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Massachusetts Conservation

Mount Holyoke in the Hockanum Rural Historic District

Mount Holyoke

The Oxbow by Thomas Cole, 1836

Top: View of the Connecticut River from Mount Holyoke
Courtesy of Ann Chapman

Bottom: The Oxbow by Thomas Cole, 1836
A painting of the Connecticut River
Wikimedia Commons




“From Mount Holyoke…is seen the richest prospect in New England, and not improbably in the United States.” — Timothy Dwight, Travels in New England and New York (1823)

Perhaps the best way to ensure conservation comes from seeing what you have to lose. The view from Mount Holyoke has inspired conservationists, recreational tourists, and nature lovers of all stripes for over 200 years. Standing atop the summit provides a glorious panorama overlooking mountains, hills, and the Connecticut River Valley with its small towns and rural landscape. Now part of the over 400-acre J.A. Skinner State Park, the sublime vista of Mount Holyoke still captivates thousands of visitors annually.

Because of its unparalleled scenic view, Mount Holyoke became one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the 19th century. Numerous writers and artists visited and described it, including Timothy Dwight, who praised the view in his book Travels in New England and New York (1821-22), and Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole, who celebrated the view in his painting “View from Mt. Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow)” (1836).

Increases in the tourist trade led to construction of a one-room house on the summit in 1821, the first mountaintop structure in New England. By the 1830s, the climb up Mount Holyoke became a fashionable destination for tourists, who could purchase ginger-beer, lemonade, and other refreshments on the summit. In 1849, John and Fanny French purchased the property. They added a large hotel, the Summit House, and a tramway to carry the thousands of tourists from the base of the mountain to the peak.

Today, visitors can reach the Mount Holyoke summit seasonally by automobile or year-round by hiking trails. In addition, a long distance trail, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, passes over Mount Holyoke. Tourists can still visit Summit House, which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts restored in the 1980s, that is now open as a museum. Visitors can view wonderful vistas from balconies of the former hotel, while the park provides habitat for a wide variety of plants and wildlife, including some rare and endangered species. There are also trails and picnic sites. The Mount Holyoke Summit is part of the Hockanum Rural Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


Plan your visit

Mount Holyoke Summit, a part of the Hockanum Rural Historic District, is located in J.A. Skinner State Park, 10 Skinner State Park Rd., in Hadley, MA. The 400 acres of forest on Mount Holyoke are accessible by hiking trails year-round and by road from early/mid May to Labor Day and remain open daily from 9:00am to 8:00pm. From the Sunday of Labor Day weekend through the first week in October the road is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm. From October 8 through the last Sunday in October the road is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Road closings are dependent upon weather conditions and/or staffing availability.

Picnic sites are available. The Summit House, a popular hotel from the 19th century, is open for tours and programs on the weekends and holidays from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. For more information, visit the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation J.A. Skinner State Park website or call 413-586-0350.

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