The Mountain That Stands Alone

Mount Monadnock is a pristine mountain tucked into the southwest corner of New Hampshire. Many people come to hike the peak each year. Monadnock State Park offers many trails to the top for all skill levels. On this journey we decided to take the Birchtoft Trail to the summit. Along our way, we were able to explore the campground at Gilson Pond and took some time to admire the natural beauty of the area. From base to summit many memories were made. Whether it was our triumph at the summit, admiring the pond at the base, or just admiring the trail we were on, it was a great day.  Whether it is your first time up its historic trails, or you are a seasoned hiker, Monadnock always has something new to offer.

Mirror Image. Photo By Colleen Ann.
Mirror Image.
Photo By Colleen Ann.

Gilson Pond.
One of the first things that we came across was Gilson Pond. The first part of the trail runs along its edge, giving visitors incredible views. From here, you can admire the beauty of this small pond, with Monadnock rising behind it. It was cloudy that morning, as we made our way down the trail. The face of the pond was perfectly still, and like its mirror it reflected its surroundings. We stopped briefly to take pictures and to quietly take everything in. This mountain played host to Transcendentalist such as Thoreau and Emerson, men who valued nature in a deep and passionate way. The pond has a quiet dignity that surrounds it. Looking out over Gilson Pond’s surface, I could see what they had seen here.

At The Summit. Photo By Colleen Ann.
At The Summit.
Photo By Colleen Ann.

Gilson Pond Campground.
Gilson Pond Campground offers visitors a chance to get away from it all, and to stay in the shadow of Monadnock. A recent addition to the area, the campground sits right next to picturesque Gilson Pond. It was closed when we walked through, but we were able to get a great feel for it. The sites are beautiful and the campground has a secluded feel to it. It is a great place for hikers coming from a distance to stay close to the mountain. The campground also sits close to towns such as Peterborough, and Jaffrey as well.  Not everyone wants to climb the mountain, so this gives them something to do as well. Visitors can experience nature and are close to other great parts of the Monadnock Region. New Hampshire State Parks did a phenomenal job creating this campground, and while I didn’t get to stay this time, I cannot wait to come back later this summer and camp here.


The Summit.
Around 1pm, we reached the summit. Though it was cloudy, it was a perfect day to be at the summit. With little wind and the sun peeking out, we sat at the peak eating lunch and taking in the view all around us. I have been to the summit of many mountains, yet none are quite like Monadnock. Some people assume that the summit is bare due to it being above treeline. In reality numerous fires near the summit caused this. Today the top is bare and allows a 360 degree view.  Looking towards the Northwest slope, you can see Dublin Lake below you. Further on you look into Northern Vermont and New Hampshire. To the south, the land flattens and on a clear day you can see Boston. While it is a shame that fires laid the summit bare, one positive aspect is that you can see in all directions. No matter which trail you use, you arrive at a beautiful summit that allows you to see for miles in every direction.

Signs of the Past. Photo By Colleen Ann.
Signs of the Past.
Photo By Colleen Ann.

Being the most climbed mountains in America, Monadnock has a rich history. This place served as a vacation spot for people such as Thoreau and Emerson, and has a rich history of hikers. While today Monadnock is a wild place, it was not always this way. As you make your way to the summit stone walls snake through the forest, reminding you of the past. Back then this place was not a forest, but endless fields dotted with stone walls. Even as you reach the summit you step in other peoples footsteps. The summit itself is covered in carvings. Names and dates were once chiseled into the granite, to commemorate many who made it to the summit. While today we practice leave no trace, it is interesting to walk around the summit and looking into the past.

View From the Trail. Photo By Colleen Ann.
View From the Trail.
Photo By Colleen Ann.

Birchtoft and Red Spot.
Climbing mountains is not only about getting to the top, but what you see along the way. There are many different trails that lead to the summit, but Birchtoft remains one of my favorites. The trail starts near Gilson Pond, and up the mountain till it meets Red Spot Trail. Together these two trails create a great experience for beginners. Both trails have sections that can be challenging, but overall they create a nice gradual way to the summit. On our hike we were met by stonewalls, beautiful old trees and tiny brooks. As we neared the summit the trees cleared there were many places to stop and look over the region. Hiking these trails ultimately lead you to the summit, but there is so much to enjoy along the way.

The Little Details. Photo By Colleen Ann.
The Little Details.
Photo By Colleen Ann.

Monadnock is a great place to get away from it all. Gilson Pond is a great place to sit and enjoy the beauty of nature. The campground is a great place to rest and relax close to the summit. Hiking up the trails you can see the natural beauty of the place, while also seeing who came before you. At the summit you can take time to enjoy the view, or see who came before you. Monadnock State Park is a great place to bring the family to make memories that will last a lifetime.


Colleen O'Connell

My name is Colleen. I am a writer, and a life-long resident of New Hampshire. Growing up in the Southwestern part of the state, I spent most of my free time outside. As I have grown and matured, my love for New Hampshire and its natural beauty has grown as well. I spend most of my free time hiking, skiing, and exploring the natural beauty of our state. I enjoy the natural wonders of our state, and sharing these experiences and places with others through my writing.

One thought to “The Mountain That Stands Alone”

  1. Thank you. On the way to monadnock coming from milford there is another mountain. But I can’t remember the name. I thought it was Pats. I’m coming home for a visit and will probably hike the area with my sister. There’s also another one I hiked a lot on the backside of Pats. Can’t remember that name either.

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