Ranger Rachel here with another alternative to summiting the steep and often slippery slopes of Mount Monadnock. In July, I covered a family-friendly loop on the lower elevations of the 3,165 foot-tall mountain. For this walk, the trails will lead you further from the most popular trails but will not disappoint in natural wonders as well as stunning views. The Parker-Cliff Walk-Lost Farm Trail Loop is an intermediate hike with beautiful boulders, spruce stands, and bubbling brooks. This 4-mile, 2-2.5 hour hike offers a slightly challenging, yet obtainable trek for families or those looking for a shorter hike but not wanting to sacrifice the views.
You will start out at Park Headquarters, but instead of heading toward the White Dot Trail you will veer the opposite direction toward the Parker Trail. A chain link fence guides you along the the town reservoir and highlights a vista of Monadnock.
Follow this path along the reservoir and next to the overflow waterfall. Be on the lookout for yellow rectangular blazes to guide you. The Parker Trail will lead you across the bridge and into the hardwood forest. This relatively flat and straight trail cuts across old pasture land. Seek out the old stone walls and large hardwood trees that mark these old boundaries.
Be on the lookout for a geologic relic as well; a small-bus sized glacial boulder that was transported on top of glaciers 13,000 years ago.
The Parker Trail runs for about 1.5 miles. You will pass the turn off for the Lost Farm Trail after 0.6 miles and come to the junction for Cliff Walk after 1.2 miles.
If you desire a more relaxed walk, bypass the Cliff Walk-Lost Farm Trail Loop and continue until the Parker Trail meets the Old Toll Road. Turn around, and head back to headquarters for an enjoyable 3-mile round-trip walk.
To continue with the slightly more challenging Cliff Walk-Lost Farm Trail loop, turn off to the right at the Cliff Walk junction. This will happen approximately 30-40 minutes into your hike. This loop is shorter and easier than summiting but still has all the views (and a lot more privacy than the busy main trails).
The Cliff Walk Trail continues to the right of the Parker Trail. What starts as a gradual incline will increase to a steep section that includes the infamous wooden ladder.
The trail is marked by white, rectangular blazes on trees and white-painted C’s on rocks. Look for these as you walk to stay on path.
The Cliff Walk includes three such short, but steep sections where you will work up a little sweat. The sweat, however, is worth it. You reach your first view around the intersection of the Cliff Walk Trail with Hello Rock Trail.
At around 2000 feet, you can get a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside – and at only 650 feet above headquarters!
The Cliff Walk Trail will continue along to the right – past the Hello Rock Trail which veers to the left. As the trail name implies, the route will follow a cliff, and you will have views nearby on the right-hand side for the duration of your hike on this trail.
After passing Point Surprise on your right (the Point Surprise Trail will veer off to the left), you walk a short distance further to the Lost Farm Trail.
Lost Farm Trail
After about 1.2 miles and roughly 45 minutes, you will arrive at the Cliff Walk-Lost Farm Trail junction. Note that the Cliff Walk will head to the left while the Lost Farm Trail continues to slope downward, straight along the cliff-ridge.
Follow the descending trail back to the Parker Trail for 1.1 miles. You will cross streams, walk rock staircases, and hike over a few wooden bridges before you reach the Parker Trail. Be on the lookout for the stone walls that mark the boundary of the lost sheep farm that once covered the lower slopes of Monadnock.
At the Parker Trail junction, keep to the left to head back to Park Headquarters. This is the same path that you started on, so you may see some familiar sights. Listen for the sound of running water to know you are near the end of the trail (and the town reservoir). After about 0.6 miles and 15-20 minutes of walking, you will arrive back in the parking lots of Park Headquarters.
For your next family adventure, consider one of Monadnock State Park’s less-used trails like the Parker-Cliff Walk-Lost Farm Trail Loop. You never know what beauty and wonder you will find in the woods.
–Ranger Rachel, Monadnock State Park