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Mount Monadnock, Jaffrey NH


• 5-star hike
• 3.7 to 7.9 mile options
• Medium difficulty | Gain 1608 to 1,940 feet
• Monadnock Region | Jaffrey & Dublin NH
• Driving directions: See trail reviews below.


Unparalleled New Hampshire views from Monadnock's summit.

Standing proud above the rolling Southern New Hampshire terrain by two and a half thousand feet the domed and rocky-topped Mount Monadnock is an impressive sight. Somehow famed as the second most visited mountain in the world after Mount Fuji, yet we suspect Mount Washington gets many more visitors in New Hampshire alone.

The mountain was unnaturally denuded of much of its topsoil and greenery by fires two hundred years ago. While no doubt an ecological disaster, this does now at least afford us expansive views all around Southern New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the tall buildings of Boston on a clear day. Also check out the old graffiti atop the peak - it seems that old school vandals used to come prepared with hammer and chisel, over a century and a half before Sharpies were invented.

The trails beginning from Mount Monadnock State Park are undoubtably the most popular, but there are other less crowded trails to the summit also which are a great alternative and may be even better routes for some. In the map below we highlight many different ways up the mountain and review them below for your consideration.

Sidebar, Fullscreen Map.

White Dot White Cross Loop
White Arrow & Monte Rosa
Marlborough Trail
Dublin Trail
Pumpelly Trail

The trails we list in this review are all rated 5-stars and they'll all provide you with a great Mount Monadnock experience. Before we get into more detailed descriptions of each of the trails, here's a comparison of the trails to help you determine what works out best for you:

TrailLengthGainDescription
White Dot3.7
miles
1,740
feet
Busy, easier terrain.
Views at top.
White Arrow4.4
miles
1,610
feet
Moderate scrambles.
Views at top.
Marlborough4.0
miles
1,800
feet
Hardest route.
Good views from half way.
Sketchy access road.
Dublin4.4
miles
1,680
feet
Moderate scrambles.
Great views from half way.
Pumpelly7.9
miles
1,940
feet
Longer. Easier terrain.
Excellent frequent views.

All routes up Mount Monadnock require an element of rock scrambling, which means clambering over rocks and up rocky steps that may be 1-2 feet in height. On wetter days the trails are also likely to cause slippery granite surfaces, and in winter conditions microspikes are necessary to overcome ice on the trail. The New Hampshire State Park information center at the trailhead for White Dot offers microspike rentals, but it's cheaper just to buy your own in advance.


A crisp February on the White Cross trail with yours truly.

White Dot/White Cross Loop | 5★, 3.7 miles, Part-loop, Medium, Gain 1,740ft | Driving directions | Very popular route. The shortest round trip to the summit would be straight up and down the White Dot trail, but you’d be missing some great views and trail variety if you didn’t utilize a return trip back down the White Cross for only an extra tenth of a mile and no additional elevation.

Beginning at the New Hampshire State Park Headquarters parking (fee payable, lots of parking) the White Dot trail warms you up with a gentle incline and flat trails before getting a little steeper after half a mile. This is as steep as the trail gets, though close to the summit you’ll find the craggy granite steps a little larger which may tax those unaccustomed to routine hikes. Wayfinding is fair to easy as both the White Dot and White Cross trails are well defined and well signposted.

White Arrow/Monte Rosa | 5★, 4.4 miles, Part-loop, Medium, Gain 1,610ft | Driving directions | Starting a hundred feet further up the mountain beginning at New Hampshire State Park’s Old Toll Road trailhead (fee payable, around 10 parking spots) this route is a good alternative to the crowds on the White Dot trail and just slightly steeper and only half a mile longer in length.

The first mile-and-a-half on the Old Halfway House Trail covers flat and moderately sloped terrain on your way to the White Arrow Trail, where you’ll be met with a steeper route, stepping over rocks and roots as you begin your climb to the summit. Much of your route is under cover of maple forest, then evergreen fir trees, before a quarter-mile scramble up exposed granite rocks where the winds can start to pick up. There are some moderate scrambles here, but if you’ve made it this far then you’re likely to have the fitness to handle them.

Since we almost always prefer a loop trail to an out-and-back affair, we found a return route on the Smith Summit Trail (look for the white dot and ‘S’ markings) down to the peak of Monte Rosa, identifiable by the weathervane affixed to its summit. The route then returns back to the trailhead on Old Halfway House.


Biodiversity still persists atop the denuded mountain summit.

Marlborough Trail | 5★, 4.0 miles, Out & back, Medium, Gain 1,800ft | Driving directions | A challenging yet short trail through mostly pine forest starts off flat and unassuming, but soon begins to get rocky. Rocks lead to more rocks that become several moderate scrambles. From half way an occasional granite cap, then more granite tops give you great Southerly and then Westerly views. After one more thigh-burning section the trail joins up with the Dublin Trail for the final ascent to the summit.

This is one of the quieter Mount Monadnock trails. The trailhead is located 0.7 miles along a dirt road that begins out fair but becomes more sketchy for the last quarter mile. It turned out that the ground clearance of our sedan car was good enough, but we'd be reluctant to tackle this trail in anything but the best weather. Parking donation payable to the Forest Society. Please give them the money, so they can improve the access road!

Dublin Trail | 5★, 4.4 miles, Out & back, Medium, Gain 1,680ft | Driving directions | A quieter route up the Northwest flank offers a gentle incline under forest canopy. Initially easy going, the rocks and roots are more plentiful after 0.6 miles, and once you're half way there the rocky obstacles increase. You can tell you're getting closer to the summit as you pass over wave after wave of granite tops and the trees around you begin to diminish in height. Pumpelly Trail may offer the most views, but Dublin Trail comes in second with excellent Northerly vistas towards Dublin Pond and a distant Crotched Mountain.

The trailhead offers plenty of parking spots, provided you haven't picked a busy day. It's located on Old Troy Road which is usually an easily passable dirt road, except it does not get plowed in winter and washouts can make the road difficult in spring. Parking donation payable to the Forest Society. Please give them the money, so they can improve the access road!


Scaling a rocky section on the Marlborough Trail.


Early morning sunshine on the Dublin Trail.

Pumpelly Trail | 5★, 7.9 miles, Out & back, Medium, Gain 1,940ft | Driving directions | The longest and possibly the quietest of the trails begins on the North side of the mountain at Dublin Pond. Marked out by a local naturalist in the late nineteenth century, the Pumpelly Trail traces a route up Northernmost flanks of the mountain and combines a more gradual incline with possibly the most spectacular and persistent views from the mountain.

For the first mile-and-a-half the trail is easy going on a well-defined, wide and pine needle carpeted trail. Suddenly your pace will slow, as you have to climb 600 feet of the steepest part of the loop. From this position you follow the ridge-line of Monadnock’s Northern saddle to the peak, surrounded by shorter and thinner trees, and more and more exposed granite caps. Wayfinding becomes more difficult on the exposed granite, but stone cairns - looking like turds of a giant rock monster - pepper the landscape, and are useful and possibly necessary markers as you make your way to the 3,165 foot domed summit.

Roadside parking is available at the Dublin Pond trailhead and further West along the road, but do be mindful of the many no parking signs and arrows. No parking fees.


Pumpelly Trail on the Northern flanks of the mountain.


Tangents:
• Official Links: NH State Parks, Forest Society
• AllTrails Public: White Dot, White Arrow, Marlborough, Dublin, Pumpelly
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

Trailspotting YouTube
We hiked the Dublin Trail to Mount Monadnock with a videocamera and stuck some clips together.

NH State Parks
Support your New Hampshire State Parks, a self-funded organization that manages and maintains trails in this article with zero NH tax dollars.

NH Forest Society
Trails in this article maintained by the Forest Society. Find out how you can help.
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