125 Reservation Rd. , Rte. 5
, MA 01040


Winter: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Summer: 9:00 am - 8:00 pm 

Mount Tom Rules:
No alcoholic beverages
Dogs must be on a leash
Fires can be set at reasonable size
No swimming

Winter: Free
Summer: $2 per car


On the Web:

Additional Links
Lyme Disease
Mount Holyoke Range
UMass Outing Club




    Seeking solace? Just escape to Mount Tom
by Mei Mei Thai

It's 9:30 a.m.   A bit early for a UMass Amherst student, like myself, to wake up during the winter season when it's not for a class.  Luckily, it's 40°F on this Monday morning in early March.  Snow covers the ground, but it’s not too cold for an escape to Mount Tom State Reservation.  So my friend, Khanh Tran, and I take off to check it out.

Half an hour later, as we trek along the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (M-M Trail) at Mount Tom , I point out several animal tracks in the snow.  They are everywhere!  We can see their paw print patterns around the trees and on the sides of the trail.  We see big tracks shaped like hooves and assume they are from either a deer or moose.  We also see several smaller tracks, maybe from a coyote or fox.  I can feel my excitement and curiosity rise.  

Who would've thought I'd be wide-awake and fully energized at this time, especially when I have tons of work to do for my journalism classes.  Only later did I realize that Mount Tom is a great way to take in the natural beauty, and get away from all the stress, drama, and chaotic aspects of life as a college student.

Khanh and I start off with a 20-minute drive from UMass.  We make a sharp right turn onto Reservation Road off of Route 5 in Holyoke , Massachusetts , and drive through the entrance, unsure of what to expect.  No fees.  We look at each other and shrug.  We continue driving on the narrow road for a few minutes and pull over at a stoned building information center.  It's closed.  But we read the information on the board beside it.


According to the panel board, Mount Tom got its shape from the hardened lava flow due to moving continental plates, erosion, and grinding glaciers over millions of years, in which the Mount Holyoke Range was formed in an east-west direction.   Mount Tom made up the western half of the range, and is now separated by Route 5 and the Connecticut River .

Mount Tom was named after Rowland Thomas, who first explored the Connecticut Valley with Elizur Holyoke in 1650.  The Massachusetts Legislature approved Mount Tom as a state reservation, mainly for land preservation, in 1902.  In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads and trails. 

The one piece of information we take really seriously is the fact that we could get Lyme disease from deer ticks.  Unsure if they live in the winter, we tuck our pant legs into our socks.  We aren't going to take any chances.

We hop back into the white Ford Focus and follow a sign pointing in the direction of the Bray Vista lookout.  In less than two minutes, we step out of the car and look straight ahead to see a breathtaking view of the homes in the valley and its natural surroundings.

“Look, come over here,” Khanh says, after a few minutes of staring into the horizon.  He walks toward a green metal tower behind us.

We can feel the railings vibrate for every step we take as we climb up the three flights of stairs.  It doesn't sound safe, but once we get to the top, it gives us a much better view of Easthampton .  Although we can’t see everything because of the trees, the vista is priceless.  It makes you appreciate the valley’s natural beauty.  However, there has to be more to do around here than the lookouts, so back in the car we go, heading toward the M-M trail.

It is eerily quiet at this time and nobody seems to be around.  Most of the trails are not plowed when it snows, so it’s difficult to go on a real hike.  It doesn’t matter to us.  We get out of the car to start our hike, and walk for a few feet


Lyme Disease





Adult deer ticks are dark reddish brown and are most commonly found in forests and wooded areas. They feed on hosts, but they only live on a two-year life cycle of three stages: larva, nymph, and adult. Eggs are laid during the spring, which then hatches in the late summer as larvae. The larvae will then attach themselves and feed onto a host until the fall season when they drop from their host, where they turn into nymphs (the size of a poppy seed). 
They’re inactive during the winter and early spring. Nymphs then become very active from May through July, and are looking for hosts to feed on for four or five days, where they then detach themselves from their host, turn into adult deer ticks (the size of a sesame seed), and become active during the fall, especially in October and November. Bottom line: Lyme disease is more common in late spring and summer months (mostly the drier season) when nymphal ticks are active.

If deer ticks are infected with a bacterial infection, then human hosts can get Lyme disease. The symptoms to look for include fatigue, stiffness, neck, muscle, or joint pains, fever, swollen glands, and red circular rashes. Lyme disease symptoms should be treated early with antibiotics. If not, then as it progresses, the infection can lead to heart and neurological disorders and arthritis.

The best way to avoid deer ticks and Lyme disease infection is to avoid tick-infested habitats and moist, shaded areas, wear light-colored clothing (long sleeved shirts), tuck in pant legs into socks, apply insect repellent, and check your body and clothes for ticks after your activity.

on the trail.  We see wooden signs nailed to a tree pointing to Goat Peak , .7 miles, and Mount Tom , 2 miles.  Since time is not on our side because of classes, we take the Goat Peak path.  The only sound we hear is the crunching of white snow under our feet, as birds chirp and fly high above us.  Fresh air and tranquility sets the atmosphere.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

“What is that,” I ask.  “Is that a woodpecker?”

Khanh looks up, shrugs his shoulders, and says, “Yeah, I think it is.”

We continue walking along, and that’s when we see the animal tracks.  Some appear fresh, while others faded.  We also see the excrement they left behind.  Yellow stains and dry feces sit in the middle of the trail every few feet we take, making an interesting pattern.  They were either marking their territory, or they just simply had to go.  It makes me wonder what animal was there and what it was doing.  Was it just there, or did it pass by days ago?  There is a wide range of animal diversity in Western Massachusetts .  It could be a coyote, bobcat, or deer.

“It has to be a coyote,” I say.  “What if they’re here?  What if they’re watching us right now?”

“I don’t think coyotes are out here,” Khanh tells me.

“Yes, they are,” I say.

Little does he know about the diverse species that live in this region.  Different types of birds soar through here - hawks, turkey vultures, bald eagles, and falcons.  Other roaming animals include red foxes and white-tailed deer.  It may be difficult to spot them, but they are around.

Aside from the heaps of animal tracks in the snow, tapping woodpeckers, and the few chirping birds, we don’t see any other forms of life.  The best time to go to Mount Tom is probably during the fall, spring, or summer – only because it’s warmer and easier to navigate.  Some people like to hang out at the state reservation during the summer, while others prefer the cold weather.  Either way, Mount Tom is open year-round and is inexpensive.  It only costs $2 per car from May through October, and doesn’t charge during the other months.  The reservation is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during the winter, and for the summer, they open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m.   There’s plenty of time to explore Mount Tom ’s reservation of 2,082 acres and to hike the 20 miles of its trails.

Mount Tom winter activities include cross-country skiing and ice skating.  For both the winter and summer, you can make a choice of either taking a stroll through the woods, or a trek up an inclined trail for a physical challenge.  A more relaxed recreation would be fishing, and the adventurous visitors can go canoeing on Lake Bray , which is 10.5 acres.  However, you’re not allowed to swim there.  In addition, there are picnic tables throughout the reservation, so families can gather around and set up picnics.  It would be a good way to start or end a fun, relaxing day.

The other day, I called up the park supervisor, Bob Carr, wondering what other activities Mount Tom offers.  He said there are seasonal park and nature interpreters who lead hikes, or help with anything nature-orientated.  He also mentioned about the hawk migration, which is the most notable annual fall event at Mount Tom .

That is something I would like to see.  The migration of thousands of hawks, including falcons and other birds, flying over the Mount Tom reservation as they head south during the fall would be a unique experience.

Mount Tom is an excellent getaway for enjoying the simplicity of nature observation and participating in physical activities.  By the end of your hike, or whatever it is you decide to do, you will realize how much calmer you feel.  There’s a peaceful atmosphere that puts you at ease.  Not a bad way to escape from your ordeals like stressing over an exam or fighting with a loved one.  Just take some time out for yourself and head over to Mount Tom .

“I’m definitely coming back here,” I say, as we drive back to Amherst .  “I feel so relaxed now.  I’ll be back again when it’s warmer.”

“Yeah,” Khanh says.  “Next time, I’ll bring my hiking boots.”


This website was created by the students of Journalism 375 at the University of Massachusetts 2005