Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, New Hampshire is North America’s most climbed peak, and reputed to be the second most climbed mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji in Japan.
Though I’ve been close to the mountain on other trips I’ve never climbed it, and really was a tad perplexed by its popularity. So recently I decided to hike to the summit with one of my sons and see what all the hullabaloo was about.
We arrived at the Mount Monadnock visitor center at around 8:30am, and knowing it was going to be a warm 80+ degree-day, ensured we had plenty of water, and energy snacks. This is a carry-in carry-out park and though you can buy water at the base shop, food purchases are limited.
There are two popular trails up to the summit: White Cross and White Dot. The White Dot is steeper, and as it was our first climb on the mountain we chose the “easier,” and a little longer, White Cross Trail.
MOUNT MONADNOCK IS NOT A WALK IN THE PARK
Even on the White Cross Trail, climbing Mount Monadnock is not a “walk in the park.” It’s an arduous hike to the summit – after all you’re climbing 1,900 feet in a relatively short distance.
The lower section of the trail is dense wood and so the main attraction is identifying the variety of trees and plants along the path, and keeping your focus on the next step. At a little over half-way up the mountain you’ll come to a clearing where you’ll get magnificent views of the southern and western areas of the Monadnock region.
As you climb above 2,500 feet the spruces become stunted and barely reach your shoulder.
At around 2,700 feet you’ll have an unobstructed view of the bare and rocky summit, and just 100 feet further the White Cross and White Dot Trails connect, and you’ll follow the White Dot to the bare summit.
The climb to the summit of Mount Monadnock from here was the most exhilarating for me. Most of it’s above tree line and as you climb you’ll have stunning views of the surrounding area.
THE WRONG CHOICE BACK TO BASE
My son and I reached the summit after climbing for about 1 hour 40 minutes. We had clear vistas of Mount Wachusett in Northern Massachusetts, and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the west.
We took a few photos and found a quiet protected spot for a well-earned rest. As we’d climbed up on the White Cross, we decided to return to base on the White Dot Trail – big mistake!
The White Dot Trail is the most popular, and we found ourselves descending on the steeper trail at the height of hikers using the trail to ascend. On many occasions we had to wait for a long line of hikers coming up to pass, before we could go down.
We got back to base after being on the mountain for a little over 4 hours.
MOUNT MONADNOCK IS PLENTY A MOUNTAIN FOR MOST
I am no longer perplexed why so many people climb Mount Monadnock. It’s a wonderful experience, and most people in reasonable condition can make it to the top. I’d recommend taking the White Cross Trail to the summit and back down if you don’t do a lot of climbing. If you’re an ardent hiker then you’ll probably enjoy the challenge of the White Dot Trail, and then come back down the White Cross for some varied terrain.
The state park has over 40 miles of trails, and so the one’s I’ve mentioned are not the only ones on the mountain and to the summit. A number of longer trails can be found on the eastern, northern, and western flank of the mountain.
My son and I enjoyed the hike, and we both came to realize you don’t have to climb Everest to experience the wonder of this planet – Mount Monadnock is plenty for most.
The Monadnock State Park is located off Route 124 near Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and is open all year round. But the best times to climb are late spring through to the popular fall when the weather is more predictable, and the views stunning.
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