Hopkinton State Park is a state-owned, public recreation area located in the towns of Hadley and South Hadley in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts. The park’s 2,400 acres (970ha) include Mount Holyoke, Mount Tom, and other peaks overlooking the river valley; it is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation which protects forests of the North American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).
The park was developed on land purchased from lumber companies in the 1950s; its early roads were cut through old logging trails. In the 1960s, plans were made to build an interstate highway across the northern part of the park, but this was dropped when environmental concerns were raised. Hopkinton State Park has long been used for summer sports such as tennis, swimming, softball, baseball, and volleyball. Hopkinton hosted the 1958 World Masters Games, which included competitions in archery, discus, javelin, shot put, and swimming.
Hopkinton State Park features five separate trail systems including the Appalachian Trail, which passes over Mount Holyoke, the Beech Ridge, Cascade, Pine Hill, and Black Diamond Trails, all of which are maintained by the DCC. Other popular routes include the Mount Tom Summit Road, the Long Trail, and the Stony Brook/Mount Tom Road. Hopkinton State Park boasts some of the most difficult technical cross country skiing terrain in New England, with steep slopes, dense forest, and narrow access paths.
The ski hill at Hopkinton State Park opened in 1959, and operated successfully until 1963 when it closed due to maintenance costs. Hopkinton State Park was among eleven parks slated to close in 2012 due to budget cuts; however, these closures were ultimately avoided by cutting hours and maintenance system-wide. Hopkinton State Park saw increased use after the 2008 season, when the Friends of Hopkinton State Park organization began organizing volunteers to keep the park open. The group worked closely with DCR officials to secure additional funding to operate the park. Hopkinton State Park was one of several areas where funds were secured to prevent closure, and remains open today.
Hopkinton State Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, for its surviving Civilian Conservation Corps infrastructure that includes buildings, bridges, and roads. These include the Rustic style building housing the ranger office ($230,000), the custodian’s house ($150,000), and the campground ($350,000); the stone fire tower ($600,000); and the ski slope ($1 million).
Hopkinton State Park has five separate trail systems, each maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR):
- Appalachian Trail, which follows the ridge tops west of Mount Holyoke
- Beech Ridge Trail
- Cascade Trail
- Pine Hill Trail
- Black Diamond Trail, which runs nearly the entire length of the park
All of these trails connect with the Long Trail, which continues north to Mount Tom and beyond. Hopkinton State Park boasts some of the most difficult technical cross country skiing terrain in New England, with steep slopes, dense forest, and narrow access paths. The ski hill at Hopkinton State Park operates from mid-June through Labor Day, weather permitting. There are three main ski runs: the Lower Mountain, the Middle Mountain, and the Upper Mountain. The lower run starts just above the parking lot and drops down to the Rustic style lodge below the upper station. The middle run traverses both the East Side Road and the Old Stage Road, dropping from the rustic lodge to the Big Tree Hut campsite.
Finally, the uppermost run climbs the West Side Road toward the summit road, passing by the upper station en route to the top of Mount Holyoke. Each of these runs is equipped with modern snowmaking equipment, and workers in white cover much of the terrain in the spring to make sure nothing freezes overnight. Hopkinton State Park has more than 30 miles (48km) of marked trails, plus 20 miles (32km) of unmarked, hard-to-find trails. Popular routes include the Mount Tom Summit Road, the Long Trail, and the Stony Brook/Mt. Tom Road. Hardwood forests dominate the park, interrupted by fields of glacial erratics and dotted with numerous ponds and streams.
Hopkinton State Park provides camping facilities for tents, trailers, and RVs. There are no flush toilets or showers available, so those using them must haul out whatever wastewater they produce. No pets are allowed on the grounds, and horses permitted only on designated trails. Campgrounds are divided into tent sites and trailer dump stations. Half of the campsites are available on a first come, first served basis, while the remainder require reservations. The campground opens on Memorial Day weekend and closes Columbus Day weekend. Reservations can be booked through the park reservation system, or by contacting the park directly. During the late 1800s and very early 1900s, Hopkinton State Park was frequently utilized as a location for horror films, comedies, and drama series because of its scenic beauty and remote setting.
Hopkinton State Park was named after the family home of Thomas Hawkes, who settled near what is now the park in 1785. His son, also named Thomas Hawkes, married Mary Clark and they had eight children, six of whom survived into adulthood. One of their descendants, Elizabeth Hawkes, visited the park in 1858, and wrote about her experiences in a letter published in the Springfield Republican newspaper. This led to creation of the park, which was authorized by the legislature two years later. Land acquisition continued throughout the 1860s, with various private bills introduced in the legislature authorizing different sections of the park. Acquisition of the last parcels was not completed until 1875, at which point 1,000 acres (400ha) were set aside for “public pleasure ground” with another 500 acres (200ha) going to the state for administrative purposes only.
A further 300 acres (120ha) were reserved for sale or mortgage to pay off debts incurred during construction. By 1888, enough land had been acquired to create a rough road around the perimeter, followed by a rail line along the east side before crossing under Mt. Holyoke to reach the summit road. From there, visitors could enter the woods on either the north or south sides of the mountain via a second set of rails. Development of the park proper ended upon completion of the railroad, as the new accessibility eliminated the need for a road inside the park. However, maintenance of the rail line proved troublesome, resulting in frequent delays and even a fire once, forcing crews to clear away tons of smoldering trestles and sleepers before resuming work. Hopkinton State Park officially became a state reservation in 1945, when ownership of the land was transferred from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the newly created Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Hopkinton State Park offers opportunities for:
- mountain biking
- cross-country skiing
Wildlife observed at Hopkinton State Park includes:
- black bears
- peregrine falcons
Bird watchers may see:
- red-tailed hawks
- wild turkey
- bald eagles
- owls like screech owls
- pileated woodpeckers
- indigo bunts
- prothonotary warblers