Mount Monadnock - Hiking

Made possible by

Photos

About

Summary

Located in New Hampshire just past the Massachusetts border, the 3,165-foot summit of Mount Monadnock is rumored to be the second most climbed mountain in the world.

Written by

Ruth Gallogly

Distance

4.0 miles

4-5 miles for most routes

Destination Distance From Downtown

62.5 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

4 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

Prime time to hike is during peak fall foliage in October but pretty much anytime spring through fall is a good time to soak in the views this mountain offers. The exposed summit and rock scramble to the top can be treacherous in rainy, icy, or snowy weather. Wear proper gear, including microspikes. Many trail markers are painted on rocks, particularly those on the top half of the mountain, and may be covered by snow in winter.

Dog Friendly

No

Fees Permits

Yes

$5 parking fee per adult, $2 for children ages 6-12. No charge for children under 5. Season passes can be purchased for $60 for those who plan repeat trips.

Land Website

Monadnock State Park

Review

Intro

Located in New Hampshire just past the Massachusetts border, Mount Monadnock is rumored to be the second most climbed mountain in the world after Japan’s Mount Fuji. Its 3,165-foot summit has 360-degree views that stretch for nearly 100 miles on a clear day. With 35 miles of trails there are numerous ways to the summit, some more direct and steeper than others.

What Makes It Great

Hiking is always a pleasure, but when it comes with the types of views this mountain serves up, it’s a downright joy. For approximately the last half-mile to the summit the vistas get better and better with each step. Added to that, Monadnock combines multiple terrains into a doable 4-5 mile day hike, depending on the route you choose. Quiet, wooded trails bleed into more challenging rocky ones and culminate in a long technical rock scramble to a rock-faced summit.

There are numerous trails that can be connected into routes to and from the summit with a full loop ranging from 4-9 miles in length. The most popular—and often the most crowded—routes to the top are the White Dot and the White Cross trails from the main parking area. Taking the White Arrow Trail is a slightly longer, gentler climb, though that’s a relative term as all three of these trails gain over 1,700 feet in elevation over the course of 2-2.3 miles. The White Arrow Trail is accessed from the Old Tollroad/Halfway House trails and from a parking lot of the same name.

If heading to the summit via the White Arrow Trail, skip the dirt tollroad and take the Halfway House Trail that forks off from it on the left at the trailhead. This winds steadily but not too steeply through the woods for about a mile before connecting again with the Old Tollroad. Not too much later, a private house is viewable on the right. Continue on the trail until it connects with the White Arrow Trail. From here, things get tougher as the path gets steeper and strewn with stones that make footing uneven. The trail stays wooded until approximately half a mile from the top when it opens up to a wide ledge with breathtaking views. This is where things get fun. The rest of the way to the summit is pure rock scramble. Though it's technical and sometimes challenging, very little of it requires climbing on hands and knees.

During peak fall foliage months, the summit can be as crowded as a New York subway platform, but there’s little that can get in the way of the views that stretch forever in every direction. It’s almost too much to take in when camped out on a rock enjoying a well-earned picnic lunch. On cold or windy days bring extra layers and a hat and gloves for the summit, which is completely exposed to the elements.

While some opt to do an out and back climb, the trail can get crowded by lunchtime and it’s worth taking the less trafficked Smith Summit Trail down from the top. It’s also a less technical descent leaving time to enjoy the never-ending vistas; though still expect to do some scrambling and to walk down sloping rock faces. For those who are fans of hiking with poles, this is the place to whip them out.

The Smith Summit Trail ends near the summit of Monte Rosa. Take a quick detour to the right to make this a two-for-one climb or continue on via the Fairy Spring or Monte Rosa Trail. Both wind through the woods back down to the White Arrow Trail that quickly connects with the Old Tollroad and Halfway House trails to the parking area.

Who is Going to Love It

Pretty much any moderate to serious hiker who gets excited by the prospect of a long rock scramble will want to add Mount Monadnock to their list. Active, fit kids as young as 9 and 10 years old have been spotted happily making their way over the rocky slopes too. Outdoor photographers will enjoy the challenge of capturing the vastness of the landscape, as will amateur photographers equipped with only their cell phone.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Monadnock State Park is located in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.

These Monadnock trailheads all have parking lots:

  • White Cross & White Dot Trails, Park Headquarters (off Poole Road)
  • Gilson Pond Campground (off Dublin Road)
  • Old Toll Road/Halfway House (off Route 124)
  • Dublin Trail (off Old Troy Road - no ranger in attendance)
  • Marlboro Trail (off Shaker Road – no ranger in attendance and the road to the lot is rough going)

On peak days, the lots can fill up by 9-10 a.m. and in winter most lots do not have a ranger in attendance. There have been some car break-ins; make sure to stash valuables and to lock your car.

Mount Monadnock is a carry-in/carry-out park. There are bathroom facilities or port-a-potties at the trailheads, though only the Park Headquarters and the Gilson Pond Campground have these facilities year-round.

While camping is not allowed on the mountain, there is a camping area by the park’s main entrance and at the Gilson Pond Campground. Check the park’s website for restrictions.

Similar Local Hiking Spots

See all

More Boston Activities

View Boston

More Monadnock State Park Headquarters Activities

Boston Recommendations

Local Boston Stories

Location

Monadnock State Park Headquarters

42.845373, -72.09189

Get Directions