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Named after the first settler in this Massachusetts area who arrived in the late 17th century, Elizur Holyoke, Mount Holyoke Range State Park, was officially established as a state park in 1975. Mount Holyoke Range is one of a few mountain ridges that run east-west instead of being oriented northeast to southwest, which is more typical of mountain ranges in the New England region. This orientation baffles many geologists, but it’s believed that this is due to a long-extinct volcanic range. Mount Holyoke Range State Park also has one of the few evidence of dinosaur presence in the upper New England region; there are reptilian footprints embedded in stone that are millions of years old.
The closest large town is Northampton, which is about nine miles to the west. Northampton is in particular known for its vibrant, liberal art and culture scene, and the town has a higher-than-average percentage of residents who identify as LGBT. The town has held an annual LGBT Parade and Pride festival since 1981 in May.
A geological curiosity, Mount Holyoke Range State Park’s lower elevations are blanked by thick groves of old-growth woods. Due to the rugged terrain and rocky soil, logging efforts were quickly abandoned, and there are several groves of virgin, untouched trees that are older than this nation. The upper elevations, in contrast, are virtually bare save for hardy shrubberies and bushes that nestle in pockets of rock that hold water. Over 30 miles of multi-use trails meander through Mount Holyoke Range State Park, some ascending while others serpentine through the woods. Mountain bikers especially enjoy two trails called Serpentine and Roller Coaster, both of which are aptly named. A portion of 110-mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail also passes through Mount Holyoke Range State Park, and it’s not uncommon to encounter a “thru-hiker” on their very long journey. The Robert Frost Trail, which is shorter at about 47 miles, also slices through Mount Holyoke Range State Park.
Thanks to the relatively barren knob that makes up the summits of Mount Holyoke Range State Park, hang-gliding and parasailing are popular activities. Adventurers make a running start along the naked top and hurl themselves off the mountaintop into the air.
After the leaf-peeping season ends and the colorful autumn foliage has faded to a dull brown, outdoor adventurers wait for the first snow, as eager as schoolchildren. Once there are a few inches of snow, the trails are open to snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The twisting Serpentine trail makes for a fun snowmobile ride while many athletes enjoy testing their fitness by skiing the Roller Coaster trail.
Although a major reason to rent an RV is to skip hotels, RV camping at Mount Holyoke Range State Park isn’t possible because there are no campgrounds. There are several suburban towns and communities nearby that have policies prohibiting campgrounds within their borders. However, there are a handful of options within 30 miles that may be a good option.
RV camp in Westhampton, MA, at Northampton KOA. Set in idyllic woods, this KOA has several amenities like golf carts, a swimming pool, and a community “kamping” kitchen. Several RV sites are oversized, allowing for slideouts or big rigs.
Alternatively, Sunsetview Farm Camping Area outside Monson may be a contender. Seasonally available, this campground boasts full hookups, a rec room stocked with the latest video games, and WiFi.
Steeped in history, many towns have buildings and homes that date back to the early 1800s, and in a few cases, even the 1700s. Driving through these towns in an Airstream rental is akin to stepping back into time. Save for the automobiles lining modern roads, it’s easy to imagine what life was like at the dawn of the United States.
Get a glimpse into the mind of famed poet Emily Dickinson at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst. The childhood home is open to tours daily, during which visitors can explore her bedroom, library, and the “Emily Room.” Also nearby is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, which has on display art and murals from popular children’s books, such as A House for Hermit Crab. Florence, MA, established the Sojourner Truth Memorial to spotlight her pivotal role in the United States’ tumultuous Civil War era.
In Deerfield, is Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, which is a quite magical experience. Housed inside a tropical greenhouse, there are over 4,000 different species of butterflies flitting and flapping about as they search for nectar year-round. The ponds nestled in between the curving paths are stocked with fat koi that visitors can feed.
At the end of a long day of hiking and exploring, retreat into the comforts of a camper rental and enjoy watching stars appear in the night sky. Book your perfect RV camping adventure today in Hampshire County and have a great time exploring Massachusetts!