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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hiking Mount Monadnock, Southern New Hampshire

This was one of those weekends that I did so much it actually felt LONG.  Friday night at home, Saturday a drive to New Hampshire to hike, and Sunday a trip to Massachusetts to dive.  I have so much to share with you all so let's just start in order with my day in New Hampshire.  With my final New England summit happening this weekend (the beast that is Katahdin, the highest point in Maine) I knew I needed to get some hiking with elevation in.  This can be a challenge in Coastal Connecticut where our hikes are often a more leisurely stroll through the woods.  When a friend who is also joining me on Katahdin suggested Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire, I happily made the 2.5 hour trek north and tagged along. 

Break with a view on my way up the Lost Farm Trail
Mount Monadnock, also known as Grand Monadnock, is said to be one of the most climbed mountains in the world.  Some sources claim that its trails host approximately 125,000 hikers per year.  Some statistics say it is the second most-climbed mountain on earth, following only Japan's Mount Fuji.  I also read that on a clear day, you can see all six New England states, and up to 100 miles in all directions.  But- I am just not buying all that.  I get that its prominent peak, relatively short distance, and southern location/proximity to major cities like Boston make it an easy day hike for a lot of people, but second to Mt Fuji?  And all six New England states?  I'm calling bullshit.  Regardless of what your opinions are on these statistics, just know that when you make it to the summit, you will not be alone. 

The popular trails are packed with people from every walk of life (you will see people hiking in jeans and flip flops).  However, if you want solitude, I promise you can find it if you ask the right people and do a little bit of planning.  I talked to the park ranger when I pulled into the park and she gave me some great trips on which trails to take to a) avoid the crowds and b) make the hike into a loop instead of a straight out and back on the most well traveled trails.   All in all I enjoyed this hike because the 360 views were amazing, the workout just the right kind of challenge, and solitude could be found even on a sunny summer Saturday. 

View of the mountain from one of the back roads

After a quick chat with the ranger, we decided to ascend on the less popular but longer route, following the Parker Trail to the Lost Farm Trail, leading to Cliff Walk, a small connecter trail, and finally the White Arrow Trail that lead us to the summit. We would then take the popular quicker trail down. On our ascent, we saw a total of three people the entire way up the mountain. We had the trail virtually to ourselves, leap frogging this one couple as we made our way up the mountain. The summit and the descent was a different story. The summit was crowded with at least 50 people at the peak and on the way down the trail provided some serious sorts of people watching with their insane lack of trail etiquette. We descended down the White Cross/White Dot Arrow trail and witnessed 12 people hiking in jeans (yes I counted). To put this into perspective, I counted 4x the amount of people hiking in jeans alone than I did of humans on the entire way up. And this is just talking jeans, I am not even going to go into the other nightmares I saw ascending the trail in improper footwear, lack of supplies, or insanity such as panty hose. What was worst than the unprepared outfits was the etiquette of the humans I encountered. People blasting music on loud stereos, kids running around like maniacs, and my favorite, people getting tired and sitting down RIGHT in the middle of the trail. I am happy to see families and individuals out enjoying our beautiful public lands but I beg of you all to do a little bit of research into trail etiquette. I even wrote a post about it if you need a quick refresher.

Enjoying an Apple at Thoreau's Seat 

I was so happy to have the trail to ourselves as we made the ascent, not having to fight my way through people and being able to take pictures without 45 people in it.  The trail was beautiful, with gorgeous views of New Hampshire and plenty of places to stop, take a break, and enjoy the gorgeous views.  I was a little surprised that this was such a popular mountain given that some of the terrain is indeed challenging.  The last 1/2 mile to the summit is filled with large boulders and some climbing that required both your hands and feet.  Sections are steep and we took a few breaks to catch our breath.  While the mountain is popular, don't be fooled into thinking this is a quick and easy ascent.  With the humidity and warmer temperatures, we went through a lot of water and found the hike to be just the right amount of challenging in certain spots.    The views at the summit were beautiful and I was happy to have a clear day to take in the beauty of the green New England summer landscape.  While the summit is busy, there is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy your lunch with a view.  This was my first hike with trekking poles back here in New England and I was happy to have them, especially on the descent.  

Views from the Summit

-- This mountain was a favorite of Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote a poem about climbing it as well as Thoreau who used to camp there frequently.  We passed Thoreau's Trail and Thoreau's Seat, a beautiful large boulder overlooking New Hampshire below. 
-- In 1987, Mount Monadnock was designated a National Natural Landmark.
-- Mt. Monadnock is the centerpiece of the 5,000 acre Monadnock State Park. 
-- There are 40 miles of hiking trails.
-- The Mountain is known for it's prominence.  The word "monadnock" originally comes from the Abnacki Indian language meaning "mountain that stands alone." 
-- Mt. Monadnock forms one end of the roughly 50-mile Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail.  It is also the terminus of the 117-mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (I hiked a section of this during my 7 Sisters Hike).

Entrance Sign into the Park

Season/Hours: Monadnock State Park is open year-round. The Old Toll Road will be staffed and visitor services will be provided starting on the weekend of April 14th. Day use fees will be required on days when the area is staffed.

Contact: Hikers interested in finding out what the conditions are prior to heading out can call the park directly at (603) 532-8862. I also suggest calling to see if there is still parking spaces open at the main entrance. Website

Facilities: At the State Park Headquarters, there are large bathrooms, shower facilities, a large parking lot, a Park Store, and a visitor's center. The Visitor's Center has various displays about the mountain and safe hiking practices. There is a scale outside where you can way your pack before making your ascent. The Park Store has various supplies from t shirts to camping supplies and food. I bought a tank top and eyed one of the bandana's that had the trail map printed on it. Also drooled a little over the ice cream cooler.

Admission: 5$ a person at the gate

Dogs: Not allowed anywhere in the park. Rangers even asked if there were pets in your car before you enter the park.

Kids: We saw a few kids on this hike but due to the elevation and rocky/boulder area near the summit, I would say older/experienced kids only. 

Camping:  There is a campground with 21 tent sites and 7 youth group sites

My actual route and trail stats

Hiking Date: August 19, 2017. 75-80 degrees with high humidity and not too many bugs. Fog turned to clear skies. Amazing 360 views at the summit nice and clear. 

Elevation: Start: 1,351 Summit: 3,134 Gained: 1,924

Routes:  There are several routes up the mountain.  View the Trail Map Here.  I did the less popular but longer route (making it a loop), following the Parker Trail to the Lost Farm Trail, leading to Cliff Walk, a small connecter trail, and finally the White Arrow Trail that lead us to the summit. I went down the White Dot Trail. 

Trailhead:  There are several different trailheads you can start at the make your way to the summit.  The most popular is also the main entrance to the state park (the trailheads of white spot, white cross, cascade link, etc).  If you plan to do a loop like I did, play CLOSE attention to signage.  There are White Dot Trails, White Arrow Trails, and White Cross trails that will take you to very different places if you do not pay attention.  The goal is to get back to where you started, not the opposite trailhead.  

Distance:  5.6 miles if done in this loop (with some backtracking).  If you go up the most popular trails, you can do this hike in 3.8 miles round trip if you go up and down the White Dot Trail. 

Terrain:  Moderately steep with rock ledges.  Trail starts on a dirty path but then switches over to rock ledge, large boulders, and will require use of your hands as you get closer to the peak. 

Suggestions:  I recommend bringing a set of trekking poles on this hike.  They are a great way to include an upper body workout, and make it easier on your knees when making your way up and down some of the steeper sections of the trail. I also recommend you bring bug spray, sun screen, snacks, and PLENTY of water.  

Start of our hike- the Parker Trail behind the Store
Dam at the start of the trail
Photo op off the Lost Farm Trail 
Sweaty Stop along the trail 

First view of the summit from the Cliff Walk Trail 

More technical sections of the White Arrow trail, approaching the summit

Crowds at the summit on a sunny August Saturday 
GoPro Selfies at the Summit 

At the summit, heading across to the White Dot Trail  

Posing at the summit

Making our way back down the popular White Dot/White Cross Trail 


  1. We live in Jaffrey and my husband and I hike this mountain all the time. The White Dot trail can be a nightmare if you do it on a weekend day after 10:00 a.m. We stay away from the trail if at all possible. There are tons of other trails to do that are great too. If you can find the cave that is amazing too.....

  2. The guy in the background looks familiar. I assume he was your hiking companion. How well did he do? Was he able to keep up with you?

  3. In the background in one of the photos. Next to you in a couple others. Sorry, Ryan.

  4. OBviously when I lived in New Hampshire I stuck to the white mountains since they were literally in my backyard. I'm visiting in less than a month and my sister was talking about us hiking this. Thanks for the info on it. I agree I doubt it is the second most hiked mountain in the world. -Heather @


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