Hiking up Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire

After much chagrin, we reached the top of Monadnock
After much chagrin, we reached the top of Monadnock

Climbing up a National Landmark in New Hampshire

By Sierra Sumner

friends on hike
Hiking up Mount Monadnock with my friends

“The Pats are known to run up these trails,” my friend Stephanie tells us just five minutes into our hike on Mount Monadnock. Already wheezing, we look at her in shock.

We’re hiking up the white dove trail on Mount Monadnock, a treasured mountain in New Hampshire.

We had decided to take on the trail that our beloved New England Patriots use as a place to work out. Coincidentally, most of us are sporting some of our Boston football team’s apparel as we braved Monadnock.

Only after a few minutes in, we understood why they choose this mountain to run up. The mountain trails consist of tough rocks that required our hands, feet, and all our strength to climb up. The trails were steep and oftentimes we were holding onto tree branches as we pulled ourselves up.

Mount Monadnock looks over thousands of acres of protected highlands
Mount Monadnock looks over thousands of acres of protected highlands

The Preparation

That day, at seven in the morning, we had packed up my car with snacks, water, and a gallon of sunscreen in preparation for this mountain. We set off for our hour and a half ride to the New Hampshire state park.

We rolled up to Monadnock State Park, located in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, around nine in the morning. We paid a relatively low entry fee that let us park all day and we grabbed a map from the ranger station of Mount Monadnock. We were glad that the morning air was warming up and the day promised decent weather.

Speaking of the weather, there’s a live webcam of the Mount Monadnock viewed from Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH. Be wary though, this webcam takes its video from approximately 6-7 miles away from the base of the mountain.

This means that the weather readings don’t necessarily apply to current conditions of Mount Monadnock. If you want to find out the weather before you go, you can call the park directly at (603) 532-8862.

Monadnock State Park is open year-round for all activities, such as cross-country skiing and camping. From May to late October, you can camp out at the Gilson Campground within the state park.

Picking the White Dot Trail

After much time looking at the mountain’s topography, we decided to complete one of the steepest trails, since we thought it was be faster and more challenging than the others. We set off onto a dirt trail, which for a half mile remained a somewhat easy trail, until the rocks came.

Monadnock has many huge boulders and rocks that take up the entire trail; they require you to crawl and climb on your hands and feet to get up. It wasn’t easy work, but each time we stopped to pause and drink some water we found new strength to keep going.

After hours of climbing this mountain, we thought we had the end in sight. We did not. Once we broke out of the forest of trees and could see the peak of the mountain, we thought it was getting closer and closer than it really was.

Topographical map of hiking trails
Topographical map of hiking trails

It took us several hours to actually reach the peak of Monadnock. It was a difficult journey that involved every ounce of effort along the way.

Reaching the Peak

The last leg up to the top was one of the hardest. We had been hiking all morning with new terrain from dirt to scaling rocks to crawling up boulders.

At this point, we also saw the rock piles. They were along the trail once we left the tree line and were walking on rock beneath our feet. Most of these rock piles were taller than me and reached up to the sky.

We climbed and heaved until, finally, we reached the top. Before me was a rich green forests and a vibrant blue sky with swirling, creamy white clouds.

Near the top of Monadnock, we began to see giant rock piles
Near the top of Monadnock, we began to see giant rock piles

We sat down together and had a victory lunch, listening to the wind and taking in the stunning, crisp view.

If you’re going to hike to the top, I certainly recommend a sweatshirt. You won’t want it on your way up on a hot day, but once you reach the peak, you are exposed to cold winds and you’ll regret it if you forget your warm gear.

Very Tired and Very Proud

After much time at the top, we eventually remembered we had to leave and make our way down the mountain. This is where you have to be most cautious; most hikers injure themselves on the way down mountains, when you’re tired and you can quickly fall.

We certainly wanted to be careful – we had no cell service on our hike and there would be no way for a rescue helicopter to land.

We all made it down the mountain together, exhausted from the day and a little scraped up, but completely glowing from the accomplishment. We had made it to the summit and it was not easy; we took many breaks and had to motivate each other along the way to keep going.

Monadnock’s History 

Starting our way down Monadnock. We were sorry we had to leave
Starting our way down Monadnock. We were sorry we had to leave

Monadnock, also known as the Grand Monadnock, is the most prominent mountain in southern New Hampshire and one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world. In 1987, it was declared a National Landmark.

The word Monadnock originates from the Abnacki Native American word for “mountain that stands alone.” The term is now a standard geological term for any singular mountain that rises above the surrounding plain.

The mountain reaches up to 3,516 feet tall and it’s surrounded by thousands of acres of protected highlands. It’s known for providing inspiration to writers like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, and Abbott Thayer.

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