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Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke, Massachusetts is one of the premiere places to watch the migrations of hawks as they make their way south during colder months. It also happens to be a great spot for picnics, mountain biking, fishing, walking, and enjoying some of the most spectacular views anywhere. The park was extremely well thought out to provide recreation for people in the early part of last century. Unfortunately, it's nothing like the place it used to be but we can still benefit from that planning because much of the natural scenery is accessible do to the work done many years ago. It's still a great spot and a favorite place for people in the Pioneer Valley. According to an information packet available at the reservation, if could have visited in 1920's, you would have seen large buildings on top that housed a restaurant, dance floor, refreshment stands, and a large telescope powerful enough to make out the capital dome in Hartford, CT! Today the picnic area and observation tower, and a lot of the handy work of days gone by remain and allow you to enjoy Mt. Tom in a variety of ways.
The hiking is first rate since you can challenge yourself or take leisurely strolls. Along the way the history of nature and humankind nearly tell their story to you. Just by opening your eyes a little you'll notice the remnants of ancient glaciers retreat, old forests, buildings, roads, and recreation areas. The trails are clearly marked and a trail map is available at the ranger's station or posted throughout the reservation. You'll want to climb Goat Peak Tower on top of Mt. Tom to experience unbelievable 360 degree views. North views gives the town of Northampton, the Connecticut River, the University of Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. East and west views reveal beautiful New England valleys with endless amounts of trees interrupted at times by small towns and open fields. The eastern view presents unique evidence of glacial retreat as once mighty mountains are now rolling hills that have a much smoother slope on the southern side of their peaks...the glacier carved out this pattern. Looking to the south you'll see more of the Connecticut River and the tall buildings of downtown Springfield, MA. Farther still in the distance Hartford, CT. can easily be seen...though it would be pretty cool to have that telescope from the old days and pull in the capital dome!
Any clear day is a good one at Mt. Tom State Reservation but the optimum times to go are September - October.
In September the annual migration of hawks and falcons is particulary evident here especially from Goat Peak Tower.
The flight pattern of southern migration just happens to bring these masters of flight right over Mt. Tom.
On good days, hundreds of them can be seen in a short period of time...stay there all day and you might see a thousand!
Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, and Northern Harrier are just some of the migrating raptors.
October is fall foliage time and the views at Mt. Tom are absolutely perfect for taking in all the colors.
In addition to trail peaks and towers, there are a number of parking spots that over look the town of Eastampton and the western valley it's in.
Mt. Tom State Reservation is a must see for those who like to get out and experience some of the best spots in the Berkshires.
But make sure you don't confuse it with Mt. Tom in Connecticut...about 100 miles to the south.
Just down the road from Mt. Tom is the town of Northampton. Recently voted one of the best small towns in America, nudged out by Santa Barbara, it's a great place that is totally unique from anything you'll likely experience in the Northeast.
It's worth the ride up there to check it out and grab something to eat...any kind of food you'd want is there.