Mountain climbing, hiking, backpacking, picnicking, camping, snowshoeing and skiing on Mt. Monadnock in southern New Hampshire are all outdoor activities that can be enjoyed by families, friends and singles on vacations or day-trips. Located in Jaffrey and Dublin New Hampshire, the mountain was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1984. Open all year, Mount Monadnock State Park is sometimes referred to as The Grand Monadnock to differentiate it from the smaller Pack Monadnock, Little Monadnock and all monadnock mountains.
With 40 miles of maintained foot trails and thousands of acres of protected land, this 3,165-ft. mountain summit is the most frequently climbed mountain in North America and the second most frequently climbed mountain in the world after Japan's Mt. Fuji. Mount Monadnock has been the inspiration for many writers, artists and musicians through the ages with poems and tales, paintings, music and dance dedicated to it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain and Abbott Thayer are a few names associated with the original Dublin Art Colony at the dawn of the Transcendental Movement. They hiked Mt. Monadnock and considered it a favorite spot for writing, painting and reflection. Today, of course, with the mountain's popularity you may need to rise early in the morning to enjoy moments of solitude.
Even the novice hiker can enjoy this mountain hiking experience to get a glimpse of the breathtaking 100 mile views of six New England states with little New England towns, ponds, rivers and forests covering the land. This is one of the many reasons Mt. Monadnock is considered the best hiking day-trip in the area, only 62 miles northwest, from Boston. Picnic tables, fire pits and campgrounds are available in the area. The park manager assigns a small number of tent sites on a first-come first-served basis for up to fourteen consecutive days. There is a year-round campground at Park Headquarters located at the end of Poole Road. Group reservations are required. Call the central reservation number 603-271-3628 for arrangements.
Mt. Monadnock forms one end of the 50-mile Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail that goes to and beyond Sunapee. It is also one end of the 117-mile Monadnock-Metacomet Trail that goes to Connecticut.
There are five major trails - Old Toll Road and White Arrow Trails (2.2 miles and the easiest trail), Dublin Trail (2.2 miles) White Dot Trail (1.9 miles) Pumpelly Ridge Trail (4.5 miles) and Marlboro Trail (2.1 miles) with the longest steep stretch. These hiking trails are maintained and patrolled by Monadnock State Park rangers who ask that you stay on the hiking trails to prevent erosion and widening of the trails that harms the environment and makes trails less desirable.
If you are in good shape, depending on the hiking trail you take, you can reach the summit in 1.5 hours. When you emerge above the timberline, you will have some steep rocks, a desert-like environment with a few twisted trees, and be able to walk along the ridge with nothing but air on both sides for those spectacular views.
Of course, you may prefer to start early and take a little longer to enjoy the unique alpine flora and fauna, which include the hobble bush, trillium, lady slippers, blueberries, mountain cranberries and devils paintbrush among others.
Wildlife includes deer, turkeys, moose and wood turtles (watch out for their strong jaws), as well as hawks, ravens and a rare eagle or falcon. Certainly larger wildlife is in the area, however in all cases wildlife is most likely to steer clear of lots of humans climbing around them. All wildlife should be treated with respect and care so they don't feel the need to defend themselves. Moose are inspiring creatures and it's best to stay clear of their path.
A network of cross-country ski trails is maintained on the lower portion of Mt. Monadnock and does not utilize the main hiking trails.
Hiking supplies and mountain climbing gear can help make your hike more enjoyable. Although hiking shoes or boots with ankle support are recommended, a good pair of walking shoes can get you there. Wool or special hiking socks will reduce the chance of blisters. Hiking sticks or poles can help keep you steady. A sturdy backpack is handy to carry snacks, lots of water, insect repellent (especially in May or June), first aid kit and sunscreen.
Time can pass quickly when you are having fun, so it's a wise idea to include a whistle and flashlight in your hiking backpack in case you get lost on the trail at the end of the day. Of course this is one reason to make sure you stay on the trail. Don't forget your watch, sunglasses and a hat. A weatherproof jacket or light sweater will help you adjust to lower temperatures and protect you from the sun and wind when you reach the summit.
Other mountain climbing basics include being aware of the weather. It can change quickly and is generally 15 degrees cooler with an additional 15 to 30 miles per hour of wind at the mountain summit. If it rains, the rocks are very slippery, so use caution. Accidents are most likely to happen on the return down the mountain when fatigue sets in, so stop and rest to keep alert and focused. Always make sure you have your map, and a compass is not a bad idea.
Office hours are 8-4 November to May, and 8-6 May through October. In the summer a ranger is on duty until 9 pm. Carry your trash back with you. Toilets are available at the parking lot and trail maps are available at the gatehouse. No pets are allowed in the Park. For planning purposes always call the park rangers at 603-271-3628 for the latest information before your travel. Additional information: Monadnock State Park Monadnock Trails
Monadnocks are isolated hills of bedrock standing conspicuously above the general level of the surrounding area. They are left as erosional remnants because of their more resistant rock composition; commonly they consist of quartzite or less jointed massive volcanic rocks. The Grand Monadnock is the prototype of what geologists call a monadnock, a mountain of hard rock that remains after the surrounding rock is eroded away.
Originally The Grand Monadnock summit and the entire mountain were covered by red spruce. In the 1800s fires were set on two separate occasions, the first to clear land for pasture and the later to get rid of the wolf dens as the wolves were destroying the sheep herds of the local farmers and their own economic viability. The erosion that resulted is what allows the spectacular views from the summit, though the red spruce are gradually making their way back up the mountainside.