Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hiking the (2nd) Most Climbed Mountain In the World

Approaching summit of Mt. Monadnock, NH.

Tough Mamma hiking with Baby in an Osprey hiking pack.
I've heard and read from multiple sources that New Hampshire's Mt. Monadnock is the second most hiked mountain in the world - second only to Mt. Fuji in Japan.*  I found this shocking, since growing up in Oregon, I had never heard of Monadnock.
So WHY is it so frequently visited?
To discover the answer, I took to the hills with my friend Ingrid and her adorable baby daughter for a day of hiking the second most frequently climbed mountain in the world.

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Mt. Monadnock, Jaffery, New Hampshire

Getting there:  This mountain is in southern New Hampshire.  The trailhead was less than 2
hours from my house in Exeter, NH.  I took Rt. 101 West and switched to 202 West in Peterborough, NH.  From there, I took 202 W six miles to 124 W.  Stay on here for 2 miles and follow signs to Mt. Monadnock State Park.

And I thought it was going to be easy.
Red Dot Trail!
Trail:  There are multiple trails to the summit of Mt. Monadnock.  The most common ascent is taking the "White Dot Trail" up and the "White Cross Trail" down.  This makes a tight loop totally about 4 miles.  To avoid crowds and tight fitting spots with Ingrid's baby backpack, we took the less traveled Red Dot Trail up  and the "White Cross Trail" down.  Our trip was a little longer since the Red Dot Trail is 2.75 miles to the summit and then 2 miles via the White Cross down.  I enjoyed climbing through the hardwood forest, over boulders, and along the extensive and exposed ridge-line.
One of the nice things about this mountain is that there are multiple points of assent.  There are even trails from the nearby campground.  I'd love to go back and take another trail.  Perhaps that is one reason why this is so often climbed?

Difficulty:  I don't know why, perhaps it was the lower elevation compared to other mountain hikes (3,166 ft), but I had expected Mt. Monadnock to be a walk in the park.  Instead, I discovered a perfect day hike - combining interest through varied terrain including packed dirt trail, large boulders, and slab climb.  I'd rate it as a moderate trail in White Mountain standards, but there are a few challenging stretches (see bouldery rock trail photo above).

Tree Graffiti 
Distance:  Our hike was 4.74 miles round trip, but as stated above, you can take a variety of trails to shorten or lengthen this hike.  We look lots of breaks and enjoyed a long lunch at the summit with Ingrid's little girl, so our hike was about 5 hours round trip.

Recommendations:  I completely recommend that you hike Mt. Monadnock.  A few pieces of advice...

- If possible, go on a weekday - Ingrid and I were lucky enough to go on a Friday.  Even with this, the summit was crowded and the White Cross Trail was packed.  I can only imagine how nuts this popular mountain gets on weekends and holidays.  Be patient and consider taking one of the less used trails like the Red Dot to avoid the crowds.  Another recommendation would be to get there early.  We started our hike at 10 am and the parking lot was already crowded.

- Don't be fooled into thinking it's going to be easy or short.  Bring appropriate footwear, at least 2 liters of water per person and snacks.  You'll be sweating!
White Cross Trail. 

- Instead of taking your lunch break on the summit with the crowds, take a break along the equally open and expansive ridge line.  We had a nice long break at the junction of the Pumpelly Trail and the Red Dot Trail.  This gave us gorgeous views with privacy.

 I discovered that one of the reasons Mt. Monadnock is so frequently climbed is that it's a really wonderful mountain!  In just a couple hours, I got gorgeous views of green rolling hills, lakes, and the White Mountains in the distance.  The hike is moderately challenging and fun.  I can't wait to go back!

Pooped after a long day on the mountain!

*Mt. Monadnock, Wikipedia, 2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Monadnock

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