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Mount Monadnock is an exceptional destination for hikers, bikers, campers, and skiers. It’s close enough to two major cities to access them easily, but once you’re there, you feel as if you’ve stepped into another time.
If you’re looking for a camping and hiking trip in the Northeast this year, here are some excellent reasons to visit this hidden gem.
About The Mountain
Mount Monadnock rises 1,000 feet taller than any other peak in the area, and, at just over 3,000 feet, it’s the highest point in Cheshire County.
Visitors come to see the spectacular views from the top of the mountain, and one of the reasons those views are so spectacular is because of Mount Monadnock’s denuded summit. The peak has no trees or brush because the early settlers set fire to it.
The first time, they were clearing pasture below the peak, and the second time, in 1810 to 1820, farmers suspected wolves were denning in areas where there were broken trees to hide. This threatened their livestock, so the settlers ignited the top of Mount Monadnock. The blaze burned for weeks, decimating the topsoil and any chance of regeneration on the mountain top.
The mountain is also featured in some of New England’s most important writings. The Transcendentalists, notably Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, visited Mount Monadnock and wrote about it. One of Thoreau’s most famous pieces – Monadnoc –was inspired by the mountain.
Today, it’s one of the most popular hikes in New England, with 125,000 visitors per year.
Monadnock State Park is open year-round, and there’s a $5 fee for day use. The state park surrounding the mountain is in southern New Hampshire, with the headquarters in the town of Jaffrey. There is also trailhead access to Mount Monadnock in the village of Dublin.
Boston is 62 miles to the southeast, and Concord, NH is also quite close at 38 miles from the state park. Mount Monadnock’s proximity to these urban centers also means that it’s easy to get to for many nature enthusiasts.
The earliest known visitor to the mountain was in 1725 when Captain Samuel Willard and his party of 14 men hiked to the summit and camped there, watching for hostile groups of Indigenous Americans. It’s much easier to hike to the peak now than it was in the middle of the 18th century.
To get to the summit, many hike the 2.3-mile White Arrow Trail, which is considered the easiest way to the mountain’s summit. Access it by the Old Toll Road Trailhead, by way of the mountain’s south side. The trail is marked, but expect some minor challenges clambering over granite boulders on your way up.
Another option is the 2.2-mile White Dot Trail, which is the steepest and quickest way to the top. It is suitable for older children who’ve had experience hiking before. This trail is best used from April until November and is accessible from the Monadnock State Park Headquarters on the southeastern flank of the mountain.
There are other options on other sides of the mountain, like the north-side Dublin Path, or the Marlboro Trail on the west flank. To get down again, opt for the White Cross Trail, which is about 2.2 miles, and has a range of challenging terrain.
If you plan on camping in New Hampshire, there are some excellent, affordable choices for you in terms of campgrounds.
The Gilson Pond Campground is minutes away from the state park headquarters in Jaffrey and is relatively new, opening in 2010. It has 35 campsites with hookups and nearby facilities, and five hike-to spots are a bit more out-of-the-way.
You can hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock from the campground. It is open year-round and includes a playground if you have younger campers with you. Unfortunately, you cannot bring your furred companions with you as they are not allowed in the state park.
If you are touring New England and experiencing all the different kinds of New Hampshire State Parks camping, you may want to head up north to the White Mountains.
Lafayette Campground in gorgeous Franconia Notch State Park has a plethora of inviting activities. It offers fishing and water sports, so if you’re not that into hiking, you can find something water-related to keep you busy.
If you’re into mountain biking, you’ll find some excellent rides at Moose Brook State Park, a mere 40 miles from Franconia Notch State Park. The stunning scenery of this park will enrapture bikers and the many trails can keep them occupied for days.
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