The Seven Sisters Traverse

September 18, 2017

 

The Seven Sisters are part of a distinct basalt ridgeline within the Holyoke Range that is part of the New England National Scenic Trail *(also known as the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail), which offer a challenge for day hikers and thru hikers up for the task. The route is technical with a never-ending vertical change totaling in at 3,288ft in 11 miles (if completed as an out-and-back). A few bypasses along the route can add as extra credit mileage and also offer a safer path should a storm roll in. The trip can be completed as a one-way, out-and-back or a continuation of the larger NET for those looking to thru-hike.

 

Side Note* The NET is a nationally designated 215 mile long distance hiking trail that runs through the center of Connecticut and Massachusetts. It's southern terminus is located on Long Island Sound in Guilford, CT and northern terminus on the border of Massachusetts and New Hampshire in Royalston, MA.

 

 

 

The traverse begins across from the Notch Visitor Center parking lot in Holyoke State Park off of MA 116. As you cross the road you will find three markers (pictured above) on a tree. Beyond this tree is the first of many climbs along the 6.6 mi ridge. The trip is well marked with white blazes which also make up what is known as the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail.

 

 

 

As you start the climb up to Bare Mountain (about 500 ft) you will get a gentle reminder from the trail, that you are hiking in New England (see scree field pic below).

 

 

Once the first climb is completed, views of Mount Norwotock and the Connecticut River Valley can be seen from the top of Bare Mountain (see photos below). 

 

 

 

From the overlook on Bare Mountain, the white blazed trail makes a descent down before it begins its second climb to the top of Mt Hitchcock. This type of climbing will continue as you make your way along ten peaks, including the Seven Sisters. Each up and down averages between 50 and 300ft throughout the duration of the trip. 

 

 

Only three miles until the summit house! But it will feel like more with constant ascents and descents over varied terrain.

 

 

A picturesque look out shows hikers what is to come for the remainder of the traverse. Pictured (above) to the left is Mt Holyoke as seen from the Mt Hitchcock overlook.

 

 

Along with the endless climbing and descending, there are many beautiful changes on the trip such as this little piece of singletrack (pictured above).

 

 

As you near the summit house a trail register will appear on your right. Here you can read journal entries and/or write your own. I love stopping to check these out and see what other experiences were like out on the trail.

 

 

And one more incredible view of the Connecticut River and Pioneer Valley before heading down to Taylor's Notch.

 

 

Taylor's Notch features the only pavement crossing of the entire traverse. The pavement is a pathway for those who prefer to drive up to the top of Mount Holyoke and visit the Summit House. This pathway was used in the past for a tram that ran up the mountain for guest staying at the Summit House, which is one New England's original hotels dating back to the 1800s. For those who continue following the white blazes, another rocky, root filled climb begins after you cross the road.

 

 

Upon arriving at the top of Mount Holyoke stands the Summit House. Call ahead to see if they are open as hours of operation can be sporadic. This can serve as a water refill location along the traverse without going off the trail but it is often not a reliable one so plan your water consumption accordingly and plan on bringing all you need for the entire trip. The Summit House not only offers rewarding views of the Connecticut River and Pioneer Valley (see below), but it is also a part of the trail which runs through one side of its balcony.

 

 

With views like this and a breeze often blowing, it makes for a great spot to stop for a little refueling.

 

 

The contents of a proper traverse lunch. Snacks with high fat content for the calories burned throughout the trip.

 

 

After descending from the Summit House you make your way back into the woods and eventually come to one of the many mini scramble sections of basalt traprock along the ridge.

 

 

After hitting a couple more peaks during a series of smaller climbs, the pathway opens up to a view of Mount Tom to the west.

 

 

Along with an ideal location for a run in with a snake. None happened on this specific trip, but they like these areas. Tread with awareness and you'll be fine.

 

 

As you make your final descent to complete the traverse keep an eye out for this trail reroute sign and bear right. There were no blazes following this sign at the time of this trip, but a cleared path and a good map and compass will guide you down to Mountain Road. After reaching Mountain Road, go left and in about 240 ft you should see the white blazes on your right again which will put you back on the trail heading toward the Connecticut River. Mountain Road is also the end point of the traverse and from here you can also pick up your other car or turn around and complete the traverse once more.

 

 

On this trip we decided to complete the traverse twice, retracing the steps we made along the ridge.

 

 

As well as stopping to enjoy some of the views once more.

 

 

After one last glimpse from Bare Mountain, my hiking partner and I made our way down 500 ft of roots, rocks and scree (see the different vantage point below) before arriving back to the parking lot.

 

 

 

 

Finishing with just enough water to get back to the car. We had about 0.1 liters each left. 

 

Below are a few stats from the trip:

 

 

 

 

The entire trip highlighted in blue on the topo map (see below). 

 

 

 

The Seven Sisters Traverse is a rewarding and surprisingly challenging one. The section offers beautiful views, a generous workout, technical hiking and more. Depending on skill and experience, this trip can range from moderate to hard. On average, a budget of about 5-6 hours should allow for a complete out-and-back. Plan on also bringing enough water and snacks for the entire duration of this trip, as there are no immediate spots to refill or refuel. For an apres treat, consider checking out the Atkins Farms Country Market nearby.

 

 

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