Climbing to the top of New Hampshire's famous peak
Mount Monadnock, a 3,165-foot-tall mountain in southwestern New Hampshire, is among the most-hiked peaks in the world. Multiple trails of varying length and difficulty wend their way to the distinctive bald spot at the top. The most popular, the White Dot trail, takes around four hours to hike, round trip.
White Dot Trail
The White Dot Trail, the most-used trail in the park, begins at the park headquarters. Pines and hardwood trees shade hikers on the uphill, well-worn path for almost the first mile of the 1.9-mile trail. Hikers then traverse rock ledges before heading into a section that combines forest and rock ledges, before they reach The Chute, a bare ledge with views of the surrounding states and villages. After dipping back into the woods, the trail follows a steep, rocky path to the summit of Mount Monadnock.
The Pumpelly Trail, the longest at 4.4 miles, begins at Dublin Lake. Parking is sparse at the trailhead, and the first part of the hike is on private property. Hikers need to stay on the trail. One of the oldest trails on the mountain, the 2.2 mile Dublin Trail is among the easier hikes because of its relatively gradual elevation gain compared to some of the other trails. The 2.1 mile Marlboro Trail has the longest steep stretch. Many of the 40 miles of trails on Monadnock intersect, making it possible to create a route that includes the features that most interest hikers.
A few tips for climbing Mount Monadnock
Check the weather. Portions of some trails are muddy after a rain, and since the park is open year-round, snow is a possibility in the winter. Snow-covered trails are hard to follow, and rime ice may lurk under the surface.
Carry a windbreaker. Mount Monadnock’s summit is windy and cooler than the base. Slip on a windbreaker, light sweater or long-sleeved shirt to protect you from the wind. Winter hikers should dress in layers that can be removed as they warm up or added as the temperature falls.
Start your hike early. Popular trails, especially in the warm months, can be crowded. An early start may provide an hour or two of solitude, and it leaves time for a picnic at the summit and for sightseeing along the way. Plan to be back at the trailhead a half-hour before sunset.
Keep in mind
Don’t expect any services on the mountain. Plan to carry at least a liter of water for each hiker, and on hot days, consider freezing a bottle of an electrolyte-rich drink. No services also means no trash cans. Pack out everything you pack in.
Don’t try to make the summit if the weather changes, or if anyone in your hiking party is too tired to continue. Turn around and head back to the base.
Things to know
Leave Fido at home. Pets aren’t allowed in the park.
Mount Monadnock State Park has a campground at the park’s headquarters. Sites are available by reservation, but about a dozen are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground is open year-round, but services are curtailed after October 1. A hiking trail connects the campground with the other Mount Monadnock trails.