Pumpelly Trail(Trailhead coordinates: 42.90118 N, 72.07503 W)
The Pumpelly Trail is a direct route to the summit.Pets are not allowed on the mountain.
- Distance from parking to summit:
- about 4 miles (6.4 km)
- Ascending time:
- Three hours plus.
- Descending time:
- About three hours.
- Difficulty rating/rank:
- Crowd Factor:
- 2 (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being near-continuous contact with others.) You may meet an occasional person on the trail, or see fresh footprints.
- Lake Rd., Dublin, off Route 101.
- Trail marker:
- Average Grade:
- 11%. Steepest 660 yards: 24%
Following the entire East Ridge of Mt. Monadnock, the Pumpelly (pum-PELL-ly) Trail presents the gentlest direct trail up the mountain. Of course, there's a price: It's by far the longest trail, covering about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the trailhead to the summit. Because the Pumpelly Trail stays on the East Ridge, it maintains a generally unintimidating slope (11% overall). While this is occasionally broken by steep sections, compared with the typical ascents on the mountain, it's not very difficult, and the gentler climb means you can ascend fairly quickly on this route—maybe only 50% longer than the trails that are half as long. Virtually the entire upper half of the trail is above tree line, though infrequent evergreens add some interest. The lower half is generally hardwood mixed with evergreens. The upper trail is almost always over bare rock. With nothing to interfere, the views are generally uninterrupted and beautiful. In hot weather, though, you are unprotected from the sun.
This trail can be deceiving. It's difficulty rating is 2, but it's also ranked as a the second hardest trail (2) on the mountain by park personnel, second only to the Spellman Trail. Why? Well, the trail itself isn't particularly difficult. There is one stretch that is fairly steep, but it's not especially long. The average slope isn't steep, only 11%, the gentlest on the mountain. But the trail is also the longest on the mountain, eight miles round trip, and taking six to seven hours to complete for many people. The risk on this trail is that it can be underestimated. It's easy to take this trail and not bring enough food or water and find yourself weak from hunger or suffering dehydration. Add into it that a very long piece of the trail is exposed to the sun and weather, and things begin to add up. And the sheer length of the trail can sap the strength of someone who's not ready for this long of a trail on a mountain. Of course, a regular hiker might not find this trail especially challenging, but the occasional hiker may be unpleasantly surprised! Don't let this apparently gentle trail fool you.
Cairns along the Pumpelly Trail as seen in a telephoto view from the Mt. Monadnock summit.
In fruiting season, low mountain blueberries (also found on the higher reaches of the other trails) flank many sections of the upper trail. In wetter seasons, the berries will be large, juicy and refreshing. If the weather has been drier, the berries will be tinier and sparser but may be sweeter and tastier. Either way, you may find yourself forced to stop by a clump of bushes for five or ten minutes while you pick handful after handful. Unfortunately, if you're not climbing the mountain in late June or July, you probably won't find any ripe berries.
The trailhead for the Pumpelly Trail is located along Lake Road, near the southern shore of Dublin Lake (or is it "Dublin Pond?" Both names seem to be used). Parking is roadside, with no established parking spots, but the easiest parking is a bit west of the trailhead, on the side opposite the lake. The trail head is located on that side, as well.
The beginning of the trail, for the first 2.6 km or so, is fairly gentle, averaging a 6% grade. Much of the trail here is packed earth with occasional stretches of broken stone, crossing private land. The ascent is made through a series of steps, with some lengths descending slightly. Overall, you experience stretches that are almost level, then moderately steep, then level, then moderately steep, repeating several times.
At about the 1.6 mile (2.6 km) mark, the trail begins its steepest ascent, climbing from about 1900 feet (580 m) to about 2450 feet (747 m) in a horizontal distance of 660 yards (600 m). About three hundred thirty yards of this consists of a 32% grade. This is similar to what you might experience on the The White Dot Trail or White Cross Trail, but for a much shorter distance. The trail is going straight up the mountain, and much of it is obviously stream bed during wet periods; some areas have been extremely eroded and bootleg trails around those sections are common. Through here, you'll have occasional breaks in the trees allowing you some nice views to the northeast. Once above 2450 feet, the trail continues a gentler climb briefly, giving you a view of the summit, about 1.25 miles (2 km) as the crow flies, through the thinning canopy. The trail takes a sharp turn to the left at about 2 miles (3.2 km), descending a rock face and for a short distance going back into the heavier tree cover. Be careful of a false trail that goes to the right at that jog. The trail continues back uphill, then descends again just before crossing a rocky uphill slope. At about this location, you can see the next steep part of the trail, its peak less than five-eighths of a mile (1 km) distant.
The slope gradually becomes steeper and until you are ascending a still comparatively gentle 17% grade. The Cascade Link meets the Pumpelly at the base of several smaller peaks, about one-third of the way up the larger hill. Fortunately, the Pumpelly Trail doesn't go over the highest point of the peak, instead swinging to the north (your right) around it and avoiding a more strenuous climb. Beautiful views of the lakes and mountains to the north are presented, and watch for the summit of Monadnock ahead of you. While approaching this part of the trail, you permanently break through the treeline. The rest of the hike will be under open sky.
Perhaps half a mile past the Cascade Link intersection you'll come to the junction of the Spellman Trail.The Spellman Trail joins the Pumpelly just east of a small, steep saddle in the Pumpelly Trail. The Spellman enters through a copse of pines behind which it quickly drops out of sight. In recent years, this junction has been made much more obvious. Though you may have taken a moment or two to catch your breath if you took the Spellman Trail to this point, you may think you've celebrated too soon as you continue westward on the Pumpelly Trail and immediately climb a steep and rocky slope. But the slope is brief. Under 300 yards (260 m) farther on, you can see the summit beckoning you.
The Pumpelly Trail continues its slow climb over rock, with low bushes and flowers keeping you company. (Remember to look for blueberries and mountain cranberries in mid to late summer, especially off the beaten path. The rock cairn markers will lead you back to the trail if you don't go too far downslope.) This is breathtaking, top-of-the-world hiking that you will likely remember for some time.About half way between the Spellman Trail junction (with the Pumpelly Trail) and the Summit, a large rock cairn with a wooden marker at its peak marks the junction with the Red Spot Trail. The summit now looms large beyond the marker. On a hot summer day, you'll probably be getting a wonderfully cooling breeze—at least you hope that you will be. There are a few level areas and even some dips downward and the occasional steep uphill, but you're obviously on the final stretch here. While you may wander off the trail from time to time to pick blueberries or have lunch, avoid the temptation to just cut cross-country to the peak. Some of the pockets of brush that you can run into are surprisingly thick, and if you're hiking in spring or early summer, or if the summer has been rainy, you can find yourself up to your calves in mud.