Monadnock, A Mountain For All Seasons
Just a few miles away from Eastern Mountain Sports headquarters sits the third most climbed mountain in the world. Followed only by Japan’s Mount Fuji and China’s Mount Tai is New Hampshire’s one and only Mt. Monadnock. It is both chance and by bad choice that has turned this mountain into a magnet for hikers young and old.
Mt. Monadnock stands almost completely alone in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire. At 3,165 feet she is almost 1000 feet taller than any mountain for 30 miles around. From afar her bare, rocky summit is visible to onlookers. The summit didn’t always look this way though. Around 200 years ago settlers set fires in the area to clear land for farms. Some of these fires got out of control and burned up the mountain. As brush and trees burned down soon the soft soil was exposed to the elements. Having nothing to block the weather, the soil eroded away leaving the mountain, as we see it today, completely bald. Since that time the lower forests have grown back in and the mountain has been attracting visitors. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau both visited and were inspired by the mountain.
If you are in search of the big mountain feel and can’t make it to the White Mountains then Mt. Monadnock should be your destination. You will travel above tree line to get to the summit and be rewarded with beautiful 360 degree views. The great part is that unless there is severe weather conditions you can hike to the summit year round. Depending on the conditions in the winter you may need to take along snowshoes or another form of traction to travel on the packed snow and ice above tree line.
Trails lead from the north, south, east, and west up to the peak. The most popular way to go is up the While Dot and down the White Cross. This route is direct from the State Park Headquarters and is fairly easy as long as you can climb the 2000 feet of elevation change. If you are looking to challenge yourself a bit more you could use the Spellman Trail as part of your way up. This trail is steeper and lets you work on your rock scrambling. Given the chance you should hike the mountain in all 4 seasons. You will see nature at her grandest atop a perch. Crisp winter days, spring rebirths, billowing summer breezes, and marvelously painted fall trees.
Whatever trail you choose expect to have some friends at the top because as I said earlier, it’s the third most climbed mountain in the world. Check the weather conditions before heading out and remember that it is always colder and windier on the summit. Click here for the State Park Trail Map.