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.
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.
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.
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.