Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wheelchair Accessible Summits in Massachusetts

Accessible trail on Mt. Greylock
With fall colors beginning to emerge, it is a great time to find yourself at a scenic vista in New England. Within DCR’s Massachusetts State Parks, there are three distinct accessible summit opportunities. In all three places the summit area is reachable by car with a daily parking fee of $2 for Massachusetts residents, $4 for non-residents.

Wachusett  Mountain is a well-known single mountain in central Massachusetts, complete with a popular downhill ski concession. Pass the ski concession and keep going on your drive to the top, 2000 feet above sea level. There are several designated spots for closest parking. The viewing tower is not far away at the terminus of a gradually ascending paved trail used by hikers and bicyclists. The tower’s viewing area is securely ramped around the base and offers seating with views in all directions. 
Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire is the most visible mountain to the north. On a clear day you can also see the Berkshires to the west and Boston’s skyline to the east. In the fall you may find birdwatchers scanning for migrating hawks. Be aware that there are no restrooms at the summit, so plan to stop at the park visitor center on your way up or down. There is also no seating along the walk to the tower, so bring your own folding chair if a place to sit is needed.

Wachusett Mountain is located at 345 Mountain Road in Princeton. The summit road is open until sunset daily through the last weekend in October. 
Summit House on Mt. Holyoke
Viewing tower on Wachusett
The summit house atop Mount Holyoke in the Holyoke Range along the Connecticut River is a both a scenic and historical destination at just under 1000 feet in elevation. You’ll find two accessible parking spots at the base of the summit house in Skinner State Park, with an accessible bathroom just inside. A long ramp allows wheelchair access to the 4 sided viewing deck on the second level. Views of the river, agricultural landscape and nearby mountains and towns are delightful and this is also a popular hawk migration viewing location. The summit house is open on weekends and holidays through Columbus Day with tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. 
Skinner State Park is located at 10 Skinner State Park Road in Hadley. For further detail on accessibility click here.
War Memorial on Mt. Greylock
Mt. Greylock is Massachusett’s tallest peak at 3491 feet high - just under the 3500 foot classification above which large hills are considered actual mountains. Nevertheless, its summit offers a glimpse into the forests of Canada, with species of trees, plants and wildlife present here seen nowhere else in the state. The summit can be refreshingly or bitterly colder than the surrounding landscape depending on the season so dress appropriately.
The road to the top has been repaved and improved in recent years. At the top sits a stone war memorial tower honoring Massachusetts veterans, made with granite from the Quincy quarries near Boston. Nearby is nestled Bascom Lodge, a rustic mountain stopover with overnight accommodations, café, restrooms and a place to enjoy the indoors next to a stone fireplace. There are several accessible parking spaces right next to Bascom Lodge. A paved trail connects the tower and lodge with wonderful views eastward among wind stunted trees and field wildflowers.
Bascom Lodge
An accessible visitor center is located at the south end of Mt. Greylock State Reservation in Lanesboro at 30 Rockwell Road and open year round. The exhibits there have been recently updated and a brand new 12 minute film offers a wonderful new orientation to the park. At both the visitor’s center and summit you can enjoy a bronze sculptural map of Mt. Greylock and the surrounding mountain complex.

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