Carved by the ancient glacial waters that roared through the Hilltowns for thousands of years, the Chesterfield Gorge is now the pathway of the east branch of the Westfield River, lined with boulder fields and piles of tumbled river rocks. A half-mile trail begins at the parking area at the top of the gorge and continues down to the bottom of the riverbed, where it meets a seven-mile trail known as the East Branch Trail (or River Road to the locals) and eventually leads to the broad basin above the Knightville Dam in Huntington, MA.
A cable “railing” edges the cliff-side of the trail, but it is in need of repair. With shear drops up to seventy feet, it’s best to keep to the far side of the trail when hiking with kids or pets.It is said that British soldiers, lead by General John Burgoyne, marched over the stone bridge that spanned the gorge during the Revolutionary War. They were en route to Boston, after their defeat and surrender at the Battle of Saratoga in October of 1777. The bridge was destroyed by flood waters in 1835, but remnants of stacked-stone pillars that supported the bridge can still be spotted from the top of the gorge, just beyond the parking area.
The trails are well maintained and popular with hikers and mountain bikers. Dogs are welcome on-leash and catch and release fishing is allowed. Trail maps are readily available and there is a rustic, but usable outhouse on site. On weekends and in the busy summer months, visitors to the Gorge can grab lunch or a snack at the Four Seasons Club, just a few yards down from the parking area.
From the Berkshires, follow Route 143 East. At the bottom of the hill in Chesterfield, turn right on Ireland Street. In approximately 0.8 miles, you will see the Trustees and Reservations parking area on your left. It is free to hike on weekdays. A ranger may be on site on weekends between Memorial Day and Columbus Day to collect a modest fee of $2.50 per adult. Kids and Trustees Members are always free.