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