- Distance from parking to summit:
- about 2.25 miles/3.67 km (GPS checked).
- Ascending time:
- About two hours and 15 minutes.
- Descending time:
- About one hour and 30 minutes. The descent is unusually difficult and recommended only for very experienced hikers.
- Difficulty rating/rank:
- Crowd Factor:
- 2 (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being near-continuous contact with others.) You hear people ahead of and behind you, though you will rarely meet anyone, unless you (or they) are taking a break or going counter to the traffic flow: Ascending.
- Cascade Link
- Trail marker:
- A vertical white bar.
- Average Grade:
- Steepest 660 yards: 31%, with one stretch of about 200 yards/170 m at 45%.
|Quick Facts (HQ to Summit via Spellman Trail)|
|Location||Time (ascending) (approx.)||Distance (ascending) (approx.)||Altitude (approx.—non-barometric)|
|Trailhead||-||-||1335 ft. (406 m)|
|White Dot junction with Cascade Link (via Falcon Spring)||17 minutes||0.6 miles (980 m)||1746 ft. (532 m)|
|Cascade Link junction with Harling Trail||24 minutes||0.8 miles (1.28 km)||1895 ft. (578 m)|
|Birchtoft Trail Junction||35 minutes||1.03 miles (1.68 km)||2085 ft. (635 m)|
|Red Spot Trail Junction (bottom)||36 minutes||1.04 miles (1.69 km)||2096 ft. (639 m)|
|Cascade Link with Spellman Trail||42 minutes||1.16 miles (1.88 km)||2150 ft. (656 m)|
|Bottom of first, short steep section||46 minutes||1.2 miles (1.98 km)||2206 ft. (672 m)|
|Bottom of major steep section||51 minutes||1.3 miles (2.08 km)||2245 ft. (685 m)|
|Top of major steep section||One hour 8 minutes||1.4 miles (2.27 km)||2598 ft. (792 m)|
|Spellman Junction with Pumpelly Trail||One hour 15 minutes||1.5 miles (2.46 km)||2764 ft. (843 m)|
|First view of the summit||One hour 24 minutes||1.7 miles (2.72 km)||2877 ft. (877 m)|
|Pumpelly Junction with Red Spot Trail (upper)||One hour 30 minutes||1.9 miles (3.07 km)||2961 ft. (903 m)|
|Summit||1 hour 45 minutes||2.25 miles (3.67 km)||3165 ft. (965 m) (official)|
The Spellman Trail. Undoubtedly my favorite route, considered by many the most challenging trail on Mt. Monadnock. When you turn right on the Cascade Link where the Red Spot Trail branches off to the left, the Cascade Link levels off and passes through evergreen, mostly hemlock, forest for perhaps two hundred yards (190 m). The Spellman Trail comes in from the left along a straight and level stretch of trail at a junction that can be missed, though maintenance has made the junction much more obvious than it had been in the past. There is an old sign on a tree over the trail. Both trails through this section are quite narrow, typically allowing only single file travel, and if the lead person isn't paying attention, you just may go right by the junction. (Note that in 1998 and later, the trail crews have cut back the branches and smaller trees along these two trails, making the junction much more obvious. In the "you can't win" department, while this does make it easier to find the Spellman Trail, the early sections of the trail have lost much of their intimate and mysterious nature.) The photo to the left shows hikers leaving the Cascade Link and starting on the Spellman Trail.
The Spellman Trail continues along a level or slight incline for about 100 yards (90 m), when it turns to the left and traverses a steep section of mountain side, and crosses over a lovely little water fall. After climbing for maybe 20 yards, it levels off again.
The trail runs more or less level for another one hundred meters or so until it runs straight into a very steep slope. This is a wonderful spot to take a short break, drink some water, and catch your breath. You're at the bottom of the longest steep section of trail on the mountain: about 550 vertical feet in 530 horizontal feet (167 vertical meters in 161 horizontal m).
When you're ready to go on, you start up a section that has taken on a different character than the level forest floor you've been on. You find yourself scrambling up large, steep rocks, using your hands as much as your feet. While you've got a lot of overhead cover for the first hundred yards, and the trail has lots of damp soil filling the areas between the sloping rock faces, the trees thin out quickly and the rocks become the primary base of the trail bed. Stopping to catch your breath, you should turn to check out the fantastic views. About every minute. Or less.
This section of trail, as noted, rises some 500 or 600 feet in a horizontal distance of less than 1/4 mile—about 1/10 mile in fact. Acrophobic people may not like this trail (especially for descending), because there are many sections where you might feel that you'd fall quite a distance if you turn to look away from the slope. (Actually, in the worst sections you'd probably fall no more than 15-20 feet, and it would really be sliding or tumbling rather than falling—usually. Still, there is real danger.) After what seems like a never-ending climb, the trail becomes less steep and some cover is provided by the evergreens. Take a few minutes to catch your breath, then continue the last 200 yards (190 m) or so to the junction with the Pumpelly Trail.
Challenging physically and (for some) mentally, the Spellman route is about three-quarters of a mile longer than the White Dot Trail, and it's definitely more interesting. Surprisingly, though, it doesn't take that much longer than traveling the White Dot, largely because Cascade Link and the Pumpelly Trail are comparatively level allowing you to move with reasonable speed. When in my best shape, I've done this route in the same amount of time it would take me to do the more direct routes.