Mount Monadnock a hiking challenge despite its looks

From a distance, New England’s beloved Mount Monadnock looks distinctly unthreatening. Veteran hikers seeking a challenge might be dubious at first, but this balding geezer of a mountain is plenty rugged.

Monadnock rises 3,165 feet in Cheshire County, near the town of Jaffrey in New Hampshire’s southwestern corner. The name comes from a Native American term for “mountain standing alone.” Its approachability makes Monadnock one of the nation’s most popular climbs, drawing more than 100,000 hikers yearly. Those who reach the summit are rewarded with 100-mile views on clear days.

More than a dozen hiking trails wind their way up the mountain, many of them converging near the summit, and several start near the park headquarters. Pick up trail maps there. Pumpelly is among the longest trails, almost 4 miles each way from the start point near the town of Dublin, and rated among the easiest because it’s a more gradual climb—but none of the options is a cinch. All but the most experienced hikers should allow at least half a day for most routes.

All routes begin as windy paths, many covered in gnarled tree branches, through fragrant forests of spruce and hemlock, along with oak, birch and maples that make Monadnock a popular destination for leaf-peeping hikers in the fall. And all trails become notoriously rocky toward the summit.

At the top, Monadnock is bare rock, above tree line, and to get there requires conquering layers of steep giant boulders and craggy paths invisible from the tame roadside view.

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