Mount Monadnock, located in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, holds the distinction of being the most frequently climbed peak in North America and is considered the second most popular mountain to ascend globally, following Japan’s Mount Fuji.
While I had been in close proximity to the mountain during previous trips, I had never actually attempted to climb it. The mountain’s immense popularity left me somewhat bewildered, so I recently made up my mind to hike to the summit alongside one of my sons and discover what all the fuss was about.
We reached the Mount Monadnock visitor center around 8:30 am, well aware that the day was going to be hot, with temperatures surpassing 80 degrees. Consequently, we made sure to carry an ample supply of water and energy snacks. It’s important to note that this park operates on a carry-in carry-out policy, meaning you need to bring your own food, as the available options for purchase are limited to water at the base shop.
There are two widely used trails leading to the summit: the White Cross Trail and the White Dot Trail. We opted for the slightly easier but longer White Cross Trail for our first ascent, as we were unfamiliar with the mountain.
MOUNT MONADNOCK IS NOT A WALK IN THE PARK
It is crucial to recognize that climbing Mount Monadnock is not a straightforward task, even when taking the White Cross Trail. Scaling the mountain entails a challenging hike to the summit, considering that you’re ascending 1,900 feet over a relatively short distance.
The lower portion of the trail is densely populated with trees, making it a prime opportunity to appreciate the diverse array of vegetation while also remaining focused on each step. After hiking a little over halfway up the mountain, you’ll reach a clearing that offers breathtaking views of the southern and western regions of the Monadnock area.
As you climb above 2,500 feet, the spruce trees become stunted, barely reaching shoulder height.
Around 2,700 feet, you’ll be granted an unobstructed vista of the barren and rocky summit. Merely 100 feet further, the White Cross and White Dot Trails intersect, and you’ll follow the White Dot Trail to reach the exposed summit.
The ascent to the summit of Mount Monadnock from our starting point proved to be the most thrilling part of the journey for me. The majority of the trail is above the tree line, allowing for breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding area as you climb.
However, when it came time to descend and return to the base, my son and I made a regrettable decision. Despite ascending via the White Cross Trail, we opted to descend using the more popular White Dot Trail. This turned out to be a significant mistake.
The White Dot Trail, being the favored route for many hikers, meant we were descending on a steeper trail while numerous hikers were ascending. We frequently had to wait for long lines of hikers to pass before we could continue our descent.
After a little over 4 hours on the mountain, we finally made it back to the base.
MOUNT MONADNOCK IS PLENTY OF A MOUNTAIN FOR MOST
I am no longer puzzled by the immense popularity of Mount Monadnock. It offers a truly wonderful experience, and most people in reasonably good physical condition can successfully reach the summit. If you’re not an experienced climber, I would recommend taking the White Cross Trail for both the ascent and descent. However, if you’re an avid hiker seeking a challenge, you may enjoy tackling the White Dot Trail and then descending via the White Cross Trail, which provides a more diverse terrain.
In addition to the trails I mentioned earlier, it’s worth noting that the state park surrounding Mount Monadnock boasts an extensive network of trails spanning over 40 miles. These include longer trails that traverse the eastern, northern, and western sides of the mountain, providing diverse options for hikers.
Both my son and I thoroughly enjoyed our hike, and we came to a realization that one doesn’t need to scale Mount Everest to witness the marvels of our planet. Mount Monadnock offers more than enough for most individuals seeking an awe-inspiring experience.
Monadnock State Park, conveniently located off Route 124 near Jaffrey, New Hampshire, welcomes visitors throughout the year. However, the optimal times for climbing are typically late spring through the popular fall season, when the weather is more predictable and the views are truly breathtaking.