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Friday, September 29, 2017

Hiking Mount Tom - Holyoke, Massachusetts

Hiking in New England can be a battle.  Sometimes (okay, often) you have to travel to find a hike with some elevation and scenic views.  Getting above the tree line and a view besides a forest of oaks can often be tricky.  Located about an hour and a half from home, this hike was a relatively easy drive and day trip for a great workout, beautiful views, and a chance to take Olive out on a hike. Dog-friendly, a ton of local breweries, and easy access and from what I hear one of the best day hikes in Massachusetts. Let's talk Mount Tom. 

Olive posing at one of the scenic overlooks along the trail

Mount Tom, at 1,202 feet (366 m), is a steep, rugged "traprock" mountain peak northwest of Holyoke, Massachusetts. The mountain is composed of basalt, a type of volcanic rock, also known as traprock.  The mountain is on the bank of the Connecticut River and is the highest traprock peak of the 100-mile long Metacomet Ridge.  This peak is also just one of the summits along the 110-mile (180 km) Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (hiked previously during the Seven Sisters hike), and the even longer New England Scenic Trail.

Summit/radio towers at Mount Tom

The mountain is known for its hiking and bird watching, and its dramatic 1,100-food (340 m) rise over the Connecticut River Valley below makes it ideal for photos.  The summit is also the location of a transmitter for three Springfield–Holyoke television stations and two radio stations.  This is a popular place to watch raptors, watching various hawks swirl in the skies as they begin their migration south.  When we arrived at the park on a beautiful late summer weekend, there was even a large raptor event.  Members of the Audobon society were helping visitor's identify hawks from the various observation points, and various owls were on display by the visitors center for all the bird fans visiting the park.  While there were a lot of people by the visitor's center and the tiny owls on display were adorable, I was there for one reason and one reason only:  to hike.  Thankfully, the park nay be crowded but the trails themselves were relatively quiet.  

Beginning of the trail, below the treeline

We pulled into the park where upon entering, we paid the $10 fee for out-of-state license plates to enter the park.  We grabbed a trail map and followed the scenic drive to the top of the park where the visitors center and large park is located.  We parked in one of the quickly filling lots, popped out heads into the visitors center, and began our hike on a section of the White M&M Trail (also a section of the New England Scenic Trail).  The trail started of flat and wooded before climbing quickly to get us above the tree line.  Once above the tree line, it was amazing views of the Connecticut River Valley below and the Trap Rock Ridge in front of us.

Map of Mount Tom State Park  - Trail Map

Hours:  Sunrise to sunset
Daily parking fees:  MA residents $5  Non-MA residents $10
Activities: Hiking - Mount Tom offers 22 miles of trails for all experience levels.
A skier navigating the snowy trails.  Cross-country skiing - Many hiking trails are available for skiers in the winter (the mountain was once home to the Mount Tom Ski Area, which was in operation from 1962 until 1998., several people still use this area for backcountry skiing in the winter).  Bird Watching- especially hawks, and Picnicking.
List of other suggested hikes.  Trail Map

Trail we took (GPS started almost 1/2 of the way up ignore the green circle)

Elevation: 1,202' at summit. Start:  540'  Gained:  742'
Distance:  About 4.5 miles RT from the trailhead of the M&M trail to the summit of Mount Tom.
Restrooms:  Yes
Dogs:  Yes!  On-leash only.  There is no water along the trail so make sure to bring plenty of water for your dogs.  Some sections are steeper and along cliffs so be aware if hiking with smaller children.
Notes:  There is a lot of graffiti on the trail where people spray painted various quotes and images along the trail.  Sad to see. I also hiked down a few pieces of garbage.  Be the example we need on the trails.
Getting There:   Mount Tom State Reservation - 125 Reservation Road, Holyoke, MA 01040

Visitor's Center

This trail covers a small section of the New England Scenic Trail.  
Signage marking the New England Trail (NET)

New England Trail 
As mentioned, this trail covers a small section of the long distance thru hike, the New England National Scenic Trail (NET).  The NET is a 215-mile hiking trail route that has been in existence for over half a century.  The NET travels through 41 communities in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and is comprised primarily of the historic Mattabesett, Metacomet, and Monadnock (M-M-M) Trail systems.

Carving marking the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (M&M)

Metacomet-Monadnock Trail 
The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (M&M Trail) is a 114-mile-long (183 km) hiking trail that traverses the Metacomet Ridge of the Pioneer Valley region of Massachusetts and the central uplands of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Much of the trail (but not all) is a portion of the New England National Scenic Trail.

White blazes marking the M&M/NET Trail 

View point along the way

Olive posing on the ridge- the trail follows this ridge with gorgeous views most of the way

Section of the trail following a cliff side

Posing at the summit on a hot September day

Summit of Mount Tom

After your hike, you have some options.  The two we found that looked good (and were virtually next door were Abandoned Building Brewery and New City Brewery in East Hampton, about 2 miles west of the Mount Tom State Park entrance.
Check back in later for my review.  

1 comment :

  1. Hiking is one of my life's expedition, I always wanted to go on but I can't. Failed to plan anyway but I read blogs to explore more about it


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