Hiking Trails on Mt. Monadnock-Pumpelly
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Trail marker: a rock cairn
Following the entire east ridge of Mt. Monadnock, the Pumpelly Trail presents the gentlest climb on the mountain. Of course, there's a price: It's by far the longest trail, covering perhaps five miles from the trailhead to the summit. While three of our options traverse part of the trail, they utilize only the last mile and a half or so. Because the Pumpelly Trail stays on the ridge, it maintains a generally unintimidating slope. While this is occasionally broken by steep sections, compared with the typical climbs it's not too difficult. Virtually the entire trail is above treeline, though infrequent evergreens add some interest. The trail is almost always over bare rock. With nothing to interfere, the views are generally uninterrupted and beautiful.
In fruiting season, many sections of the trail are flanked by low mountain blueberries (which may also be found on the higher reaches of the other trails). 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 Cascade Link meets the Pumpelly near the base of several small peaks. Following the rock cairns toward the summit (westward), you'll pass along the northern sides of the tallest of these peaks, avoiding a strenuous climb. Beautiful views of the lakes and mountains to the north are presented, and see if you can see the summit of Monadnock ahead of you. Perhaps three-quarters of a mile along you'll come to the junction of the Spellman Trail.
The Spellman Trail joins the Pumpelly in a small, steep saddle in the Pumpelly Trail. Obvious when you know that it's there, it enters through a copse of pines behind which it quickly drops out of sight. 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, and at the top 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 toward the summit from the Spellman Trail junction with the Pumpelly Trail, a large rock cairn with a wooden marker coming from 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, 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.
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Last update and copyright © 31 July 1998 by Wayne Brink, email: