Mt. Monadnock Hike Via White Dot and White Cross Trails

Distance: 3.9 miles (round trip)White Dot Trail Above Treeline
Time: 3-5 hours
Mount Monadnock Elevation: 3,165
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors
Hiking Trail Map
Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots or Trail Runners

Mount Monadnock, also known as Grand Monadnock, is widely said to be one of the most climbed mountains in the world—its trails host approximately 125,000 hikers per year. Looking purely at a topographical map, it would be easy to discredit the popularity of Mt. Monadnock’s 3,165-foot summit as the equivalent of a home-schooled prom king. 

After all, the word “monadnock” originates from an Abenaki term that in translation refers to an isolated mountain. Factor in Mt. Monadnock’s close proximity to Boston and it’s like putting sugar cubes atop an ant hill. But before anyone chalks this hike up to an easy walk in the park, know this: A loop hike via the White Dot and White Cross trails (the most popular route), packs as much ankle-busting rock scrambles as anything you’ll find in the 4,000 footers of the White Mountains. What’s more, the open summit makes good on the Grand Monadnock name, offering 360-degree views for days. 

So, is Mt. Monadnock a good hike for kids? Yes. And no. The starter age is somewhere in the 6-8 range with the prerequisite that the child is already acclimated to hiking. The photos below will emphasize this point, but this isn’t an easy hike for little legs (or long ones for that matter). Flip this coin, and the rocky terrain is also what makes it a great hike for older children. There’s little trail monotony to fuel boredom, and the endless rock scrambles will channel their inner Spider-Man.

White Dot Trail

White Dot Trail Blaze
Unlike the typical horizontal blazes, the White Dot Trail markers are, well, you get the point.

The White Dot Trail begins in Monadnock State Park, accessed from the parking lot behind the park store. We chose to do this hike on a spring weekday to avoid the crowds, and despite the relative tranquility that was our reward, the trail’s wide girth served as a steady reminder of the often heavy foot traffic. Filled with rocks, roots, and water bars, the White Dot Trail begins with a gradual ascent.

White Dot Trail Beginning
Considering the heavy usage, the White Dot Trail was in great shape. Even still, the popularity of this hike underscores the importance to stay on marked trails to preserve the mountain’s natural beauty.

The bottom junction with the White Cross Trail occurs at 0.6 miles. The White Dot Trail is the steeper of the two trails and thus is the recommended route for ascents. Base to summit, White Dot is 1.9 miles. Descending via the White Cross trail is slightly longer at two miles. Shortly after the junction, the White Dot trail picks up steam in regards to its rock-to-trail ratio, and another intersection with the Cascade Link at 0.8 miles marks where the steepness kicks in.

White Dot Trail Rocks
The White Dot Trail has no lack of challenging terrain. For parents trying to do this hike with younger children, may the force (and the patience) be with you.
White Dot Trail Rock Scramble 1
Good hiking boots or trail runners are the recommended gear for this hike. More specifically, good tread on your footwear. The rocks have been worn smooth in most locations, which can be hazardous with old footwear.
White Dot Trail Rock Scramble 2
In inclement weather, save yourself the broken bones and watch a movie instead.

White Dot Trail rock Scramble 3

White Dot Trail Rock Scramble 4
For older kids, the more rocks, the merrier.

After a series of steep rock scrambles, the trail plateaus around the treeline, crossing rock ledges and ducking back into spruce-filled gullies in a couple locations. These dips are the only areas sheltered from the wind on an otherwise exposed summit approach. Of course, this also means that the views are plentiful.

White Dot Trail Above Treeline 2
A quick return to tree cover before the final ascent to the summit.

The White Cross Trail reconnects at a bend in the White Dot Trail, 1.6 miles into the hike and just prior to the spruce col pictured above. Once out of the trees, the last push to the summit is one giant rock scramble.

White Dot Trail Summit Approach
Hiking in the Northeast doesn’t get much more fun than this.
White Dot Trail Summit Approach Cairn
A well-packed cairn near the Mt. Monadnock summit.

Mt. Monadnock Summit View 2

On a clear day, the Boston skyscrapers can be seen on the horizon from the summit of Mt. Monadnock.

Mt. Monadnock Summit View 1

Mt. Monadnock Summit View 3

White Cross Trail

White Cross Trail Blaze

To descend via the White Cross Trail, follow the White Dot Trail down from the summit and back through the spruce-filled col, on the other side of which is the trail junction.

White Cross Trail Sign
The upper junction of the White Dot and White Cross trails.

As the sign above notes, the White Cross Trail isn’t as steep as the White Dot Trail; however, calling it easier is all relative, because there’s no shortage of rock scrambles this way either. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time for the descent, especially if you’re hiking with children. There are a couple of good spots for snack breaks on the way down with views looking eastward.

White Cross Trail Rocks 1
Looking back up the White Cross Trail toward the Mt. Monadnock summit.
White Cross Trail Rocks 2
Like its sibling trail, the White Cross Trail features a couple of steep ledgy sections.
White Cross Trail Rocks 3
The ledge climbs give way to a cascade of large rocks in the lower portion of the White Cross Trail.

Directions to Mt. Monadnock

The following link will provide driving directions from your present location to Monadnock State Park, located at 116 Poole Road, Jaffrey, NH.

We did this hike on a Thursday in April, and when we returned to our car a little after noon, the parking lot was nearly filled. This should give you an idea of what it is like on a weekend, especially during peak hiking season, so do yourself a favor and arrive early.

As a state park, day-use fees are charged upon entrance. No dogs are allowed. Visit the Monadnock State Park website for more information.

Posted in
New Hampshire, New Hampshire Trail Reviews, Uncategorized, Weekend Warriors
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    Wow! You made it all the way to the bottom. If you enjoyed this article, please check out my book, Open Season: True Stories of the Maine Warden Service on Amazon or at You can also follow Northeast Hikes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as contribute to our sponsored Google+ Community.
    3 responses to Mt. Monadnock Hike Via White Dot and White Cross Trails
    1. beth says:

      very informative post. hoping it helps me tomorrow when I head up there for the first time. 😊

    2. John says:

      Thanks for this blog post! Very informative.

    3. Maggie says:

      Thanks for all the pictures, now I know what to expect this weekend when we go hiking:)

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