Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bonus Site: Bull Hill (Mt. Toby south)

The forecast for this weekend looked daunting, with seasonally chilly temperatures and a possible nor’easter storm on Sunday or Monday. However, it didn't turn out that bad, and by the middle of this coming week it’s supposed to warm way up again. In honor of THAT forecast, here is a new bonus site. 

As a brief recap of previous bonus site posts: my guidebook Trail Running Western Massachusetts (click here to view the book's page on Amazon) profiles 51 of the best trail running sites in the region. It was a challenge to whittle down the final list included in the book to just 51 sites, and some that I really like or that would have been nice to include had to get cut for space. I occasionally post profiles of some of those "bonus sites" here and link to them from the book's Facebook page. (see the Chapel Brook to D.A.R. Trail, Mormon Hollow, and Ashley Pond posts for previous examples).

Land ownership at this southern end of the Mt. Toby block is a complex puzzle of parcels, some of which are public conservation land with public access, some of which are private conservation land with public access, some of which are private land posted with No Trespassing signs, and some of which are unposted private land.  Trail signage is minimal, and restricted to the trailhead for the Robert Frost Trail and several major junctions along its route north to Mt. Toby.

There are some fun sections of trail, most notably the Robert Frost Trail as it gradually climbs up and over Bull Hill via Russell Hill from the trailhead at Bull Hill Road. There is also an interesting loop that can be made through The Nature Conservancy’s Greene Swamp Preserve, which includes two south-facing vistas with great views across the pastoral valley to the Holyoke Range and Mt. Tom beyond. Part of this loop traverses private land. 

autumn view from one of the south-facing vistas southwest of Bull Hill and Greene Swamp

hemlock ravine along Middle Mtn. Road
scenic hemlock ravine along Middle Mtn. Road on the west side of Mt. Toby

To the northwest, several dirt roads lead up from the town of Sunderland and head east toward Mt. Toby. There are several pretty stretches, including one notably pretty hemlock ravine, but for the most part these old roads (Middle Mountain Road and South Mountain Road) are heavily eroded and not particularly nice to run on since they are too full of loose rocks and wet, sloppy sections to be much fun. Also, a warren of unmarked trails and old roads weaves in and out of private land, some of which is distinctly posted No Trespassing. A better bet is to continues N/NE of the RFT toward Mt. Toby (see site #33 in the book). Note: the RFT Bypass Trail makes a particularly pleasant alternate option to the part of the RFT that runs just west of the summit of Roaring Mtn. (also, the hard-to-follow spur up to the wooded summit of Roaring isn’t really worth it).

Bull Hill (Mt. Toby south) -- Click here for a full-size pdf of the map

Other good nearby trail running sites: Mt. Toby, Puffers Pond and the Eastman Brook Conservation Area, Sugarloaf Mountain, Pocumtuck Ridge

If you have any comments, complaints, corrections, praise, or suggestions about this bonus site or anything related to Trail Running Western Massachusetts, please comment below or drop me an email with your thoughts!

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