Mount Monadnock is known for its summit: the bare schist boulders and breathtaking 360 views that reach to Boston. To get to the summit, however, can be a daunting task. A minimum four-mile trek with boulders, smoothed rock, and steep scrambles might be too challenging of a hike for some visitors – especially on rainy days that turn the worn boulders into slippery, slimy hazards. But, have no fear! Monadnock State Park offers other trails beside a straight shot to the summit. On a recent rainy day, I discovered the magical Harling and Hinkley trails. These relatively flat, winding trails are a fantastic trek for anyone looking for an alternative to the 4+ hour roundtrip to the summit (And they are especially beautiful during or right after a rain shower).
Here is your step-by-step guide to the White Dot-Harling-Hinkley loop – an ideal 2.1 mile trek for families with young children or for anyone look for a pleasant walk through the woods.
White Dot Trail
You will be ascending the White Dot trail for approximately 0.8 miles from Park Headquarters. This will be the steepest part of your hike and may be the most challenging. Look out for curious squirrels, chirping songbirds, and a wooden throne.
Next, you will come to a junction for Cascade Link – take this trail to the right to head toward the Harling Trail. If you are thirsty beforehand, consider filling up your water bottles at Falcon Spring off the left side of the White Dot Trail.
After just 0.1 miles of the Cascade Link, you’ll see a sign on a tree to the left denoting the Harling Trail. You will follow this trail for a half-mile as cross-country skiing trails zig-zag across the way. This trail was blazed in 1914 by E.J. Harling and holds many historic treasures. From an old stone wall to a cairn village to massive red oaks, there is much to explore along the route.
After about a quarter of a mile, you will come to a trail junction showing the way back to the Park Headquarters’ campground; this is an option for a shorter walk (and a chance to head back to bathrooms).
As you approach the Harling-Hinkley trail junction, you will hear the sound of running water. A large sign beside the bubbling brook will lead you to the right toward Poole Road. This junction is a fantastic place to stop and relax. Take a seat on the bench or dangle your feet in the water from the bridge and enjoy the serenity of the running water.
The Hinkley Trail runs about 0.6 of a mile – with mossy stepping stones running near the brook. Use the yellow blazes to guide you along the gentlest path through the woods. The Hinkley Trail comes out at Poole Road. Look to your right, and notice sign for the entrance. You now have a short walk back to headquarters along the pavement.
Next time you are in need of an easier hike, consider Monadnock State Park’s lesser used trails and explore the often unseen wonders of the woods.
–Ranger Rachel, Monadnock State Park Interpreter