Welcome to Paria's “Hike of the Week” series. Each week, we highlight one of the best trails from around the country. It's one thing to see pictures of great trails online. We hope to inspire you to get out there and see them for yourself!
This week's spotlight is on the Tully Trail, located in northern Massachusetts.
Featured photo: Tully Trail (photo by John Huynh)
Why This Hike?
The Tully Trail starts in the Tully Lake Recreation Area. This is located in the north-central part of the state near the New Hampshire state line. Massachusetts isn't exactly known as a treasure trove of backpacking trails. But, this one is arguably the most scenic in the area!
- Distance: 21 miles
- Type: Loop
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation gain: 2,800 feet
- Best time to visit: May-October. The trail is open year round, weather and trail conditions permitting.
- Natural features: Lake, ponds, streams, forest, overlooks
- Highlights: Sprit Falls, Royalston Falls, Doane's Falls, wetlands, Tully Lake, Tully Mountain
- Wildlife: Small mammals, deer, turkeys, bobcats, foxes, and black bears
- There are plenty of water sources for filtering.
- There's only one place to overnight along the trail. This is the Falls Brook Shelter. It's a three-sided lean-to with several wooden bunks.
- The trail starts near Tully Lake Campground. This gives you the option to spend an extra night before or after tackling the trail.
Before you pack your bags, keep the following in mind:
- Be sure you have a good map (or GPS) and know how to read it! It can be easy to make a wrong turn on this route.
- During the spring rainy season or after any heavy thunderstorm, parts of the trail around the lake might be flooded.
How Do I Get There?
The closest international airport is Bradley International. This is just north of Hartford, Connecticut. It's a slightly shorter drive than from Boston. Also, you should have much less traffic and construction to deal with.
From Bradley International, follow CT-20 E/Bradley International Airport Con for 3.8 miles. Merge left onto I-91 N. Continue 16 miles. Use exit 6 to get on I-291 E. Continue 4.5 miles. After a series of several turns, turn left onto US-202 N/Daniel Shays Hwy. After 23.5 miles, you'll navigate another series of turns before continuing on MA-32 N/W Royalston Rd for 3 miles. Turn right onto Doane Hill Rd and continue about 1 mile before turning right toward the campground.
Map of Recommended Route
The following map outlines our recommended route. Click the "Load Interactive Map" button to load the correct map. Once loaded, you can navigate along the route and view recommended campsites.
For even more detailed mapping, including being able to print a copy for yourself, click the "Open in CalTopo" button at the top of the map once it's loaded into view.
Day 1 - Tully Trail Trailhead to Falls Brook Shelter (7 miles)
Day 2 - Falls Brook Shelter to Tully Trail Trailhead (14 miles)
Day 1 - Tully Trail Trailhead to Falls Brook Shelter
After walking up the road a bit, you'll enter the forest and follow the yellow blazes. First up is Doane's Falls. After that, you'll pass by Spirit Falls on your way to Jacobs Lookout. (A short side trail to the falls.) Jacobs Hill offers great views of Tully Mountain and the surrounding Berkshire Hills.
From there you'll travel through more dense woods before reaching Royalston Falls. The creek may be tricky crossing without getting your feet wet. Not much further past there, you'll find the shelter. The creek is nearby, so you won't have to worry about having enough water left for cooking with.
Day 2 - Falls Brook Shelter to Tully Trail Trailhead
On your second day, you'll pass an old cemetery shortly after leaving the shelter. These graves date back pretty far, which is cool if you're into history. There are pretty pines and neat rock features along the way as you head toward Bliss Hill. There is a great view of Mount Grace up there.
Next, you'll head up Tully Mountain. You'll definitely want to make sure your camera or phone is charged for capturing the views atop the mountain. Pay close attention to your map after as the blazes seem to get few and far between.
The trail skirts Tully Lake as you near the parking area. This gives you pretty views of the lake, but the trail can be boggy. There are small bridges over the inlets, but these can be impossible to pass without getting wet after a good rain. Fortunately, you're almost back to your vehicle!
What Will I Need?
The average highs between May and October are 60 to 83°F. The average lows range between 37 and 58°F. Keep in mind that late spring and summer are the rainiest times of the year. That said, you may want to pack a poncho and gaiters to keep dry and mud-free. Don't forget bug spray too!
To keep warm at night, an appropriately rated sleeping bag is a must. While not necessary, a camp pillow can make a huge difference in how you sleep too. For your sleeping pad, pack a compact air pump that also serves as a lantern. (Who doesn't love multi-use items?)
Be sure to check the rules on fires before you leave. Open fires are prohibited, yet there is a fire pit at the shelter. Either way, be sure to pack your camp stove, fuel, cooking pot, and eating utensils.
Titanium cooking pots are great for backpacking. They're ultralight, but extremely durable.
If there's anything else you need to complete your pack, visit our full line of high-quality, affordable backpacking gear.
Shop Backpacking Tents
Shop Ultralight Tarps
Shop Backpacking Quilts
Shop Down Sleeping Bags
Shop Insulated Sleeping Pads
Shop Backpacking Pillow
Shop Folding Trekking Poles
Shop Titanium Cookware
Shop Tent and Tarp Accessories
Finally, to make sure you don't forget something at home, use our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List. It even includes a convenient printable checklist!
Do I Need a Permit?
No, you do not need a permit. The shelter is first come, first serve.
If you're looking for a scenic trail full of water features and great views, start planning your trip for the Tully Trail. Have you done this or other nearby hikes? We'd love to hear about it in the comments section below!
If you're looking for more hike ideas, read our “Best Backpacking Trips in the Eastern U.S.” round-up post. Also, the following Hike of the Week articles cover other great trails in the region.
For even more amazing backpacking trips visit The Trailhead, our interactive hike map. It contains a curated list of dozens of hikes, each with a detailed write-up like this one.
Finally, check out our comprehensive list of backpacking articles that cover just about everything there is to know about backpacking. If you're just starting out, our Backpacking 101 section covers all the basics.If you already have a few trips under your belt, you can find more advanced topics covered in our Expert Articles.