OverviewMount Orient is right on a fault that sharply defines the eastern edge of the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. It is an unremarkable hill, except for one outstanding feature: there are some steep ledges where the ridge abruptly drops off to the south above the valley of Amethyst Brook. The ledges provide an entertaining final ascent, a pseudo-alpine summit, and nice views of the Holyoke Range, the Amherst area, and the Pioneer Valley. They also give the mountain its distinct shape - from the west it looks like the upper right corner of a rectangle, while from the south it looks like a steep pinnacle.
Another feature worth noting is that the summit is about 4 miles from Amherst center, making Mount Orient very accessible for people in the area.
A network of trails and logging roads, centered at Amherst's Amethyst Brook Conservation Area, crosses the mountain and the surrounding ridges and hills. There are some nice things to see in the area, especially north and west of Mount Orient - waterfalls, hemlock lined ravines, more ledges, and a surprising number of abandoned vehicles.
Getting ThereThere are a variety of approaches.
The shortest would be to park in a little turnout on North Valley road in Pelham right below some huge power lines, and follow the white blazed Metacomet-Monadnock (M-M) trail up the power line clearing.
The trial starts out climbing very steeply under the power lines, but soon flattens out and turns left into the woods. Several woods roads cross it, so it can be confusing to follow, but it is well blazed. It passes through a clearing with a campfire ring and perpetual tire tracks, then turns right, joining the Robert Frost Trail (orange blazes), and ascending on a flat slab of bedrock. The trail undulates and then soon comes to the ledges. Ascending the ledges is a free-for-all. Loose dirt, dripping water after rain, and ice in the winter make it somewhat hazardous. But the summit area is right at the top and easy to find. The M-M and Robert Frost trails continue to ascend to the ridge.
This route is very short - no more than half a mile - and does most of the elevation by car.
Another approach starts takes the Robert Frost Trail (orange blazes) from the Amethyst Brook Conservation area parking lot, which can be found along Pelham Road in East Amherst, a few blocks east of Northeast Street. This route climbs from the valley floor. It crosses all sorts of logging roads and other trials, so follow the blazes.
This route follows the Robert Frost Trail north from the parking lot. There are many trails in the area, so the blazes are important. The trail goes past a community garden, then turns right and follows Amethyst Brook for about half a mile. Then, by a footbridge (one of several in the park), it turns away from the river, passes some old cars, reaches the bottom of a slope, and starts climbing. It ascends gradually for a mile or so, crossing two small streams. After the second stream crossing, it turns, follows the stream for a short time, It then meets up with the M-M trail. See the above route for the rest.
A third approach is from the north. It is longer, but a more interesting route. It starts on Pratt Corner road in Shutesbury, just east of the bridge over Adams Brook. The M-M trail (white blazes) and the Robert Frost trail (orange) are together for the whole way. They ascend from a small parking area on the south side of the road through a beautiful oak and pine forest, then cross a cascading stream in a lush riparian forest at about 3/4 mile. Soon after the stream, the trail splits. Here, follow the M-M and Robert Frost trails left as they climb up to the ridge, not the yellow-blazed path that stays straight. The trail meanders, sometimes on the ridge and sometimes beneath it. For about a mile it gradually ascends to Mount Orient's highpoint, then for another half mile or so, it gradually descends, and eventually comes to the large opening at the top of the summit ledges.
Red TapeMost of the land in the area is a privately owned Cowles tree farm. Hikers will encounter signs that welcome the public to hike, camp, and hunt in the area, but ask them to stay away from any forestry operations they may encounter.
CampingCamping is permitted on the Cowles land.
External LinksMount Orient Wikipedia
M-M Trail Info
Robert Frost Trail Guide (PDF)