Mount Monadnock is a free-standing mountain, nestled between the towns of Jaffrey and Dublin in New Hampshire. Also known as Grand Monadnock to differentiate it from other New Hampshire and Vermont mountains featuring Monadnock in their names. Mount Monadnock is the most hiked mountain in the United States and it is said to be the second most hiked mountain trail in the world.
Mount Fiji in Japan takes the top spot with around 300,000 hikers a year whilst Mount Monadnock has around 125,000 hikers enjoying the beauty of the viewpoints. It is claimed, however, that Mount Tai in China receives over two million visitors per annum, many of whom are religious pilgrims stopping off at the shrines that adorn the mountainside.
Mount Monadnock offers excellent, farseeing views over Jaffrey, Dublin, and the surrounding wilderness. This is due to it being the highest point in a 30-mile radius, standing at 3165 feet, 1000 feet higher than any in the surrounding area. From the peak of the mountain, you are offered stunning views across an open landscape. The clearness of the horizon is such so, that when you look westwards it is as if you are in the shoes of one the early frontiers, carving out a path in the new world. Its vast natural surroundings make you feel like you are in deep wilderness, yet the comforts of home are not too far.
Mount Monadnock is located in south New Hampshire and is merely a two-hour drive away from Boston. It’s easily accessible location makes it an ideal day trip if you live in Boston or are visiting it on vacation. In fact, if you’re lucky, when you’re standing at the peak of Mount Monadnock you can even see the distant skyline of Boston on a clear day.
When to hike Mt. Monadnock
Mount Monadnock is open year-round. Due to it having fairly straightforward trails it can even be hiked when there’s snow on it. Just be sure to always check weather conditions before you tie up your hiking boots! Hot summer days should also be forewarned. Mount Monadnock is bare at the top due to early farmers in the area burning down the hillside due to them believing that there were wolves hiding there. The blaze lasted for weeks resulting in no trees above 2000 feet. This means that you’re exposed with no shade from a hot sun should you choose to hike in the summer months, so be sure to pack a sunhat and sunscreen.
Spring is an ideal time to climb the mountain also. With the snow melting away and the weather warming up, you can admire the newly sprouting leaves and grass as you make your way to the top. The perfect time in our view though is to hike Mount Monadnock in the fall. The changing auburn colors along with the soft crunching of leaves beneath your feet as you walk up and look down is truly mesmerizing and something that we truly appreciate.
Due to the popularity of the mountain spring and fall are recommended if you want fewer people around. This means you can enjoy the beauty of the viewpoints without the noise and chatter of fellow hikers disrupting your thought patterns. After all, enjoying nature is something that should give you peace of mind and allow you to take some time away from the daily bustle of life.
History of Mt. Monadnock and why it should be on your bucket list
Mount Monadnock also carries a fair bit of historical significance meaning that you’re not only climbing the mountain for the views, but you’re also walking through history. The first recorded ascent was in 1725 by Captain Samuel Willard and the men under his command. The purpose of this ascent was to use the mountain’s prominent position on the landscape as a lookout point for Native Americans. As aforementioned the surrounding area was settled by farmers who set the hill alight in the early nineteenth century.
The transcendentalist philosophical movement was born in the early nineteenth century in Massachusetts. The philosophy was honed at Harvard University and it grew on from there, coming with it some of America’s finest thinkers. The core line of thinking of transcendentalism is of the fundamental goodness of people and of nature.
The proponents of transcendentalism believe that this authentic goodness has been corrupted by society and that humans are at their best when they are autonomous and reliant of themselves. This self-reliance is something that has become a bedrock of the American way of thinking, that if you’re hardworking and self-sufficient then you can create a good life for yourself.
Mount Monadnock drew much inspiration for this school of thought. Due to it’s relatively close proximity to Harvard University many of the philosophers of transcendentalism spent much time on the rock and included it in their writings. The foreman of the philosophy Ralph Waldo Emerson spent much of his free time on the hillside and even wrote one of his poems “Monadnoc” on the mountain. Henry David Thoreau also spent a great deal of his time on the mountain, observing the botany and fauna, influencing his ecological writings. Both Emerson and Thoreau have outlooks on the mountain named after them.
The importance of these writings, along with its proximity to towns and cities meant that the mountain began to grow in such popularity that by the 1850s a hotel, known as the halfway house was erected halfway up the mountain. It had the capacity to accommodate 100 guests and stables that could hold 75 horses. The halfway house burned down in 1954 and was never reconstructed afterward. The widespread introduction of affordable automobiles during this period means that it was no longer necessary to turn hiking Mount Monadnock into an overnight trip.
How to prepare for the hike
For every outdoor expedition, you should plan and prepare in advance to make sure that your trip is safe and enjoyable. Despite Mount Monadnock being a climb that is suitable for beginners, appropriate clothing and footwear should be worn. If it’s a hot day, wear loose clothing, wear a cap and apply sunscreen. With there being no treeline for the top 1000 feet you shall be exposed to the sun without anywhere for shade for 1-2 hours. This means that precautions should be taken when climbing in this type of weather. Be sure to pack extra water and salty snacks to replenish the sodium lost through perspiration.
If you’re planning a hike in the winter season or on a cooler day be sure to dress up warmly. With access being open year-round it can be hiked in any season. Additionally, pack extra clothing no matter what season it is. Although it may not feel too cold when you’re at the foot of the mountain when you reach closer to the summit the temperature shall drop around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees for every 3000 feet of elevation).
This is particularly true of Mount Monadnock as it is the highest peak for many miles and the top of the rock is barren. This means that you shall be exposed to more wind than you would be climbing a mountain that is surrounded by other mountains. It’s relative proximity to the ocean also means that at times a strong Atlantic breeze can travel your way. Heres a quick packing list applicable for both Mount Monadnock and any hike in general:
- Comfortable hiking boots
- Waterproof/windbreaker jacket
- Long pants
- Gloves (not necessary in summer)
- Hat (wool for winter, a cap for summer)
- Food and water
- Flashlight or headlamp
- First aid kit
- Pocket knife/ swiss army knife
- Lighter or Matches (note that fires are illegal on Mount Monadnock)
Since it is a very popular hiking spot it is perhaps advisable to begin your hike early in the morning, particularly in the summer months. This means that you may have a bit of solitude once you reach the summit of mount monadnock. This is also advisable for warm days as it means that you shall miss the glaring afternoon sun later on in the day. To end what should have been an enjoyable outing covered in sunburn is not fun, and will tarnish the memory of your trip
Mount Monadnock is easily accessible by car with a carpark being situated at the foot of the mountain. Day passes of the carpark can be purchased in advance to ensure that you’re guaranteed a spot. There is road access to all of the trails starting points. A couple of the roads are dirt tracks, however, but greater detail of the trail access points shall be discussed later on in the article
You may wish to turn your hiking trip into a camping trip. Fortunately, there is a campsite that is onsite that operates during the summer months. The campsite is designed for families, has hot showers, and a playpark, and additionally, there are cabins for rent. This makes Mount Monadnock the perfect place for a weekend getaway into nature. Although you may have a four-legged family member, please take note that pets are not permitted on the trails on Mount Monadnock.
The different routes
There are a few different hiking trails to the summit of varying length and difficulty. The most popular trail is the White Dot Trail which begins at the Monadnock State Park headquarters. At around 1.9 miles in length, the White Dot Trail is the shortest yet steepest trail to the mountain’s summit. Take note that the steep sections are around halfway up and on the final ascent. This route shall take you around 3-4 hours to reach the summit and return to your car.
One of the other main trails is the White Cross Trail, which is a slightly easier alternative to the White Dot Trail. This one has less steep points than the White Dot, making it easier if you are with children or elderly people. It’s every so slightly longer at 2.1 miles and it rejoins the White Dot Trail for the final ascent. Again allow 3-4 hours for a round trip on this trail. Additionally, along both this trail and the White Dot trail, there are park rangers available to assist you along your adventure.
The White Arrow Trail is seen as being the most straightforward hike. This passes along the Old Toll Road on the southern side of the mountain. At the access point of the Old Toll Road there is a ranger stationed here who can sell you additional water should you require it on your way up. On this track, you shall come along a clearing at some point, which is where the mountain’s halfway house was situated. This trail is 2.3 miles in length and like the previous two trails, it takes around 3-4 hours.
The Dublin Trail, on the north side, is another direct route that ascends in balanced and bearable stages. The route begins in a small parking area next to the Old Troy Road. Bear in mind the car accessibility of this road is seasonal due to it being a dirt road. This route is around 2.1 miles in length and again takes 3-4 hours to hike to the roundtrip.
The Marlboro Trail takes you across a ridge throughout your hike, offering you excellent views over the duration of your way up the mountainside. It begins to elevate more around the halfway point and flattens out when you’re on the ridge. To access the Marlboro Trail you drive along Shaker Farm Road. This road is bumpy and harsh, so take care when driving your car along the track. Like the aforementioned trails, it takes 3-4 hours to hike, with the trail being around 2 miles in length.
From the Gilson Pond Campground, you can access the Birchtoft Trail / Red Spot Trail. This is a lengthier route that stands at 3.5 miles. The initial 2 miles is easy and a slow ascent whilst the last part is steeper and more moderate elevation gain. Give yourself and your companions 5-6 hours to navigate yourself through this route.
The longest trail leading to the summit is the Pumpelly Trail which comes from the north-eastern side. The first part of the hike takes you over hilly ground for the first 1.8 miles. Afterward, there is a fairly sharp ascent up to the first vantage point around halfway through your hike. You then continue through the trees and hike along a ridge for the final mile, giving you impressive views. This hike should take you around 7 hours in total. Also please be aware that street parking at the beginning of the trail is limited and the route markings are limited so it is best to ensure that you take a map with you should you opt for this trail.
Being a responsible hiker
When it comes to hiking in the outdoors, one must be responsible as to not tarnish natural and scenic surroundings. Given that Mount Monadnock has an annual footfall of 125000 people this can cause strain to the mountain. Be sure to bring a spare bag to keep ahold of your trash as to not tarnish this mountain of national significance. The park rangers are cracking down upon those who choose to drop waste. Those who are caught can face fines of up to $2000 or up to a year in prison.
Other measures have been taken to minimize the environmental impact of visitors. This includes turning cars away from the mountain once the parking lot is full in order to reduce the amount of garbage that can be dropped in a single day. Bathrooms have been installed at the foot of the mountain as well as port-a-loos along the trail in order to stop defecation on the trail.
There is a reason that Mount Monadnock is the most hiked mountain in the states. The beauty of its viewpoints romanticized in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau caused it to become a popular weekend spot for people from around New Hampshire and Massachusetts. It’s proximity to Boston makes it a perfect way to jump into nature. Although it’s only an hour drive from Boston, you’ll struggle to discover civilization from the mountain’s viewpoints, giving you a full immersion in nature.
There are various routes to the summit of Mount Monadnock. They are fairly straightforward and it’s the perfect mountain to hike if you’re a complete beginner to hiking. It’s gentle slopes also make it the ideal place to take your children or elderly friends and relatives. If you are an experienced hiker you may turn your nose up at Mount Monadnock due to its easiness and its popularity. However, its wide, 360-degree views, coupled with its history in the transcendency movement make it a worthwhile day trip if you find yourself in Boston or the surrounding area.
Bonus tip: Check out this short video explaining the essentials for a safe and enjoyable hiking trip!