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Posted by Ben Libby, guest blogger of Outdoors Ben

Springfield’s local newspaper, The Republican, recently published its Reader Raves for the summer/fall seasons of 2012, listing, among other categories, reader’s favorite local outdoor recreation areas; and in the upcoming weeks, I’m going to write an ongoing series of reviews to highlight each of these areas.
This week, I’ll highlight the winner of Best Hiking in the Pioneer Valley Life category, the Mount Tom State Reservation.
The Mt. Tom State Reservation is a 2,082-acre tract of land on the bank of the Connecticut River in Holyoke, MA, that boasts 20-miles of trails and five peaks – leaving visitors quick to understand why it was chosen as the best local hiking destination.
One of the best features of hiking Mt. Tom is that there truly is a trail for everyone.
For the more ambitious hiker, Mt. Tom’s portion of the 110-mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail winds up and down volcanic rock, and leads to many scenic vistas, ultimately, reaching the mountain’s 1202’ peak.
At the top, visitors will enjoy some of the most fantastic views of the valley and area wildlife, as Mt. Tom continues to be one of the premier bird of prey viewing areas in New England.
If just getting out for some fresh air is your goal, Mt. Tom also features several shorter trails to be enjoyed.
The Healthy Heart Trail leads visitors around Lake Bray, where you’ll find barbecue areas and restrooms – a great spot to bring some food, and make a day of it. Fishing is also permitted on the Lake’s 10-acres by shore or by canoe/kayak.
In addition to Mt. Tom’s many trails, there’s also a paved park road that passes beneath, which is used by joggers, bicyclists, and even cross-country skiers in winter.
The mountain was also once home to the Mount Tom Ski Area, which was in operation from 1962 until 1998. Although the ski area is now closed, several people still use this area for backcountry skiing in the winter.
One last must-see of the Mt. Tom State Reservation is the remains of the old Eyrie House hotel, which is found upon Mt. Nonotuck, also part of the Mt. Tom State Reservation. Construction started in 1893 to replace the old Eyrie House hotel and resort, but any hopes of a grand structure went up in flames in 1901 when the mountain caught fire, leaving a magnificent set of building remains along the mountain’s summit.
With fabulous views, several points of interest, and trails for every skill level, it’s no wonder that Mt. Tom was voted Best Hiking in the Pioneer Valley in The Republican’s Reader Raves 2012.
So, now that you know what to expect, get out to Mt. Tom and see for yourself what everyone is raving about!
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.