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Tully Trail, A Place With it All!

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Posted by Ben Libby, guest blogger of Outdoors Ben

There are numerous things to see and do in Massachusetts. One can visit waterfalls, camp, hike, canoe or kayak, or find a private area to yourself to just relax and take in the scenery.

Would you believe that there is an area that has all of those things? The Tully Trail in the North Quabbin Region has it all. The trail loops Tully Valley, encompassing three waterfalls, ledges, an 1,106-foot mountain, multiple miles of canoeing or kayaking, a handful of private islands to explore, and a campground in the middle of it all. Tully Lake is owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers, but the lake and surrounding attractions are managed by The Trustees of Reservations.

The Trail

Setting off on the trail from the farthest point north (less than a mile from a parking area), is Royalston Falls. The hike to access the falls is a bit wet and muddy, and visitors will have to cross a small stream by stepping from rock to rock. The rock steps aren’t difficult to navigate, so long as you have on proper footwear. Once you reach the falls, you’ll see that the hike was worth it. The falls display a 45-foot plunge through a gorge into a basin.

Continuing south on the trail is Jacobs Hill, which overlooks the scenic landscape. Slightly south of Jacobs Hill, you will arrive at the second, smaller waterfall named Spirit Falls. If you arrive during a time when the water is low, there won’t be much to see, but it’s still worth checking out. A note of caution: poison ivy plants are visible just off the trail in this spot, so remain on the trail and keep an eye out where you step. As you continue in this area, you will arrive at the ledges, which, similar to Jacobs Hill, provide a spectacular view of the North Quabbin Region.

Moving south, visitors will encounter Doane’s Falls, which features plunges, cascades and drops 175-feet total. The falls can be reached on the trail by foot from the canoe launch parking area, or by paddling ashore and hiking parallel to Lawrence Brook. Families with children staying at the campground will appreciate these falls as they are easily accessible from the campground itself.

On the west side of Tully Lake is the trail leading to the Tully Mountain summit. Tully Mountain is an 1,163-foot mountain that overlooks the lake, pond, campground, and surrounding forested landscape. The view is certainly worth the short 1.5-mile hike to the summit.

The Water

Now that the trail itself has been explored, it’s time to head out on the water! Swimming is allowed on the lake, but there is no lifeguard on duty, so take caution and swim at your own risk. Visitors can canoe or kayak around Long Pond or explore Tully Lake’s 218 acres of water. While out on the lake, you’ll notice that there are several small islands that are accessible. Paddle up, disembark and explore the islands on foot. Pack a lunch, bring some folding chairs, and enjoy your own private island for a while!

For anyone looking to do some fishing, the fish population at the lake includes largemouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, black crappie, bluegills, brown bullhead, pumpkinseed, and even a few trout from upstream stocking. Fishing here may be quite good due to all of the lakes vegetation and stumps.

The Campground

As there is so much to experience at Tully Trail, visitors should take advantage of the on-site campground and stay for a night or two to explore the area. The Tully Lake Campground offers “tent-only” campsites; meaning no vehicles are allowed on the actual sites. All gear must be carried in to the campsite, and carts are available to assist visitors with carrying gear.

The campground is family-oriented, and does have flush toilets and showers available. Dogs are welcome on-leash only. There are more than 30 campsites, some of which are inland, and some are directly on the waterfront. Waterfront sites are not only beautiful, but also very convenient for those who wish to canoe or kayak. Canoes, kayaks, fishing poles, GPS and some game equipment are also available for rent from the Campground. Just when you thought there couldn’t be anything else, there is a disc golf course, volleyball net, and a horseshoe pit available for more family fun.

I encourage everyone to get out and explore what this great area has to offer, whether for an afternoon, a full day, or while camping – you’ll be thrilled with what you discover, and will have memories that will leave you wanting to come back year after year.

Benjamin Libbey is a blogger and avid outdoor enthusiast. Born and raised in Western Massachusetts. Ben’s lifelong hobbies include hiking, fishing, and canoeing. Outside of his day job, Ben can be found on the mountains and rivers of New England; seeking both adventure and tranquility in the great outdoors. You can check out his blog, Outdoors Ben, and also find him on Facebook and Twitter @Outdoorsben.

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  • Allan


    I’m thinking about going there in two weeks. Do you mind if I ask a few questions?

    1. I’ll be taking a bus from nyc to amherst. How can I go to Royalston from there?

    2. Do I need to pay anything to hike the trail? For staying at the shelter?

    3. Does “tent-only” mean I can’t use a hammock?

    I’m not American. I’m looking for things to do on my way to Boston from NYC. Can you suggest another place after this one?

    Thank you.

    • sven coolkayaker

      Dear Allan,

      You can get from Amherst to Royalston only by automobile, approx 30 miles. There is no bus, train, aeroplane, rocket, or mule that will make the sojourn. Just a car operated by a man who has the steady nerves to negotiate the winding, frost-heaved asphalt ribbons that eventually lead to the tannin-waters of my hometown in central Mass.

      Hiking and staying at the shelter is free. If someone is already sleeping there, you might have to nudge them for reclining space, politely ask them to brush their teeth or accept a peppermint lozenge, avoid sinking your sandal into their fresh cat-hole in the mossy loam behind the shelter, or any other number of such nuisances of sharing this great planet with others. As repugnant as it can sometimes be, it’s life.

      The campground, last I knew, does not allow hammocks based on the false premise that hammock straps hurt trees (to the first man who can soundly demonstrate killing a live tree with a hammock strap, I offer one hundred dollars and a pat on the back). The woods outside the campground, along the Tully Trail, are peaceful and secluded…hammocks would likely not be discovered and thus not garner repudiation. I like hammocks and I would camp anywhere in the area with one…just not in Tully Campground.

      There is plenty to do in populated Amherst, including walking around Amherst College, touring UMass, sneezing in the used bookstores, munching fried everythings at dozens of nothing-to-write-home-about eateries, and gawking at coeds in short skirts. Something tells me that, once in Amherst, trekking into the piney loneliness of western Massachsetts, to only be kissed by horseflies and mosquitoes, will be lower on your bucket list than drinking kerosene or watching paint dry.

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