Old Halfway House/White Arrow Trails(Trailhead coordinates: 42.83554 N, 72.11387 W)
The Old Halfway House/White Arrow Trails combination is a direct route to the summit.
- Distance from parking lot to summit:
- about two and 1/2 miles.
- Ascending time:
- About one hour and 45 minutes. Perhaps less—one of the fastest routes up the mountain, though not by much.
- Descending time:
- About one hour and fifteen minutes.
- Difficulty rating/rank:
- Crowd Factor:
- 4 (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being near-continuous contact with others.) Quite a few people use this trail, though limited parking restricts the relative numbers.
- Old Toll Road parking lot, NH route 124.
- Trail marker:
- None on the Halfway House Trail, a white arrow pointing ahead or in the direction of travel on the White Arrow Trail (eventually).
- Average Grade:
Monadnock State Park maintains a parking lot just off of Rt. 124, about 2.4 miles (3.5 km) west of the main road to the state park. Entry fee is $4.00 per person (May, 2008). This parking lot is the gateway to the widest selection of trails on the mountain.
There isn't a single trail that goes to the top of the mountain from Rt. 124.
From the parking lot, you must begin your hike by taking either the Old Halfway
House Trail or the Old Toll Road, which generally parallel one another. The Old
Halfway House Trail gives you a comparatively easy start. There are a couple
locations where it will tax your breathing, but it generally goes through what
once were probably farm fields now grown over with broadleaf trees.
Much of the growth is fairly open, though gently shaded. The climb is over well-packed dirt, with a few rocks and roots to watch out for. Several sections of the trail are quite level, though not near the end where it gets steep briefly before rejoining the Old Toll Road just before the Halfway House Site. The Cart Path goes off to the left to join the Marian Trail just before this junction
The White Arrow Trail starts where the Old Halfway House Trail ends. The Old Toll Road's modern version turns away from the trail just before the junction with the Old Halfway House Trail, but the original road continues along with the trail up to the Halfway House Site. At the Halfway House Site, you can continue up the White Arrow Trail, or you could choose to take either of two other routes from the site, that lead to at least five other routes going up or across the mountain.
The White Arrow Trail is the most used, most obvious trail, straight ahead.
It quickly turns quite steep, and is filled with uneven rocks and protruding
roots. Much of the trail is obviously a watercourse in wet weather. While you
may encounter some dampness in drier times, there is no running water and no
springs along the trail then.
A little less than a quarter mile past the Halfway House Site, the trail to Monte Rosa goes off to the left. Just past that, the Fairy Spring Trail also branches to the left.
The trees and undergrowth are mostly broadleaf through this whole area. As you gain altitude, there is some increase in evergreens, mostly hemlocks. The trail itself generally doesn't ease up. It maintains both its steepness and ruggedness, with a fair amount of loose rock. Unlike most of the other trails, the vegetation doesn't open up to give you a good view of the countryside until you are quite high.
Eventually, you start to encounter a few long stretches of relatively smooth rock face. These are quite steep, and may require a moment or two to determine the best routes across them. As these faces increase, the trees slowly turn more evergreen, thinning out, and eventually almost disappear. At this point, you may be able to see the top, still quite high above you, but surprisingly close looking.
This trail crosses the Amphitheater Trail, which connects to several other trails and occasionally passes some beautiful, level rock areas where you get great views of the countryside while taking advantage of the opportunity for a break.
You get another good look at the summit when about fifteen minutes below it. It looks enticingly close, but you've still got some steep and rough climbing ahead of you. Just before the end of the trail, you find yourself facing a very steep and tricky section of trail, much of it across almost smooth rock. It makes for some interesting climbing, but soon you are past it, and the trail joins the Dublin Trail about one hundred feet northwest of the summit.
While going down any of the trails is different than
going up them, in part because you and your legs are tired and in part because
gravity is working with you instead of against you, going down the upper reaches
of the White Arrow Trail is particularly difficult. It is steep, there are few
long stretches where you can take even steps, and the roughness of the trail
makes it hard to find good places to place your feet. In addition, it is largely
made of small rocks, many of which are loose. Others may differ, but I think
that this trail is the most dangerous of the routes from the summit. It's not
that you would necessarily fall to your death, but I imagine that it's very easy
to trip or loose your footing and break a leg or smash your head into a rock.
But that doesn't mean that it isn't fun to hike! And in my many climbs up the mountain, I've never encountered anyone with any kind of serious injury (and I have heard of very few).