Climbing the World's Most Popular Mountain
This grand dame of a mountain is crisscrossed by 40 miles of trails of varying difficulty. Monadnock offers main trails plus a network of connecting trails with enchanting-sounding locations like Thoreau Seat and Emerson Seat. Monadnock State Park Headquarters in Jaffrey offers a free map of hiking trails. A good source of detailed trail descriptions is the AMC White Mountain Guide, Appalachian Mountain Club. Some of Monadnock's major trails are:
White Dot and White Cross Trails: Two of the more popular routes, both about two miles to the summit, beginning near the warden's office at Monadnock State Park. Because of their popularity, try to avoid them on weekends, especially in the fall.
Old Toll Road and White Arrow Trail. One of my personal favorites, this is a bit less crowded than the White Dot and White Cross, and offers a broad, unpaved toll road for the first part of the climb, good for chatting with fellow hikers. The trail runs about 2.3 miles from the start of the toll road to the summit.
Dublin Path, about 2.2 miles to the summit. This northern trail is a link in the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway and is of average difficulty.
Marlboro Trail. One of the older trails on the mountain, about 2.5 miles to the top. Of average difficulty, this can be a less-crowded trail on busy summer days, weekends, or holidays.
Pumpelly Trail. Named for the ancestor of one of my friends, this is a rambling, scenic trail that traverses ridges, about 4.5 miles long from its start on Lake Road in Dublin to the summit.
Mondadnock State Park Headquarters, Jaffrey, NH, (603-532-8862). Take Dublin Rd., off Rte. 124, and watch for Park signs.
Camping at Monadnock State Park. 21 tent sites are available; for reservations call (603) 271-3628.
Hiking the Monadnock Region: 30 Day Hikes and Nature Walks in the Heart of New England, by Joe Adamowicz, et al.
50 More Hikes in New Hampshire: Day Hikes and Backpacking Trips from Mount Monadnock to Mount Magalloway, by Daniel Doan, Ruth Doan MacDougall.
Best Hikes with Children in Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine, by Cynthia C. Lewis, Thomas J. Lewis.
While Mount Monadnock is a great family hike, explorers must be careful. Its bare summit offers great views, but can also present danger. Avoid the climb during thunderstorms, extreme storms or temperatures, and be sure to allow enough time to finish the climb before dark. Be prepared for summit temperatures to be at least 10 to 15 degrees cooler than temperatures at the base of the mountain, with the possibility of wind, sometimes severe weather. Check the forecast before you set out.
Take the same precautions you would with any hike of this nature: bring plenty of water, food and snacks, hiking boots, a detailed hiking map, appropriate layers of clothing, a first aid kit, and sunscreen and bug spray when appropriate. Monadnock offers a strenuous climb with lots of boulders and scrambling, so children need to have plenty of stamina and coordination before attempting it.
One final word of caution: When you reach the summit and head down, be sure to find the trail by which you arrived. I once met a group of Girl Scouts heading down the opposite side of the mountain from which they needed to be! If you want to take a different trail down the mountain than the one you started, be sure you'll end up at the same parking area, or else arrange a car spot beforehand.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication