Dan Guider, SCA Interpretive Ranger
So, you’re thinking of hiking Mt. Monadnock? That’s awesome! As an SCA Interpretive Ranger, I’m very lucky to be able to hike it almost every day and appreciate the nature and views it has to offer. Mt. Monadnock is one of the most hiked mountains in the world, and there is a vast diversity of hiker experience on the mountain. I’ve encountered people preparing to hike the Rockies, people who have never hiked before, as well as people who run up and down the mountain every day.
There are three primary trails to choose from: the White Dot, White Cross, and White Arrow. Each trail varies in steepness and difficulty, but there are some general principles to keep in mind no matter which one you choose.
One of the most important things to do while hiking is one of the most overlooked… hydration! Drinking enough fluids can make or break a hike and it’s always important to have an adequate supply with you. For Mt. Monadnock, I carry at least 3.5 liters of water (3.5 Nalgene brand water bottles, to put it in perspective). I might not always drink all of it, but I always drink at least 2 liters. I recommend bringing a minimum of 2 liters of water- which is also the equivalent of 4, 8 oz. water bottles (standard size for a Poland spring bottle of water), if you don’t have reusable water bottles. There are water fountains and filling stations at the Park restrooms, so take advantage of those! Lack of hydration can lead to a lot of serious injuries and illnesses, like heat exhaustion and severe dehydration. Without enough water, we move more lethargically, get more tired/irritable and our muscles can cramp up more often. If you start experiencing even one of these symptoms, you won’t be able to appreciate the scenery around you nearly as much. You can also run the risk of becoming dizzy and lightheaded, which could lead to other injuries.
Bringing a snack along is also important, and one of the best parts of hiking, in my opinion. Being able to eat your lunch or snack with an awesome view makes even the hardest of hikes worth it. When we sweat, we release a lot of salt. Bringing a salty snack with you on trail can help replenish the salt your body needs, and will keep your “hangry” friends happy. When you’re full of good food and hydrated, there’s almost no hike you can’t complete. If you forget to bring a snack, don’t worry! You can stop by the Park store and buy a couple before your hike.
Mt. Monadnock has lots of challenging but very doable trails. The ease or difficulty of these trails can be affected by your choice of footwear. Not everyone has expensive hiking boots, and that’s okay. For Mt. Monadnock, I highly recommend good hiking boots/shoes or sturdy sneakers with good grip. While I love my old pair of Nike sneakers, there’s a time and place to wear them, and Mt. Monadnock is not one of them. There are many points on the mountain where there are smooth boulders you have to walk up or down. Wearing shoes that are worn or do not have a good grip can lead to some serious falling or sliding. There are also jagged rocks you may have to step on which, without a sturdy pair of shoes, might hurt your feet. A twisted ankle by itself is not a serious injury, however, a twisted ankle on top of a mountain is. There are many good views on Mt. Monadnock and to not be able to reach them because of improper footwear, would be a real bummer.
It’s also important to make a plan for your hike on Mt. Monadnock. The good news is, if you’re reading this, then you are already taking great steps to be prepared! Make sure you know what route you are taking, and to get a map of the trails. They can be found at the toll booths, trailheads, and the Park store. It takes most people around 3-4 hours to make it to the summit and back. Plan some extra time to take in the good views, and to observe any cool plants/animals you see. There’s no rush! Mt. Monadnock has a lot to offer and you should take advantage of it. It’s also important to let people know where you’re hiking and when you plan to be back. As someone who enjoys hiking alone, this is very important to do. There is decent cell service on the majority of the mountain as well, and if you’re able to, it never hurts to send someone an update or a picture of the view.
Many of these things I’ve mentioned are admittedly small things, but they can add up! When hiking Mt. Monadnock, overlooking small details such as bringing a snack or wearing appropriate footwear can result in significant consequences. There is no need to be worried or scared to hike, as long as you are prepared. I’m lucky enough to be able to hike this mountain almost every day, and I want as many people as possible to enjoy it while hiking safely and happily. I hope to see you on the mountain, happy trails!