This area is part of the Mt. Holyoke Range. Most people use it for mountain biking, but there are all sorts of ways to hike it. There are no vistas, but there are some nice sights. Mountain bikers enjoy the technical challenges many of the trails offer. There is a map at the trail head. I usually take my dogs there.
I've never used a map or GPS to find my way around because the mountains run east to west and the main area is bounded on the west by power lines. The main trail forks maybe 1000 feet in. The left fork takes you up to a pond. This pond is fed by and empties into a brook. There are at least three bike-accommodating bridges across it: one to the north of the pond; two to the south. This is an easy walk, maybe 20 minutes up. If you take the first left, 250-500 feet in, you get more of a hike. You'll come across the remains of a stone cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the Depression. Keep working your way north and the power lines will be on your right. This trail will eventually loop back.
These trails are very popular, especially in the fall. They connect to the Notch, if you take the right paths, but they aren't overcrowded as the Notch area often is at this time of year.
Agreed that it is is beautiful and grueling. One word of caution, the trail blazes are not very frequent and there is a big chance that you can stray from the trail from time to time. There are lots of little trail offshoots that, while short and you realize fairly quickly that you made a wrong turn, it can add some distance & time to your planned hike. It probably added 1/2 mile or so to my hike. However, some of the "side trips" resulted in seeing very nice views and so you can't get to upset.
Started hike at the Notch Visitors Center (1500 West St., Amherst, MA). Took the Metacomet-Monadnock trail ("M-M"; white blazes) across the road. Trail begins heading straight up immediately (500' of elevation in about 0.6 miles) to the top of Bare Mt. The views from the peaks were beautiful - the day was clear and warm and it felt that I could see all the way to the Vermont border. You don't get too much respite from the ups & downs until you get to the top of Mt. Hitchcock, which for me was 1.55 miles from the start because of the "side trips". Again, appreciate the views at the top of the ridge, since there really is not much to see as you head down the mountains. Made a left onto Mt. Hitchcock trail ("MH; red blazes) and proceeded down hill for about 0.7 miles. The trail is very hard to follow, both because of the infrequency of red blazes, and because the trail generally follows a dried up stream bed which has lots of loose rocks, covered by leaves and tree branches. If you just aim downhill, you will eventually hit the intersecting trail, the Lithia Springs trail ("LS"; yellow blazes). I made a right on the LS trail, which is a generally flat trail - kind of a nice "walk in the park" trail - which is a nice way to relax about the uphills of the M-M trail and the downhill, ankle busting MH trail. Continued about 0.7 miles on the LS until its intersection with the Low Place trail ("LP"; blue blazes) coming in from the right. Proceeded up the LP for about 0.8 miles as it generally rose at a fairly moderate and gradual incline. Very nice forest trail with not a lot of scrambling or difficult terrain. At the top, the LP intersects with the M-M. Be alert at this point as the white M-M blazes are not clear or nearby - you need to look around a bit away from the intersection to find the blazes. I made a right onto the M-M and continued back about 1.4 miles (you will note that the mileage doesn't add up since I made a number of unintended "side trips" on the way out), down & up and down & up and sometimes, down & up & up & up - got to the point that I dreaded the down as I knew that there would be a worse up as payment for the down. The are a number of spots on the M-M where you have to stow your trekking poles and scramble up or down some outcroppings of rock. That was the fun part. At the end of this you get to enjoy a nice downhill walk, albeit it on fairly loose rock and some small boulder outcroppings.
On a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (strenuous) with 3 being "moderate", I would rate this hike about a 3.75/4.0 - there was a lot of ups which were pretty steep, but easily doable. Also, the younger you are the more that this would probably move closer to the 3.5, but now you know that I am not that young. It was a lot of fun, and if I had more time I would have continued further towards Taylor's Notch and Mt. Holyoke - next time.
I didn't think it was a hard hike, but it definitely was rocky. Fell a couple of times so I would suggest wearing sneakers or hiking boots with a good grip on the bottom. Took my friend and I about 20 minutes to get to the top and the view is simply amazing!
Ran this trail with a pup one evening after work -- not too heavy with traffic and well marked. The lookout at Rattlesnake Knob is stunning on a clear day... I'll definitely cruise this route again. Oh, and there's a nice stream about .75mi in for the pup to cool off (especially on the way back down).