Climb a fire tower and explore caves in Sunderland, Massachusetts, just south of Montague on the eastern side of the Connecticut River.
The mountain is about twelve miles south of MA Route 2A. Along Route 2 there are many stops to make on your way out to the forest. In Orange, Massachusetts there’s an antique store that is hardly ever open unless the owner is loading a new load of treasures in and leaves the door cracked. Always drive by Orange Trading Company on Main Street just in case, because surely you will find a gem in there. It’s three stories of a beautiful old mill building jam-packed with oddities. We love to swing through Turners Falls first before heading down through Montague. Breakfast at the Shady Glen is excellent- it’s an old-school diner with a wrap-around counter, great coffee, and a perfect egg n cheese. Also in Turners Falls is Brick and Feather Brewery, whose clean and bright space we always enjoy. Definitely fill a growler to go.
Once you hit Mount Toby, you’ll find a handful of trails to take up to the peak. We like the Robert Frost Trail because you can claim it’s the one less traveled by, but also because it has interesting, varied terrain. The entire mountain range itself has many varying geological quirks and lots of biodiversity. The Robert Frost Trail extends for forty-seven miles total, both north to Wendell State Forest and south to Mount Holyoke Range State Park. It traverses a huge chunk of the Metacomet Ridge along the Connecticut River Valley. The trail gives you a really accurate cross section of Mount Toby and its surrounding forest.
There is a fire tower at the peak of Mount Toby, which is fairly well maintained and comfortable to climb up. From the top of the stairs, just below the locked cab, you’ll get a nice view of the Metacomet Ridge, especially where it protrudes out from Mount Sugarloaf. On a clear day, you might see Mount Greylock off in the distance as well.
Off the Frost Trail you can take a detour to the Sunderland Caves, which start with a huge slice in the bedrock just off the trail, making a deep, narrow chasm to crawl down into. On the far side of the chasm is a cave you can climb down into for a bit before losing sight of what’s in front of you. Naturally it’s very dark down there, but you can get a glimpse of the opening at the far end of the cave about fifty yards away.
Along the other trails you’ll find a few waterfalls, ledges and kettle ponds. It’s a beautiful diverse area to explore. Nearby Mount Tom Range and also the Holyoke Range to the south are also easy to fit into the same day trip. With a drive out Route 2, a fire tower to climb, and a beautiful river valley teeming with the wonderful combo of old buildings and new projects, this trip to Western Mass is one of our favorites.