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An offshoot tribe of Algonquin Native Americans called Tunxis Native Americans hunted and fished on the land that would later become Granville State Forests for several hundred years. The arrival of European settlers in Massachusetts, however, drove this tribe off. The settlers converted the land to farms, pasture, and grazing lands in the mid-1700s. The endeavor was abandoned in the mid-1800s, and the state of Massachusetts purchased the land in the early 1920s and officially named it Granville State Forest. As a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, Civilian Conservation Corps blazed trails and paved roads, built an earthen dam (which was later replaced with a concrete dam), and built bathhouses and lean-tos. Most of these structures are no longer standing. However, many of the roads and trails are still in use today. Some of the trees in the woods also were planted by the CCC to swell their ranks.
The closest town with a grocery store and some shopping options is Granville, about eight miles to the east. However, the closest large town with not only a greater variety of shopping and dining options but also a hospital equipped with an emergency room is Westfield, about 20 miles to the northeast. The town is best known for being the first town in all of New England to elect a female mayor in 1939, Alice Burke.
Though Granville State Forest was once clear-cut and virtually bare of trees, it’s hard to believe that factoid when one visits the 2,400-acre park. The trees are thick and lush. The leafy canopy overhead is so dense that sunlight is but a distant memory. Ferns, wild grass, and woodland flowers crowd the banks of trails. Underfoot, 25 miles of trails are soft, cushioned by generations of fallen leaves, and miles fly by like a dream. Most of the trails are classed multi-use, and hikers often will find themselves sharing the soft dirt paths with horseback riders and mountain bikers.
Winding through the valley of Granville State Forest are Hubbard River and several other creeks that harbor a healthy population of trout. They can also expect to catch brown bullhead, black crappie, chain pickerel, yellow perch, and smallmouth and largemouth bass. Though whitewater rafting on Hubbard River is excellent, it’s often a solitary activity due to the remoteness of this park. As Hubbard River passes through Granville State Forest, it drops some 450 feet in under three miles, slicing through narrow gorges and swirling about great boulders. This stretch of river can attain a difficulty rating of as high as Class IV in spring when the snowmelt occurs.
In winter, the fun doesn’t stop. The annual snow, which arrives without fail by early February, transforms the barren, quiet woods into a winter wonderland. The thin branches are adorned by lacy ribbons of snow. An excellent insulator, the snow hushes all sound that accompanies these woods. Often, the only sounds one can hear is the quiet shushing of cross-country skis or snowshoes as it passes through the powder and one’s breath.
Far from the closest hotel, it’s only logical to rent an Airstream at Granville State Forest. Skip the long drive in the wee hours of the morning. Wake up in the comforts of a travel trailer rental to the sounds of nature: birdsong overhead and wind in the leaves of trees that surround your RV campground. Granville State Forest RV campground is a small one with 22 sites. Though there are no hookups, guests can make use of the on-site restrooms with showers. All RV sites have fire rings and picnic tables. Due to tight turns, RVs and trailers longer than 35 feet are not recommended. In the heart of the bear country, all campers are required to either lock up their food in their vehicles or to make use of bear-proof storage lockers. This campground is open between late May and October.
Should space run out, which does occasionally happen during summers, there are a few other campgrounds within 15 miles of Granville State Forest. Nearby Prospect Mountain Campground prides itself on being a family-friendly facility. In addition to over 100 sites with partial or full hookups, it offers fun activities like mini-golf, RC racetrack, and planned activities most weekends.
Alternatively, one could RV camp near Southwick, MA, at Sodom Mountain Campground. This campground is roughly at the halfway point in between Granville State Forest and Agawam, MA, which is where Six Flags New England operates. Sodom Mountain Campground offers the choice of camping in deep woods or in an open space. They also have a large pool, a game room, and an on-site laundry room.
As remote as this part of Massachusetts state is, there are several attractions in the area that are worth visiting, and renting a motorhome makes it easy to explore them all at your pace. In Windsor, CT is the New England Air Museum at which one may examine a variety of airplanes and aircraft, including a Beriot, which is one of the first commercially made aircraft, and an FM-2 Wildcat, which was flown during WWII. An artist often credited for launching the American art scene, Norman Rockwell, lived in Stockbridge, MA, and his studio has been turned into a museum. The museum houses one of the largest collections of Rockwell’s art, as well as many other prominent artists from the same era.
Ready for high-octane thrilling fun? The Six Flags New England in Agawam has 19 roller coaster and thrill rides, several tamer options for young children, and a water park with pools, lazy rivers, and twisting, wild water slides. Visitors can also meet several characters from Loony Tunes, including Sylvester, Bugs, and Daffy.