Three students cheering atop Mount Holyoke

Q. When does the 7 am ringing of the clock tower bell cause a campus full of sleepy students to scream for joy?

A. Mountain Day. Mount Holyoke's oldest tradition — an unscheduled day off from classes — is the most highly anticipated event of the year.

What is Mountain Day all about?

Mount Holyoke College was named after the nearby peak, so it’s only fitting that the College’s first tradition was a hike to the summit. Founder Mary Lyon — a firm believer in the need for students to get exercise and fresh air — instituted the spontaneous day off in spring 1838, just a few months after the doors first opened. With few exceptions, Mount Holyoke has celebrated Mountain Day every year since. Classes and other obligations are cancelled. Students are invited to balance their intellectual pursuits with outdoor activities, which typically involves climbing to the Summit House atop Mt. Holyoke. At the top, ice cream is served to the intrepid hikers, who emerge from either a heavily wooded trail or a paved road to the top.

More Mountain Day details

Mountain Day is about anticipation and fun

The speculation about Mountain Day begins as soon as Convocation is over — or sooner. The actual day is a deep secret. It can be announced at any time, and typically happens in the first few weeks of the fall semester.

It all starts with the ringing and swinging of the College’s bell. As the bell peals 100 times beginning at 7 am, bedroom doors in residence halls are pounded on, an announcement is posted on the College homepage and an email goes out from the president. Messages are posted over social media channels — hashtag #MtnDayMHC — and within moments, the world knows.

Mountain Day is about community

Students know the facts: classes before 4 pm are canceled. Deadlines and obligations are put on hold. The entire student body embraces the gift that is Mountain Day. Shuttle buses bring students to the mountain’s base in Joseph Allen Skinner State Park. Merry groups ascend to the top on foot. At the Summit House atop Mt. Holyoke, students explore, congregate and relax. Ice cream? It’s eaten. Pictures? They’re snapped and shared. The view? It’s savored. The fall foliage? Absorbed.

“Mountain Day is such a beloved thing we all do — we celebrate Mount Holyoke together. We talk about it beforehand — we’ve been talking about it for weeks. It’s one day when the entire College is on the same page.” — Charlotte Roach ’21

Mountain Day grabs a hold of students and does not let go. Alums feel deep longing and intense waves of nostalgia each autumn. To cope, groups of alums celebrate around the world. They follow the day’s events via social media. And eat ice cream. Please pass the rainbow sprinkles. And Mountain Day on!


Learn more about Mountain Day

As Mount Holyoke College’s oldest tradition, Mountain Day is clearly doing something right — very right.

Nestled inside Mountain Day, like so many Russian Matryoshka stacking dolls, are the traditions within the tradition.

When Mountain Day bells are ringing, there are many ways to join the celebration. Here are some ideas to partake in one of our favorite traditions.

Happening at Mount Holyoke

Mountain Day news

Mountain Day 2022 came on a clear fall day, perfect for celebrating.

Hundreds of students, staff and faculty flocked to the top of Mt. Holyoke on Mountain Day, a tradition since 1838 when Mary Lyon decreed it so.

Mount Holyoke’s tradition of Mountain Day goes back to 1838, but 2020 was different from any other, as the community celebrated online across the globe.