In the Northern reaches of the Valley, scenic Route 2 displays a rugged and a refined beauty. Route 2 (also known as the Mohawk Trail) follows what was once a Native American trade and travel route from the Hudson and Mohawk River valleys in upstate New York to the Deerfield and Connecticut River valleys in MA. The area rivers were seasonal salmon breeding grounds and the dense forests were full of game.
In 1914, the state of MA improved and promoted Route 2 as a scenic tourist route and it became instantly popular. In an effort to preserve its natural beauty from commercial development the State designated over 5000 acres of the area Mohawk Trail State Forest, and subsequently added campgrounds, log cabins, picnic areas and notations about the Native American history.
Traveling on Route 2 in Franklin county today is still a remarkably beautiful way to access untouched natural beauty, outdoor adventure, delicious locally sourced food and tap into what serves as inspiration for many local artists.
Route 2 to the East of the Connecticut River emerges from the Wendell State Forest and follows the Millers River. With a slight turn to the South, you can visit the town of Millers Falls and quench your thirst at Element Brewing Company with a changing selection of beers brewed on site with creative precision. Find excellent BBQ at North Village Smokehouse, just South of downtown on Route 63. If you need to work up an appetite, Millers Falls is a great starting point for a bike ride alongside the Connecticut River beneath the French King Bridge. Untraveled roads will take you past Cabot’s Camp and the Northfield Mountain Recreation Center, with plenty of sites to picnic or take in the view of the river. For a sweet reward, ride up Pine Meadow Road to the Brewery at Four Star Farms that often features live music and great food.
Further West off of Route 2 is Turners Falls, with a walkable downtown full of curious shops and eateries. Don’t miss Loot found + made, a fantastic antique/salvage shop with an ever changing variety of unexpected finds. The (Rendez)’ Voo is great neighborhood place with good pub food and live music. Choose from two local breweries (or visit both): Brick and Feather or Pioneer Valley Brewery. Walk along the waterside park to the Great Falls Discovery Center, with free exhibits about the history and nature of the Connecticut River watershed. From the park you can walk or cycle on the Canalside Rail Trail which continues to Deerfield.
By car you can continue on Route 2 West just a bit, and take Route 5 into downtown Greenfield, the largest city in Franklin County. It boasts wonderful restaurants, historic old homes and Rocky Mountain Park with Poets’ Seat Tower overlooking the Valley. I have written about events and festivals in Greenfield before (see Greenfield Beefest, Franklin County), but the slate of great restaurants includes Hope and Olive, the Peoples Pint, Wild Roots and Rise Above bakery -plus a wonderful farmers market on Court Square.
Follow Main Street West to the rotary to pick up Route 2 West (the Mohawk Trail) once again. Less than 5 miles from downtown Greenfield is Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters well known throughout the Valley fora variety of coffee, plus delicious coffee drinks, house made baked goods and sandwiches.
Continue less than a mile further to Posada Grill, for authentic Salvadoran and Mexican cuisine. This lively space has a dining room and bar with an extensive menu of house made dishes including pupusas, enchiladas, and tacos with distinctive sauces and a lovely selection of traditional drinks to accompany your meal.
If you are traveling down Route 2 on a weekend in the early Spring, you’ll smell wood fires keeping the maple sap boiling. Take the opportunity to stop into Davenport Maple Farm Restaurant for a traditional Western Mass maple breakfast served only during maple sugaring season.
Further West just off of Route 2 is the town of Shelburne Falls, nestled along the Deerfield River at the foot of rolling hills. The Main Street has undergone a revival with several casual restaurants in addition to the ever-popular Gypsy Apple Bistro, a tiny restaurant with excellent French inspired, locally sourced food. You can find great coffee (Mocha Maya’s), baked goods (Baked), and wines and specialty goods (Shelburne Falls Cork), plus homemade fudge and candy at Mo’s Fudge Factor. To get a taste of what’s happening in town these days, book our Stroll and Savor Shelburne Falls Tour debuting late Spring 2022.
Don’t miss the Bridge of Flowers between Shelburne and Buckland. It was originally a bridge built in 1907 -1908 for a freight railroad, but an alternate route bypassed the bridge leaving it abandoned. Locals stepped in during the late 1920s and designed an extensive garden along the bridge which draws visitors Spring through Fall. It continues to be maintained by the local community.
One more Franklin County destination not to miss along Route 2 is Wells Provisions in Charlemont, a restaurant and market serving the New Orleans fare along with delicious coffee and many local products. The breakfast dishes, po-boy sandwiches and specialties like Gumbo are all mouthwateringly good and will guarantee cravings for days after.
Hopefully it is enough to whet your appetite to venture out on Route 2, where you’ll find rugged and refined beauty in the hills of Western Massachusetts.