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Frequently Asked Questions

      

1 Is Monadnock the most hiked mountain in the world?

2. Who owns Mt. Monadnock?

 3. How many hiking trails are there on Monadnock? 

4. Why can’t I bring my dog? 

5. Why are there so many trails on the southwest side of the mountain and so few on the north side? 

 6. Why is there a road and a house halfway up the mountain on the west side?

 7. What is that rectangular hole on the summit?

 8. How high is Mount Monadnock?

9. What’s the best trail to take?

   10. How did the Pumpelly Trail get its name?

    11.  What was the Halfway House?

12. What kinds of structures were built on the summit?

 13. Who was the “Smith” whose name is on some of the trails?

14. Why is there a weathervane on Monte Rosa?

15. What is the mountain's real name?

16. Why do so many of the sites have different names?

17. Did Thoreau ever sit on Thoreau's seat?

18. What can you see from the summit?

Ask your own question Here.

1. Is Monadnock the most climbed mountain in the world?

No. Although Monadnock may be the most hiked mountain in America, with as many as 120,000 hikers a year, Mt. Fuji in Japan has 200,000 hikers and Mount Tai in China had a whopping 6 million visitors in 2003. Some of the distinction comes down to deciding what "climbed" means since both Fuji and Tai have public transportation partway up the mountain. While there seems to be no other mountain in America that vies for this honor, the forest rangers at Mount Monadnock State Park are so tired of being asked about this that they have taken to stating that “It’s the most climbed mountain in Jaffrey, N.H.,” which is clearly indisputable.

2.  Who owns Mt. Monadnock? 

The mountain is owned jointly by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the State of New Hampshire and the Town of Jaffrey. The patchwork ownership is the result of a long history of separate preservation efforts. The three owners generally work together congenially in the best interests of preserving the mountain and ensuring a pleasurable experience for everyone. The two other owners lease their property to the state for use as a park.

3. How many hiking trails are there on Monadnock?

Impossible to answer. There are 34 official trails listed on the official state park map, but these are only the maintained trails. There are probably twice that many if you count the unofficial or abandoned trails. Trails are constantly being closed and new ones are being opened. There are remnants of old trails all over the mountain as you might expect in an area that has been hiked since 1725. Allen Chamberlain famously said that it would take an entire week to hike all the trails on the mountain. That is still probably true today.

4.  Why can’t I bring my dog?

Dogs used to be permitted on the mountain, but they created conditions on the summit that included dog fights and dog feces in the shallow rainwater pools on the summit. Conditions have improved remarkably since dogs were banned in 1986.

5.Why are there so many trails on the southwest side of the mountain and so few on the north side? 

There used to be a hotel on the western side, halfway up the mountain, called the Halfway House and many of the trails in that area were blazed by guests and given fanciful names a century ago. This added considerably to the charm of the place. When the hotel burned down in 1954, the state took over most of the trails and has maintained them.  The deed that transferred the north side of the mountain to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests explicitly required that no new trails be built in that area.

6.  Why is there a road and a house halfway up the mountain on the southwest side?

The house is called “the Hermitage” and was originally a rustic cabin built by Augustus Chamberlaine on a lot he purchased from the Halfway House hotel. The road served the hotel and the house. The house was later purchased by Scott A. Smith, a Providence businessman who laid out many of the trails on the southwest side about 1900. The house has been radically expanded by subsequent owners and the deed requires that the road remain open for access to the house. It's also used for maintenance and emergencies.

7. What is that rectangular hole on the summit? 

Nobody knows for sure. It was deliberately cut into the rock by someone prior to 1861 when the U.S. Coastal Survey noted it in its report. It was later used to house the stone fire tower that was built into it from 1928 to 1969, when it was removed. You can still see some of the mortar on the rocks from this building. Hikers have dubbed it the “cellar” because it makes an excellent windbreak on windy days. 

8.      How high is Monadnock? 

3,165 feet above sea level, even though the summit itself has 3,166 feet engraved into it. That number is not correct.

9.   What’s the best trail to take?

It depends on what kind of adventure you are looking for. The most popular and shortest trails are the two from the State Park Headquarters: the White Dot Trail and the White Cross Trail. The combination of the Old Toll Road and White Arrow Trail are about the same distance, but the last quarter mile (dubbed "the Last Hard Climb") is quite strenuous. The Marlboro Trail and the Dublin Trail are the most popular with locals and because they go up the less steep part of the mountain are not as difficult as the White Arrow Trail. The Pumpelly Trail, which starts at the south shore of Dublin Lake, is the most scenic and interesting, but it is a nine-mile round trip.

10 How did the Pumpelly Trail get its name?

It’s named after the man who blazed it in 1883, Raphael Pumpelly, a world-famous geologist and Harvard professor who had a summer home on Snow Hill high above the eastern shore of Dublin Lake. Basically he created his own trail from his house to the summit. The lower end has been relocated several times because it crosses over very valuable private property. The trial is not used much because there is no parking area except along the road. Pumpelly was a kind of Victorian era Indiana Jones, famous for his long beard, which stretched down to his belt buckle, and for being the first adventurer to explore the wilds of Mongolia.

11. What was the Halfway House?

It was a three-story hotel located on the west side of the mountain at the end of a mile-long toll road, “the shortest toll road in the world.” There was a hotel located at that site since 1858, but it burned down, was rebuilt and added onto over the years. It was very popular in the heydays of Mount Monadnock from 1880 to 1920. Guests came back every year to walk the theme-park-like trails that guests built around the hotel with romantic names like “the Spring of Perpetual Youth,” “Dingle Dell,” and “Thoreau’s Seat.”  The hotel had no electricity and no running water until after World War II. It was originally called the Monadnock Mountain House, but seems to have always been called the Halfway House and the name was changed in 1916. The hotel burned to the ground in 1954. The site was used as a parking lot until 1974 when it was closed. It has now mostly grown back to its natural state.  

12. What kinds of structures were built on the summit?

Anyone who has been to the summit knows that it is full of iron rings and cutouts and other artifacts. The summit has a long history of buildings and towers. The first was what was called a hotel in the 1820s,. but it was likely nothing more than a bunkhouse. There is very little known about it, no descriptions and no pictures. After 1860 there was a tripod tower built on the summit by the U.S. Coastal Survey, which was experimenting with sending coded messages over long distances from mountain to mountain. Later there was a tall pole, at least 20-feet tall that was set into a drilled hole at the top. In 1916 the state built a wooden fire warden station, referred to as the Tip Top House or the Pill Box on the summit, held down by cables screwed into the rocks. This was replaced with a lower profile stone structure, built into a space in the rocks in 1928. After it was abandoned as a fire tower it was operated by the state park as a refreshment stand. It was demolished in 1974. Since then, the summit has only had people on it.

13. Who was the “Smith” whose name is on some of the trails?

Scott A Smith was a Providence industrialist who spent his summers at Mount Monadnock beginning in 1886. He was a founder of the Monadnock Mountain Association and built many of the trails around the Halfway House.

14.Why is there a weathervane on Monte Rosa?

The original weather vane was set up by guests at the Halfway House so they could tell which way the wind was blowing from the porch of the hotel.  It fell into disrepair for many years but was replaced by a new weathervane in the 1970s. You can see the weathervane from the summit and Bald Rock as well as from the Halfway House site.

15. What is the mountain's real name?

The mountain has had many names. Ralph Waldo Emerson insisted on calling it "Monadnoc" without the K. Many scholars, including Allen Chamberlain, called it "Grand Monadnock" to differentiate it from the less grand Pack Monadnocks and Little Monadnock.  Most people today refer to it as "Mount Monadnock" or sometimes "Monadnock" for short.  But those are all incorrect according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which is the government agency in charge of authorizing the correct names for places in the United States. According to them, the correct name is "Monadnock Mountain," a name that nobody ever uses. That is also the name of this web site: MonadnockMountain.com. But I would have picked Mount Monadnock instead if somebody didn't already own it.

16. Why do many of the sites have different names?

Beginning about 1890, there was conscious effort on the part of the Monadnock Mountain House to create a kind of mountain theme park on the western side of the mountain. Giving every prominent outcrop a romantic name was part of this effort. During this time Newton's Peak became Monte Rose, named after a mountain in Switzerland by Scott Smith. Bald Rock was renamed Pulpit Rock, but in this case the name didn't stick. Many of the romantic-named places, especially the springs, are now difficult to find because they have not been maintained.

17. Did Thoreau ever sit on Thoreau's seat?

Almost certainly not. As part of the process of giving the trails and outcrops around the Mountain House romantic names, many were chosen to honor people associated with the mountain's history. There was a Thoreau Seat, an Emerson Seat and an Ainsworth seat, named after the first minister in Jaffrey. There is no reason to believe that any of them ever sat in their seats. While Thoreau did walk down the spur of the mountain that leads to Bald Rock, he never says anything about sitting in any particular place.

18. What can you see from the summit?

On a clear day, you can see parts of all six New England states and 100 miles in every direction. The panorama takes in the Prudential Tower in Boston, Newburyport harbor, Mount Washington in the north, Stratton and the Green Mountains to the west, and parts of the Berkshires including Graylock. According to calculations you should be able to see Camelback Mountain in Vermont, but I have never been able to see it, even with binoculars. It's also impossible to see any of the Catskills. The curvature of the earth puts them over the horizon.

 

 

 

 
       
           
    This page last updated on Jan. 4, 2007