The State Park, the area, the trails
Go to the trails
Mt. Monadnock, or Grand Monadnock, claimed to be the second most climbed mountain in the world (after Mt. Fuji in Japan), is covered with hiking trails as the accompanying trail maps show. Many of these trails climb the southern faces of the mountain, visible in the photo at the top of this page. Mt. Monadnock has been a Mecca to hikers since at least the mid-eighteenth century. Henry David Thoreau was just one of the champions of this peak's grandeur.
Much of the mountain's lower reaches are forested with a mix of hardwoods. As you ascend, the hardwoods are replaced by evergreens, growing--if that's the word--ever more stunted at higher elevations. Much of the upper third of the mountain is exposed rock, largely the result of fires that engulfed the peak. There seems to be a great mythology about the fires, but at least some sources say that most of them were accidental.
Leaving from the Monadnock State Park headquarters (fee: $4.00 pp, 2008--no pets allowed!), located on Poole Road in Jaffrey, NH, limits your options. Other trails begin from all sides of the mountain. See the list. The two most popular trails are the White Dot Trail and the White Cross Trail. The Spellman Trail and the Red Spot Trail are two alternatives that offer longer hikes but are more and less challenging, respectively. Both of these latter trails connect from and with other trails along the way.
A second tract of the park, signed Old Toll Road (fee: $4.00 pp--no pets here,
either, or anywhere on the mountain), provides a parking area only, with access to the Old Halfway House/White Arrow trail complex providing
a host of
secondary trails. Many years back, this was the primary way up the mountain. A third tract at Gilson
Pond provides free entry and picnicking, with access to the mountain via the Birchtoft
Trail. There are also several trails originating along local roads, including
the Marlboro Trail (western slope), Dublin Trail (northern slope)
and the Pumpelly
Trail (eastern approach). One final warning--no pets are allowed
anywhere on the mountain.
While each of these trails are different in some respects, at some point they all involve walking over steep terrain composed largely of very uneven rock surfaces (old talus slopes and scree). Other sections of the trails are broad rock faces, and all the trails begin in deciduous forest.
The trails are well established and soil has filled the areas between the rocks, but feet, ankles, knees, hearts and lungs will all get a good workout. In keeping with most New England trails, I find these more challenging for their distance than the majority of trails in the rest of the country, as they tend to avoid the inconvenience of switchbacks as they climb the mountain..
The starting point for a hike from the Monadnock State Park is the Headquarters Parking Lot, located in the lower right corner of the map. The White Dot Trail begins at the parking lot and continues non-stop to the peak of Monadnock. Most alternative routes branch off this trunk line, the Parker Trail being an exception. The parking lot has an elevation of about 1350 feet. The peak is at 3165. Total elevation difference: 1815 feet (554 m).
All of the trails you are most likely to take to the summit from the State Park follow the White Dot Trail initially. (However, the Parker Trail leaves the Headquarters area near the parking lot to connect us with trails on the southwestern part of the mountain.) After a very brief level stretch just past the Visitors' Center, the trail starts its climb in mixed forest. The trail here is mostly soil, relatively smooth though moderately steep and with many water bars to step over. It is very wide--in most places five or six people can comfortably walk side by side. The trail continues like this for about three-quarters of a mile (the Spruce Link trail branches off after about half a mile), though with more and more rocks sprouting from the soil, until it levels out near Falcon Spring. The Falcon Spring area is a good spot for the first break. The spring has refreshingly cold and tasty water, and log benches allow you to sit and catch your breath, though black flies or mosquitoes may make that idea less desirable in May or June. The trail splits three ways as it passes the spring: The White Dot Trail continues straight ahead, the White Cross Trail branches to the left, above the spring, and the Cascade Link, from which the Spellman and Red Dot trails originate, branches to the right.
|We honor Mt. Monadnock Ranger Ken Holmes, who
succumbed to the most extreme weather conditions in decades while hiking in New
Hampshire's White Mountains, January 14, 2004.
Right: Ken Holmes, right, works with Ranger Dave Targan, during a mountain rescue.
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Last update and copyright © 18 June 2008 , by Wayne Brink, email: