The Holyoke Range

The Holyoke Range is yet another set of peaks along the Metacomet Ridge. I decided to go here with my dad because we had an entire day to do it. We did an out and back hike from the Notch Visitor Center, and it ended up being close to 10 miles round-trip. With all the peaks we went over, and all the views we experienced, it was a rough journey, but the views were rewarding.

A view from the grassy summit of Mt.Holyoke.

The first peak, going east to west as we climbed them, was Bare Mountain, named for it's bald summit. The mountain is the tallest on the west side of the notch at 1,010 feet. The climb to achieve these views gets steep in a few places, and the whole climb was an incline. Halfway up Bare Mountain, we came to a large talus slope at the bottom of a cliff.

The talus slope below Bare Mountain.

The trail comes to a viewpoint, first of many along the ridge. It offers a great view of Mt.Norwottock and the quarry where Round Mountain used to be. You heard that right! Quarrying began in the area in 1897 on Round Mountain, but today, there is no mountain.

Mt.Norwottock with the quarry in the front.

After the view, the trail turns as it climbs the peak and it soon reaches the mostly bald summit, with views of Mt.Toby, The Sugarloafs, Mt.Tom and Mt.Lincoln to the east. Mt.Warner and the Connecticut River can also be seen.

Looking south from Bare Mountain with Mt.Tom to the right.

Once we took in all the views from the summit, we began to head over to Mt.Hitchcock, which is named after Edward Hitchcock, a professor from Amherst College who studied the Holyoke Range. The trail leaves Bare Mountain and goes passed a gated off shed and antennae. The trail then brought us to a small viewpoint where someone built a shelter.

The view from the rock with Mt.Toby in the distance.

After descending from the viewpoint, we reached a pass where portions of the trail had washed out, and a staircase had been built to make the ascent easier. The trails in this area are definitely well maintained and cared for.

The staircase.

The trail soon reaches the summit of Mt.Hitchcock. Atop the mountain, there is a sign stating that the mountain is 1,005 feet. Old tower footings are also present, but these used to support a lookout tower. I don't see the point of a tower due to a large ledge on the summit that offers great views of Mt.Holyoke and even Mt.Greylock.

The view from Mt.Hitchcock with Mt.Holyoke to the left.

Now, the next set of summits is called the Seven Sisters, and I'm comfortable with saying that this section of trail is probably one of the most challenging trails in Massachusetts. Even though these peaks are called the Seven Sisters, it is commonly said that there are in fact nine peaks. We actually counted twelve peaks! Not many views can be had from them, but every once in a while we reached a small ledge.

The view from the tallest sister with Mt.Toby through the trees.

The best view along the Seven Sisters is the final peak, which has a long ledge with another wide talus slope below it. The views from here include Mt.Holyoke and Mt.Tom to the south. From the same ledge, you can also see Taylor Notch below, which is where Skinner State Park Road ascends Mt.Holyoke.

Mt.Holyoke and Mt.Tom from the last of the Seven Sisters.

After taking the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail down from the steep and unforgiving Seven Sisters, we crossed the road and began our last ascent on the way to Mt.Holyoke. The trail from Taylor Notch to the summit is also steep in many places until we reached the flat summit. The ledge on the summit is more of a front yard then a summit.

Looking northeast from Mt.Holyoke.

The true highpoint is on a bulging rock column. Below this point, there is a gravel trail going down to a memorial for a plane crash that took place on nearby Mt.Tom where everyone on board died.

The memorial had a real propeller on the side of it.

The entire summit is covered in grass and gravel trails with scattered picnic tables. A summit house is still present atop the peak with views in every direction. The most stunning view from the summit includes the snow-capped summits of Mt.Greylock and Mt.Snow in Vermont.

The Berkshires with the snowy summit of Mt.Greylock to the left.

Mt.Holyoke is named after Elizur Holyoke who first surveyed the land. If you remember my blog on Mt.Tom (blog here), that mountain is named for a similar reason.

Mt.Norwottock with the rising sun over the summit.
The bald summit of Bare Mountain.
Another view from Bare Mountain.
The footings atop Mt.Hitchcock.
The ledge on Mt.Hitchcock.
A zoomed in photo of Mt.Holyoke.
Mt.Tom through the trees from the first of the Seven Sisters.
Mt.Holyoke and the Berkshires from the Seven Sisters.
The Skinner State Park Road as it passes through Taylor Notch.
A picnic table on Mt.Holyoke.
Mt.Tom and Goat Peak from Mt.Holyoke.
Looking at the distant peaks of Peaked Mountain and Minnechaug Mountain.
Looking northwest from the summit house.
The summit house from the road.
Mt.Greylock with Saddle Ball Mountain to the left.
Mt.Snow and Haystack Mountain in Vermont.
Haystack Mountain in center shot.

We took the same trail back and the ups and downs of the Seven Sisters didn't get any better. We enjoyed the views from Mt.Hitchcock and Bare Mountain again. If you decide to hike this range, keep in mind your strength and ability before you head out. The hike is long and steep in many places. In the end, the hike is still worth it!

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