Mount Monadnock

Mountain:  Mt. Monadnock (Grand Monadnock) (3165')
Trails:  Birchtoft Trail, Cascade Link, Red Spot Trail, Pumpelly Trail
Region:  NH - Southwest  
Monadnock State Park
Location:  Jaffrey, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, slabs, rock scrambles, pond, alpine zone
Distance:  7.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2000 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 4:30  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 6:00  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  08/30/2008 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  07/02/2009  
Author:  Dennis Marchand
Companion:  Eighteen SDHers

Route Summary   

This is an out-and-back hike up to Mount Monadnock, from which there are 360-degree views.

White coral fungi (photo by Mark Malnati)
  • Start on Birchtoft Trail.
  • At 0.1 mile, veer left to avoid Gilson Pond Loop.
  • For the next 0.1 mile, Gilson Pond will be on your right. Then you will need to bear left again to avoid the other leg of Gilson Pond Loop.
  • Ascend relatively easily for the next 1.9 miles where Birchtoft Trail will end as it bumps into Cascade Link.
  • Turn right onto Cascade Link and follow it for just 30 yards and then turn left onto Red Spot Trail.
  • Follow Red Spot Trail, which climbs at a tough moderate level, to its end where it meets Pumpelly Trail.
    • After 0.4 mile you will pass Old Ski Path on the left.
    • After 0.3 mile you will reach open ledges.
    • After 0.2 you will pass Smith Connecting Link on the left.
    • After 0.1 you will reach Pumpelly Trail at a T-junction.
  • Turn left onto Pumpelly Trail and follow it for 0.4 mile over open ledges to the summit.
  • Upon reaching the top, take note of where you just came from because Pumpelly Trail, marked stingily by cairns at the beginning, isn't obvious and there are many other trails that leave from Monadnock's peak. Pumpelly Trail leaves the summit in an easterly direction.
  • After enjoying the panoramic views, retrace your steps back to your vehicle.
    • After 0.4 mile on Pumpelly Trail, turn right onto Red Spot Trail.
    • Follow Red Spot Trail for 1.0 mile to its end where it meets Cascade Link.
    • Turn right onto Cascade Link and walk only 30 yards and then turn left onto Birchtoft Trail.
    • Follow Birchtoft Trail for 2.1 miles back to the parking area.

Open ledges (photo by Dennis Marchand)

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Birchtoft Trailhead (1210') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Birchtoft Trail/Cascade Link/Red Spot Trail (2150') 2.1 2.1
Jct. Red Spot Trail/Pumpelly Trail (2950') 1.0 3.1
Mt. Monadnock summit (Grand Monadnock) (3165') 0.4 3.5
Jct. Red Spot Trail/Pumpelly Trail (2950') 0.4 3.9
Jct. Birchtoft Trail/Cascade Link/Red Spot Trail (2150') 1.0 4.9
Birchtoft Trailhead (1210') 2.1 7.0


Stay overnight in a tipi
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Trail map of hike route to Mt. Monadnock (map courtesy of Monadnock State Park)

 




  Trail Guide   

Eighteen hikers showed up for this climb up good old Mount Monadnock. I'd rate this as a medium moderate with some steepness. The top is big and totally open all around.

It was a nice day for a hike. We had different ability levels which resulted in some very different summit arrivals. The quick group had a lot of waiting to do. Even so this was a very enjoyable hike.

The route we took isn't heavily used; we didn't run into anyone until we were more then halfway up. We first started off going by the nice Gilson Pond which has a loop trail around it for the walkers. Then our route passed along an old stone wall–lots of work in building that. It shows how the forest takes over when things are left alone; at one time this was pasture land. Near the top of the mountain we had lots of climbing on rocks to tackle. The summit was partially in the clouds.

Trail along a stone wall (photo by Mark Malnati) Our two young hikers (photo by Dennis Marchand)


We had two new little hikers, ages 8 and 11, I think. They did an awesome job. It's always nice to see future mountain girls in action. If it's made enjoyable for them they'll be back. On the summit Ranger Jane (?) had some old pictures of hikers from the early 1900's. The women wore long dresses and the men were in white shirts and vests. Quite a difference now.

Natural sightings included the peaceful-looking Gilson Pond at the base of the mountain and very small bogs, surrounded by cotton sedge (Eriophorum vaginatum), up on the open ledges. Arnica (Arnica lanceolata), a yellow-colored aster that's threatened in New Hampshire, was growing amongst the rocks. This plant likes moist alpine areas and often grows in alpine ravines. White coral fungi (Ramariopsis kunzei) was sprouting from the ground and looked like it would be right at home underwater in a tropical, turquoise sea. Critters encountered included a toad and a wood frog (Rana sylvatica).

Toad (photo by Mark Malnati) Wood frog (photo by Dennis Marchand)

 
 


NH - Southwest



Mark on Monadnock's summit (photo by Dennis Marchand)
  Driving Directions   

Rock-filled trail (photo by Mark Malnati) From Rt. 3 (Northbound):
  • Take Rt. 3 north to exit 7 in New Hampshire.
  • Follow Rt. 101A west to Rt. 101 west to Peterborough.
  • Turn left for Rt. 202 west to Jaffrey.
  • Turn right onto Rt. 124 west.
  • Follow Rt. 124 for 2.1 miles, then turn right onto Dublin Road.
  • Go 2.3 miles then turn left into the Monadnock Recreation Area campground road.
  • Follow this private road a short distance, then turn left into the first driveway and follow it for about 100 yards to a parking area.

From I-93:
  • Take 101 west to Peterborough.
  • Turn left for Rt. 202 west to Jaffrey.
  • Turn right onto Rt. 124 west.
  • Follow Rt. 124 for 2.1 miles, then turn right onto Dublin Road.
  • Go 2.3 miles then turn left into the Monadnock Recreation Area campground road.
  • Follow this private road a short distance, then turn left into the first driveway and follow it for about 100 yards to a parking area.

Gilson Pond (photo by Mark Malnati)


From I-95:
  • Follow Rt. 101 west to Peterborough.
  • Turn left for Rt. 202 west to Jaffrey.
  • Turn right onto Rt. 124 west.
  • Follow Rt. 124 for 2.1 miles, then turn right onto Dublin Road.
  • Go 2.3 miles then turn left into the Monadnock Recreation Area campground road.
  • Follow this private road a short distance, then turn left into the first driveway and follow it for about 100 yards to a parking area.

From I-91 (Northbound):
  • Take Exit 28A and follow MA Rt. 10 to NH Rt. 119 east.
  • Follow Rt. 119 east to Rt. 202 east.
  • Follow Rt. 202 east to Jaffrey.
  • Turn left onto Rt. 124 west.
  • Follow Rt. 124 for 2.1 miles, then turn right onto Dublin Road.
  • Go 2.3 miles then turn left into the Monadnock Recreation Area campground road.
  • Follow this private road a short distance, then turn left into the first driveway and follow it for about 100 yards to a parking area.

Alpine bog rimmed by cotton sedge (photo by Mark Malnati)


From I-91 (Southbound):
  • Take Exit 5 and turn left to follow Rt. 103 east for a short distance until it bumps into Rt. 5.
  • Turn right to follow Rt. 5 south for about half a mile.
  • Bear left to get to Rt. 12. You will go down a small hill, then turn left through a narrow pass beneath a railroad bridge. Follow this road to its end, then turn right to get on Rt. 12 south.
  • Follow Rt. 12 south and then Rt. 12 and Rt. 9 south until reaching Rt. 101.
  • Follow Rt. 101 east to Peterborough.
  • Turn right for Rt. 202 west to Jaffrey.
  • Turn right onto 124 west.
  • Follow Rt. 124 for 2.1 miles, then turn right onto Dublin Road.
  • Go 2.3 miles then turn left into the Monadnock Recreation Area campground road.
  • Follow this private road a short distance, then turn left into the first driveway and follow it for about 100 yards to a parking area.

Mount Monadnock's summit (photo by Mark Malnati)


Protecting Monadnock State Park   

Hiking on the edges of trails, or parallel to them to avoid puddles, mud, or ice causes serious erosion problems. Plants are trampled, soil is compacted, and a way is opened for the uncontrolled flow of water down the trails during spring thaws and heavy rains. Deep eroded gullies are quickly cut into the trail detours and are nearly impossible to repair. During wet or icy conditions, be prepared to walk on ice, in puddles, and through mud in order to remain well within the bounds of established trails.

Monadnock is a carry in-carry out park. There are no trash cans on the mountain or the park grounds. All your trash must be carried out and taken with you. Orange peels, apple cores, and other materials considered "biodegradable" should not be left on the mountain. Animals don't eat them, and in the process of rotting, they smell and attract insects.

No pets, fires, or camping are allowed year-round on Mount Monadnock. Camping and fires are permitted only in the park campground.

About Monadnock State Park   

Preserved land on and surrounding Mount Monadnock consists of approximately 5,000 contiguous acres cooperatively administered and/or owned by the state, the town of Jaffrey, the Association to Protect Mount Monadnock, and The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF). The preserve is spread over parts of Jaffrey and Dublin in southwestern New Hampshire.

The 3,165-foot high Mount Monadnock is the centerpiece of the state park. The bald peak provides 100-mile views to all six New England states on a clear day. This is allegedly the second most climbed mountain in the world so be prepared to share the roomy summit with many others. The majority of hikers head up the White Dot or White Cross Trails. By avoiding these trails you can hike in relative solitude as well as enjoy many features of the mountain that would otherwise be missed.

There are 40 miles of maintained foot trails on the mountain. The summit is the southern end of the 49-mile Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway and the northern terminus of the 114-mile Monadnock-Metacomet Trail.

Approximately 12 miles of the trail system in the lower elevations offer ski touring for the experienced cross-country skier. These trails are ungroomed, and require a minimum of 16 inches of natural snow cover over the rolling and occasionally rocky terrain. The trails are considered intermediate, and skiers must bring their own equipment.

"Monadnock", which comes originally from the Abenacki Native American word for "mountain that stands alone", is now a standard geological term for any singular mountain that rises above the surrounding plain.

This area has a rich cultural history and a tradition of providing inspiration for the works of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, and Abbott Thayer. Thoreau even has a trail named after him and a couple view points bear the names of Thoreau and Emerson.

Into the Mountains, by Maggie Stier and Ron McAdow contains an interesting chapter dedicated to the history of Mount Monadnock dating back to 1677 and covering, among other topics, hiker hospitality services and literature and arts inspired by the peak. It also contains facts and trivia relating to the mountain as it is today. Did you know that from the summit on fall days at sunset, the mirrored surface of Boston's John Hancock tower appears as a column of fire? Or that Ken Peterson, who has climbed the mountain over 1,000 times holds the record for the fastest ascent (25 minutes)? This gem of a book covers 13 other peaks in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts.

The park headquarters, located at the end of Poole Road in Jaffrey, NH, encompasses many of the mountain's trailheads, a visitor center, bathrooms, and a campground. Trail information and maps are posted near the Visitor Center at the start of the White Dot Trail. The Monadnock Visitor Center offers interesting exhibits on various aspects of the park's history, ecology and trails.

The Monadnock State Park Campground has 28 campsites. Ten of the sites are by reservation only; 7 are for youth group reservations; and 11 are for first-come/first-served campers. The campground has flush toilets, running water, firewood, and a camp store located in the campground area. Showers are available.

The park is open year-round. The parking lot at the park headquarters is plowed for winter hikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and campers (gear must be carried into the campground).

Office hours are 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. from November to May; and 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. from May to October. During the summer, a ranger is on duty until 9 p.m.

Monadnock State Park
PO Box 181
Jaffrey, NH 03452
603.532.8862
Campground reservations: 603.271.3628

SDH on the summit of Mount Monadnock (photo by Mark Malnati)


About Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway   

The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway is a 49-mile hiking trail that runs between Mount Monadnock and Mount Sunapee. It is located in southwestern New Hampshire and traverses mostly rolling hills and ridges that divide the Connecticut and Merrimack River drainages.

The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway route was laid out in 1921 by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The trail runs through three New Hampshire state parks, and over 80 private land owners voluntarily agree to host the trail, and in some cases, campsites on their land.

A few favorite dayhikes on the Greenway are climbing Mount Monadnock, hiking through the Andorra forest at Pitcher Mountain, or moose watching in and around Pillsbury State Park. There are five campsites along the Greenway for those thru-hiking the entire trail; it normally takes 3–4 days to complete the full length.

Hiking trails should always be respected, but this is especially essential when private lands are involved because landowners can revoke trail-use privileges at any time. Leave no litter, pick up any litter you see left by others, stay on the trails, and don't light campfires (portable stoves are okay).

The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club (MSGTC) was formed in 1994. The club's mission is to continue trail maintenance efforts, support the volunteers and trail adopters, and promote awareness of this beautiful, remote, well-kept secret.

You can purchase the latest edition of The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Guide, (which includes a map) or just map from the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club.

The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway connects to the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail to the south which in turn connects to Metacomet and Mattabesett Trails in Connecticut further south. The linked trails collectively cover about 240 miles running from Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire south towards Long Island Sound in Connecticut.

About Metacomet-Monadnock Trail   

The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail starts in Rising Corner, Connecticut near the Connecticut/Massachusetts state line and runs north for 114 miles. It traverses Massachusetts, and dips up into New Hampshire, ending at the summit of Mount Monadnock.

The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail was originally laid out by the late Professor Walter M. Banfield of the University of Massachusetts starting in the late 1950s. It made use of abandoned farm roads and existing hiking routes as well as blazing new trails.

Metacomet-Monadnock Trail leading over Mount Grace (photo by Webmaster) Portions of the route on Mount Monadnock and the Holyoke and Mount Tom Ranges date back as far as the 18th century. Early trail building was supported by various summit resort hotels, popular in the 19th century. Such resorts once stood on Mount Holyoke, Mount Nonotuck, Mount Tom, and Mount Monadnock (at the Halfway House site). Most of them had burned down or had became defunct by the early 20th century and never recovered.

Despite being easily accessible and close to large population centers, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail is remarkably rugged and scenic and passes through some of the prettiest landscapes in Western Massachusetts.

The route includes many areas of unique ecologic, historic, and geologic interest. Features include waterfalls, dramatic cliff faces, exposed mountain summits, woodlands, swamps, lakes, river flood plain, farmland, and historic sites.

The trail is blazed with white painted rectangles on trees and rocks and supplemental white, metal, diamond-shaped signs affixed to trees and poles at road crossings and other trail intersections.

Much of the trail is considered easy hiking, with sections of rugged and moderately difficult hiking along the Holyoke and Mount Tom Ranges and on Mount Monadnock.

There are several primitive lean-to's and campsites, and a few campsites with facilities along the trail, but camping is discouraged in many areas. Campfires are generally prohibited, except in established fire rings in state park campgrounds.

A complete guidebook with topographic maps is published by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail connects to the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway to the north and to Metacomet and Mattabesett Trails in Connecticut to the south. The linked trails collectively cover about 240 miles running from Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire south towards Long Island Sound in Connecticut.

More Mount Monadnock Trail Reports   

 
Rocks (photo by Mark Malnati)

Trail signs (photo by Mark Malnati)

On the trail (photo by Dennis Marchand)

Trail sign (photo by Mark Malnati)
 

Trail (photo by Mark Malnati) Arnica (photo by Mark Malnati)

 

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