Hike Mount Monadnock via multiple trails, NH: Sep 2020

Updated: Jan 7

Hike Distance: 6.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,748 feet

Prominence: 2,150 feet


Click here for a review of prominence and its role in mountain topography


Let's get this point out there right away. As strange as it sounds, Mt Monadnock has long been cited by climbing sites/references as the #2 most frequently climbed mountain in the world behind only Mt Fuji in Japan. So on a warm September day, I became one of the 125,000 people that climb Monadnock each year. Dave was nursing a sore foot so I hiked it alone.


Here are the trails I followed on this hike.

The width of the trail was a reminder of the heavy foot traffic and popularity of this mountain.

Mount Monadnock White Dot trail
Mount Monadnock White Dot trail

Filled with rocks and tree roots, the trail began a steady ascent.

Mount Monadnock rocky and eroded trail

The trail became more steep with large boulders that intensified the scrambling.

Mount Monadnock rocky and eroded Cascade Link Trail

Finally, the trail plateaued around the treeline and provided glimpses of the surrounding mountains and hills of southern NH.

Mount Monadnock vista
Mount Monadnock vista

The trail traversed several rock ledges and occasionally ducked in and out of the trees along the way.

Mount Monadnock Cascade Link Trail

I had gained enough elevation to have a clear view of Thorndike Pond and the northwest mountains.

Thorndike Pond from Mount Monadnock Cascade Link Trail Mount Monadnock Cascade Link Trail

The Cascade Link Trail made a 360 degree turn to join the Pumpelly Trail which runs along the back side of the mountain.

Mount Monadnock Pumpelly Trail

A short distance after joining the trail, the summit came into view.

Mount Monadnock summit from Pumpelly Trail

Once out of the trees, the last push to the summit was one giant rock scramble.

Pumpelly Trail rocky slab on way to Mount Monadnock summit

Cairns mark the 'best' path on the slab .

Cairns on Pumpelly Trail leading to Mount Monadnock summit

Turkey vultures were riding the thermals. These scavengers feed almost exclusively on dead animal carcasses. It's a large bird with a wingspan of 5-6 feet. Turkey vultures are gregarious and roost in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day. Several hundred vultures may roost communally in a single group.

Turkey vulture flying above Mount Monadnock
Pumpelly Trail rocky slab on way to Mount Monadnock summit

A final bit of scrambling to the summit.

Final stretch of Pumpelly Trail leading to Mount Monadnock summit

From this viewpoint I could see people congregating on the summit. Because I had chosen a less common path to the summit, I had seen less than half a dozen people until I reached the summit.

People on Mount Monadnock summit

Mt Monadnock is a bald dome of tortured metamorphic rock (schist and quartzite) that was smooth over by glaciers approximately 18,000 years ago.

Rocky and treeless Mount Monadnock summit

The summit is barren largely because of fires set by early settlers. The first major fire, set in 1800 to clear the lower slopes for pasture, swept through the stands of virgin red spruce on the summit and flanks of the mountain. Between 1810 and 1820, local farmers, who believed that wolves were denning in the blowdowns, set fire to the mountain again. The conflagration raged for weeks, destroying the topsoil and denuding the mountain above 2,000 feet. Trees are slowly creeping up the mountain as the soil is naturally replaced, but it will take centuries for nature to repair the damage.

Rocky and treeless Mount Monadnock summit

At 3,165 feet, you can see all six New England states and up to 100 miles in all directions from the summit. It was really crowded for a weekday, so I found an isolated spot on a ledge and socially distanced while I enjoyed the views and had a snack.

Rocky and treeless Mount Monadnock summit

Mt Monadnock towers over 1,000 feet higher than any other peak in the area.

Rocky and treeless Mount Monadnock summit

Since I started after 12:30pm, I decided to take the most direct route down on the White Dot Trail. The trail started out on easy rock slab sections.

White Dot Trail leading from Mount Monadnock summit

Here's a great view of the summit from the trail heading down.

Looking up at rocky summit of Mount Monadnock
White Dot Trail leading from Mount Monadnock summit

It wasn't long before I reached the trees.

White Dot Trail leading from Mount Monadnock summit
White Dot Trail leading from Mount Monadnock summit

This was one of my last views before I entered a more dense forested area.

Mount Monadnock vista on White Drop Trail

The trail was moderately steep in some places.

Mount Monadnock rocky and eroded White Dot Trail

And being New England, there was no shortage of rock scrambles.

Mount Monadnock rocky and eroded White Dot Trail
Mount Monadnock rocky and eroded White Dot Trail

It was a nice hike and I'd definitely come back again if Dave wants to experience Mt Monadnock.

  • Hike Distance: 6.2 miles

  • Duration: 4.75 hours

  • Average Pace: 45.5 min/mile


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