Mount Monadnock via Parker Trail, Cliff Walk, Red Spot Trail

Trail Distance: ~7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,700 ft
Terrain Rating: Above average with some scrambling
Time In: 9AM
Time Out: 3PM

Trailhead: Park Headquarters at 116 Poole Rd Jaffrey, NH 03452
Trail Map here.

Mount Monadnock, 2 hours from Boston.

There are many paths to take to the summit of Mount Monadnock. Two of the most popular trails are the White Cross of White Dot trails. While they are shortest in mileage (~2.5 mi up), they also have the toughest terrain. There is a lot of scrambling and bouldering, and if you're 5'4", expect to be on all 4s. We started out at the Park Headquarters in front of the Park Store around 9AM. They added a few porta potties near the park store for those interested. Water wasn't running as of May 3rd. I did this hike with AMC Boston's Hiking/Backpacking Committee. We started on the Parker Trail which was very gradual and mostly smooth. At the intersection with Cliff Walk, take a right and start following the white "C" blazes. Cliff Walk, appropriately named, is gentle for the first 0.4 miles and then becomes rocky and jagged. At the junction with Point Surprise, keep following Cliff Walk. There will be a bit of scrambling from this point on.

Once you hit the end of Cliff Walk, take a left to the Amphitheatre Trail. The views from here are outstanding and provide a good morale boost for the last bit of scrambling. There was a bit of snow here as of May 3rd even though it was 70 degrees outside. It's been a rough New England winter! (Rough for most, fun for others ;) ) From there, take the Smith Summit Trail for your last push up to the summit. It gets incredibly crowded from this point on, so don't expect to have a serene resting spot if you're going up on a weekend.

At the top, we took around 30 minutes to eat lunch, rest up, and bask in the sunlight. Heading back down, we took the Red Spot Trail. Follow the cairns to make your way around the summit, and then look for red dots surrounded by white circles, kind of like a bullseye. This descent is pretty gradual but some of the rocks were slick from melting snow. The Red Spot Trail hits Cascade Link and then the White Dot Trail. There were a few dark clouds up around 1:30PM at this point, so we were rushing a bit. We saw some people beginning to head up the mountain at 2PM, in jeans and cotton t-shirts!! Big tip: when it's about to rain, don't start a hike without proper gear. Luckily Monadnock has high traffic so most uninformed hikers will be ok. We got back to the Park HQ about 2 hours after lunch, making the total trip around 7 miles and 6 hours of hiking with a moderate pace and long breaks.

Monadnock is a super popular spot on the weekends, and now I know why! It's super accessible from Boston, and you can definitely do it as a "spur of the moment" day trip. 

Gear Specs:

  • 2L of water
  • Hiking boots
  • Columbia trail pants
  • Mountain Hardwear Women's shirt
  • Small backpack
  • Food and more food
  • Emergency Gear: Map & GPS, Headlamp, First-Aid Kit, Swiss Army Knife