps and Sunrise. On a clear day, one can see Mt.Greylock in the northwest, excellent views of the Mt. Tom range, and to the north, the Mt. Holyoke range and beyond.

 

SUNRISE TRAIL, blazed in yellow, begins where Rachael Phelps ends, and continues to climb upwards over Sunrise Peak (910) and fall to the rocks below known as Sunrise Ledge, a fine spot for viewing the sun rise, or a hearty snack and rest while looking to the valley below and beyond to the east.  The trail leaves the Rice Nature Preserve when it crosses the old Peak Road onto property owned by the Town of Wilbraham. It is a bit less than a mile over and back.

 

WESHAUGEN invites you to explore the two meadows, with a trail marked with orange connecting the two, intersecting with the Brookside Trail. It is seasonal, closed during nesting season except for the access to Rattlesnake Peak near the top of Rachael Phelps, where it hugs the woods to the south.

 

BROOKSIDE TRAIL is a pleasant but rocky trail alongside part of the brook that drains the mountain and flows into the Mill River.  Blazed in Light Blue, it begins where Weshaugen connects the two upland meadows and comes out on Old Farm Road that leads down into the private land of the Rice Farm, or upward where it meets the Rachael Phelps trail, blazed in white, to return to the Parking Lot.