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Mt. Holyoke Summit House, Talks & Walks
An event every week that begins at 12:00 am on Sunday and Saturday, repeating until August 14, 2022
Summer Events at Skinner State Park
All programs are free and open to the public. Bring water, wear sunscreen/bug spray, dress in layers, and wear good footwear. An adult must accompany children. Inclement weather cancels outdoor programs.
SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS – SUMMIT HOUSE TOUR, 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Join a park interpreter-guided one-hour tour to enliven your summit House visit. Hear the story and vision of John and Fanny French. In the 1800s they offered a novel mountain-top vacation here at the Prospect House. Discover how it changed, and later became a state park. 1-hour tour duration. Best for ages 12 and up. Meet inside the Summit House.
SATURDAYS – WHERE’S THE WARBLER? 10:00—10:30 a.m.
Skinner State Park is a hotspot to experience the Cerulean Warbler and Indigo Bunting. Hear, see, and enjoy these birds and more on this beginner program. Best for ages 10 and up. Meet outside on the Summit House deck.
SUNDAYS – THE MAKING OF A MASTERPIECE, 10:00—10:30 a.m.
Discover the story of Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole and his famous painting, The Oxbow. Compare the same iconic view then and now. Best for ages 15 and up. Meet inside the Summit House.
MONDAYS – OUR OWN JURASSIC PARK, 10:00—10:30 a.m.
Explore the geologic story of the Mount Holyoke Range, formed and shaped by fire and ice! Experience a dinosaur footprint or two. For all ages. Meet inside the Summit House.
Self-guided Geology Walking Tour
We see evidence of glacial action throughout the valley and on the Mt. Holyoke Range. Lawrence Swamp is a vestige of Lake Hitchcock. Mount Castor and Pollux in South Amherst are drumlins. Sand dunes lie near the ancient lake’s eastern shoreline. We occasionally find shallow, glacial grooves on the basalt rock on the Mt. Holyoke Range. About as wide as a thumb, they run in long, parallel rows. As the glacier melted, Lake Hitchcock formed terraces, and some are visible along trails on Mount Holyoke’s northwest flank. The glacier also left quartzite boulders scattered throughout the range as it retreated north.
Skinner State Park’s Conglomerate Rock is filled with large fragments embedded into a sandy matrix.
The Horse Caves, overhanging ledges on Mt. Norwottuck, are mostly conglomerate. Within are remains of fine-grained, thinly layered sedimentary rock.
Devil’s Football, a basalt boulder near the Halfway Area at Skinner State Park, has all these features including a few spots where a compass needle pulls away from north and points to the rock.
Enormous basalt columns, much thicker than large tree trunks and much taller, are scattered throughout the park. Columnar basalt occurs when lava cools more slowly, allowing its fracturing pattern to gradually develop. Titan’s Piazza at Skinner State Park is a stunning example.
The park offers many hiking trails and breathtaking views of the Connecticut River Valley. Reach the summit of Mt. Holyoke by road or hiking trail.
There are several places to park for the geology walking tour at Skinner State Park:
• At the Skinner State Park Main Gate parking area.
• Along the unpaved section of Skinner Park Road (note that the road is one-way).
• At the Halfway Area parking lot.
• At the Summit parking lot.
For the Mt. Holyoke Range State Park, park at the Visitors Center on Rte. 116.
OPEN WEEKENDS & HOLIDAYS
HISTORIC SUMMIT HOUSE, 9:00 a.m.—4:00 p.m.
The Summit House was an 1800s hotel. Travelers once came here to relax and enjoy the view. You can do the same today!
Features: Exhibits, park information, restrooms and drinking water. Picnicking available on the grounds outside. Open late May through mid-October.