Climbing the World's Most Popular Mountain

Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire

What mountain have more families in the world climbed than any other? That honor is said to belong to Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire, a 3,165-foot-tall peak in southern New Hampshire that rises above the New England landscape like a grand castle over a village.

More than 125,000 hikers climb it each year, and for a while there's been friendly debate about whether the most-climbed mountain award goes to Monadnock or Mount Fuji, Japan. Both are challenging yet accessible climbs within ranges of major metropolitan areas: Monadnock is about two hours away from Boston, in Dublin and Jaffrey, New Hampshire, about ten miles north of the Massachusetts-New Hampshire line.

Southern New Englanders are passionate about this summit, which towers over everything nearby; on clear days its upper, bare ledges offer views from Boston to the White Mountains to the north. On such a day all six New England states are said to be visible, a claim that can be made about no other mountain. Monadnock has served as both hobby (Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson climbed to the top) and inspiration (Willa Cather and Rudyard Kipling were fans) to artists over the centuries.

I have had the privilege of climbing Monadnock in every month of the year. Last year my friend, Lucy, and I took my son (then age six) and her two daughters (ages six and eight) on their first climb to the top, a crowning achievement for all of us.

In our area, a child's first hike up Monadnock is a rite of passage. Every young hiker should eventually be rewarded with some sort of celebratory climb—the kid-friendly equivalent of scaling a miniscule Everest. Altitude and difficulty, of course, are not at all the driving forces—simply the supreme satisfaction of setting a goal and achieving it, getting to the top and knowing you're there, and having lots of fun along the way.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 20 Jun 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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