The Heart of New England
Is Mount Monadnock, North America's Most Climbed Peak, Overrated?
By Cliff Calderwood














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. After all at 3,165 feet it’s hardly
a Mount Fuji, or even the geographical
closer Mount Washington.

In fact if so many people climb it each weekend it can’t be very difficult… can it?

So recently I decided to hike to the summit with one of my sons and see what all
the hullabaloo was about. I discovered far from being overrated it can be a very
demanding but rewarding experience.

Preparation and Choice of Trail is Key

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 building lunch and snacks. This is a carry-in carry-out park
and though you can buy water at the base shop, food purchases are limited.

Wear sturdy hiking boots as opposed to sneakers as you’ll need the support and
grip the boots provide.

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, more varied, and a little longer, White Cross Trail. I’m glad we did.

We began our ascent to the summit at 9:00am. We didn’t see many people on
our trail, and wondered if this was a slow day for hiker traffic, but later we
found out the real reason.

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.  Now, you don’t need ropes or rock climbing
experience, but it’s steep in places for long stretches, and I’m not sure I’d want to
take really young kids on the hike.

The mosquitoes were bothersome in the lower elevations as the vegetation is
thick and moist, so make sure you’ve plenty of protection and of course
sunscreen on a sunny day.

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 southern and western areas of the
Monadnock region, and Bald Rock.

Hiking Above Treeline

As you climb further the trees become smaller – the Red Spruce that was tall and
proud near the base, above 2,500 feet become stunted and barely reaches your
shoulder. We saw a number of Garter snakes on the trail as well.

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, which as you get closer to the top
provides a wider expansive view of the Monadnock region.

The Wrong Choice Back to Base

My son and I reached the summit after climbing for about 1 hour 40 minutes. We
had clear views of Mount Wachusett in Northern Massachusetts, and the distant
Green Mountains of Vermont to the west.

We took a few photos and found a quiet protected spot for a well-earned rest,
and ate our lunch at close to 3,165 feet. The sun warmed us and the food gave us
the energy for the return journey.

As we’d climbed up on the White Cross, we decided to return to base on the
White Dot Trail – big mistake!

Now I learnt why the White Cross Trail was so deserted. The White Dot Trail is
the most popular, and we also started our trek early compared to the masses.
Now we were descending down 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. It felt like being in the middle of
Grand Central!

But we did get a different perspective and views going down, which were every
bit as stunning as those on the White Cross Trail.

We got back to base after being on the mountain for a little over 4 hours.

Mount Monadnock is Plenty of 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 for your first time, and 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.

Whichever trail you choose if you prepare well with equipment, water, and
energy snacks, and you’re in good condition, then you should be able to get to
the summit and back in about 4-5 hours… and add your name to the tens of
thousands that have already reached the summit of Mount Monadnock in
southern New Hampshire.

My son and I both enjoyed the hike and the time we spent together overcoming
the challenge of Mount Monadnock. It brought us not only closer together but
we both realized 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.

About the author
Cliff Calderwood is contributing editor of a leading New England destinations
site. He doesn't climb that many mountains in New England but enjoys writing
about the region, and you can pick up your free vacation reports at his site:
New England Vacations Guide.

Click here for lodging in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
On top of Mt. Monadnock, New Hampshire.  Photo by Mary C. Lee.  Click here for more information on this photographer...
Mt. Monadnock in the distance.  Photo by Marcia Passos Duffy
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
Contact| The Heart of New England HOME | Search

Click Here to Get Your FREE Weekly Newsletter Today!
Join us on
Facebook or
Twitter
for exclusive updates
on travel specials,
giveaways
& more!


Click here for your FREE
weekly newsletter! (And
get 12 FREE desktop
backgrounds)


Bring the heart of
New Hampshire into your
home with beautiful,
affordable, high-quality
New England prints.
Visit our
New Hampshire Gallery
today!


Visit our
Marketplace for
everything New England!


More Travel Info:
New Hampshire