When you think of hiking the last presidential in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, you might think Mount Washington. It is the tallest and most well-known of the bunch. However, for this post and hike, the last presidential for this lady means Mount Monroe.
Mount Monroe, at an elevation of 5,384 feet, is the fourth highest mountain of the 4,000-footers of New Hampshire. It is in the Presidential Range, located just ¼ mile down the road from the Mount Washington Cog Railway. It is probably one of the few hikes where you hike parallel to water almost the entire way.
This hike would be with the usual suspects plus a friend, PJ. The day started off early with a 3-hour drive from Boston to the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail parking area located off of Base Station Road in Bretton Woods, NH. It rained most of the drive but cleared up once we hit the parking lot. The cloud cover remained which meant the heat we were expecting had yet to arrive. There was a National Forest Service pop-up tent with a ranger letting people know of what to expect on the day’s hike including the chance of thunderstorms. He even had a pop quiz! What do you do if one hits? Immediately return below the tree line, don’t lie down among the open rock above tree line, and stay flat on the soles of your feet.
With the appropriate gear packed and parking paid, we headed off on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. The first 1.5 miles is fairly flat but rocky and with the previous day’s rain, it was muddy and slippery. The flat hike wouldn’t last long. Soon after, we hit very steep, rocky terrain. This would last for another 1.6 miles. Much of it laden with rock steps but a good portion, as you near the summit, just sheer rock which requires some skill, balance, and the occasional scramble. We weren’t the only ones feeling the steepness of the trail. There were a good amount of people on the trail, in both directions many returning home from a stop off at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut the previous night, who were taking breaks every so often. At this point, Chris, PJ, and Milo were a good 10-15 minutes ahead of me. [If you’ve read my previous posts, I like to take it nice and steady.] Once I hit the Forest Protection Area sign, it seemed like a long ¼ mile to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut. I was relieved once I saw the hut and went around to meet the boys sitting on the bench. We sat there, catching our breath and took in the gorgeous day. Some of the hikers we passed eventually made it up, with many continuing on to Mount Washington (only 1.8 miles from the Hut). We even encountered an Appalachian Trail hiker named Sir Eats-a-Lot who had been on the trail since March.
After our break, we followed the Crawford Path for 0.1 miles to the Mount Monroe Loop. From there, the summit is only 0.3 miles away. This part was the easy part as the trail was a gradual grade and fairly dry as it was an open summit. Once at the summit, we were only the second group to stick around. There were a pair of men who crept past me but continued on to Mount Eisenhower. The other man on the summit was an older gentleman who seemed to have been there awhile with lots of camera equipment taking in the views. We found a nook just below the summit and made ourselves at home, eating lunch and enjoying the view towards Mt Washington. It definitely was a hot day now as the cloud cover had burnt off at this point and the sun beat down on us.
We decided to head down after 30 minutes or so. Good thing too as it started sprinkling and eventually down pouring as we descended Monroe. It was a treacherous descent with so many now soaked rock slabs to maneuver. I did a fair amount of butt sliding and we all took it slow. I was surprised at how many people were still making the trek up! We told them all to be careful as the rain seemed like it wouldn’t let up. I had Milo with me and it definitely didn’t help me as he did not like Chris and PJ leaving him behind with my slow self. The rain eventually let up and the rest of the hike was a bit better with more mud to contend with.
From start to end, hiking Mount Monroe is 7-miles roundtrip. It took us about 6.5 hours and could’ve been shorter had it not been for the rain and slippery rocks. It’s certainly a good day hike and could be made longer to include Mount Washington or Mount Eisenhower as many others were doing it. 44 down, 4 to go!
A Dog’s Walk:
Mount Monroe is a moderate to difficult hike. The first 1.5 miles on Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is fairly easy, flat and rocky while the rest of the hike (1.6 miles) is a bit more difficult with plenty of rock stair climbing and scrambling to contend with. The last 0.3 miles to Mount Monroe’s summit is an easy ascent. Overall, just your typical New England trail conditions. It is a short strenuous hike for humans and dogs alike, maybe slightly easier for your four-legged friend as they have the advantage of four legs. Milo had no trouble with the trail and didn’t look like he was tired after a full day’s hike. Remember to check your dog’s paws and keep them hydrated (water runs along the majority of the trail) on these hot summer hikes!