JAFFREY, N.H. — Climbing Mount Monadnock, the broad-shouldered peak Henry David Thoreau called a “sublime mass,” is a rite of passage for many New England children. Just over the border from Massachusetts, Monadnock is less than a two-hour drive from Boston. Its accessibility and locale, smack in the center of New England, has made it one of the two most popular mountain ascents in the world, going toe-to-toe with Japan’s Mount Fuji.
Late April, when the black flies have yet to arrive, is the ideal time to tackle this 3,165-foot peak. Head up the White Dot trail, one of the steepest, but also the climb that rewards you with incredible vistas in a very short time. Above treeline, the forest recedes to form open ledges covered with low-lying shrubs like mountain cranberry bushes. Here is your opportunity to rest and gaze down at the soft blanket of treetops, small towns with their requisite white steeples, a smattering of lakes and ponds, and farms that fan out to anonymous ridges.
Soon you’ll reach the summit, where Thoreau watched in dismay as his fellow mid-19th-century trampers inscribed their names in rock. You can still spot names such as “T.S. Spaulding, 1853” clearly etched in the stone.