The Last Presidential: Mount Monroe

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.


Family photo on Mount Monroe.

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.


The boys.

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!

32px-Black_Paw.svgA 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!



A Rocky Adventure – Jefferson and Adams

As peak fall foliage begins to wind down and the days become shorter, the journey of completing the NH48 marches forward. Next on the list were the second and third highest mountains in New Hampshire: Mount Adams (5,774 feet) and Mount Jefferson (5,712 feet). This would cross off two more mountains in the Presidential Range.

The weekend started off like any other White Mountain hiking weekend – leaving before the crack of dawn from Boston and arriving at the Caps Ridge Parking Lot slightly after 8 a.m. We weren’t the first ones in the parking lot. A group of boisterous hikers beat us to it, hitting the trail just a few minutes before us. [Note: If you plan on hiking Jefferson via Caps Ridge Trail, Jefferson Notch Road is closed during the winter.]

We started off on Caps Ridge Trail which takes you 2.5 miles to the summit of Mount Jefferson. The first mile or so is fairly easy on an eroded dirt/rocky trail. After that, it becomes much more difficult with rock scrambles and difficult terrain – your typical alpine New England trail. We did a bit of leapfrogging with the group of hikers, with Chris eventually skipping ahead the last few tenths to the summit and me lagging behind. They kept a good pace and were nice enough to adopt me into their “posse.” I got to know them a bit better, learning that they all take frequent weekend hiking trips together. All having plenty of outdoor experience (three are AMC trip leaders) and are accomplishing their goals of the NH48, the Grid and then some. My adventures sure seem puny when compared with theirs!


View of Mount Washington

As we neared Mount Jefferson’s summit, we encountered some snow and ice (as it had snowed 3 – 4 inches earlier in the week). This made for a more interesting hike but not one where chains or spikes were needed. We all made it to Mount Jefferson’s summit in good time (about 11 a.m.), and finding the pin on top to signify the true summit. It was one of the hiker’s 47th NH48 so she was the first one to touch it. Once at the summit, you have amazing 360-degree views including Mount Washington.

Family portrait on Mount Jefferson.

After obligatory summit selfies and lunch, Chris, Milo and I continued on to Mount Adams. The posse would be following suit at their own pace (eventually catching up to me near Mount Abigail Adams). To get to Adams, it is another ~2.5 miles via the Gulfside Trail. A majority of the hike on the Gulfside Trail is moderate with difficulty being the rock hopping and ice to contend with – some ice you could see, some you couldn’t. The last 0.3 miles were tiring but we all eventually made it to the top, enjoying a short break before heading back home.

Enjoying a break on Mount Adams.

Now, instead of following the same route back, we all opted to take the Gulfside Trail to The Cornice where we would hike on it for 1.3 miles around the western side of Jefferson, bypassing the summit. Well, let me tell you…The Cornice is one difficult trail. It’s full of bouldering and rock hopping that takes a whole lot out of you. What you think would take an hour, took me closer to two hours to traverse to get to the junction of The Cornice and Caps Ridge Trail. We knew about halfway through that we would be finishing our hike in the dark. It was tough, tiring and windy. I had to dawn my hat, gloves and down jacket to keep warm in the worsening conditions. We weren’t done once at the junction. We had to keep on trekking because the only way home was down.


Now look at that, snow/ice in October!

We eventually caught up to the posse once in the safety of the tree line. They had stopped to dawn their headlamps before continuing their descent. Once we all started moving again, they furthered their distance from us with a faster pace. We kept our slow and steady descent as our feet were hurting from the long hike. I was thankful once we hit the easy, flat terrain. Chris and I made jokes about how this is how scary movies like The Blair Witch Project start with people adventuring in the dark with sniffling noses and headlamps as the only source of light. I have a vivid imagination and watch too many horror flicks so I thought Mike Myers or Sasquatch would jump out to grab me as I was continuing down the trail. It didn’t help that Chris and Milo quickened their pace, leaving me alone in the dust. Though I was left alone, I did hear the celebratory cheers of the posse so I knew I was getting close to the parking lot. I just had to get past the wooden planks that looked like a swamp monster would be lurking nearby.

IMG_1102Well, at around 7:30 p.m., I made it out of the woods and into the safety of the parking lot. My newly adopted group was still there, celebrating the end of a long hike with beer. We didn’t join them as we were heading home (opting out of our original plan of camping and hiking Monroe the next day) but said our see you later’s. Overall, it was about an 11 – 12 mile hike that took us half a day to conquer. I hiked in the night for the first time but we enjoyed the experience. It’s always a thrill hiking in the White Mountains especially the rugged Presidential Range.

With Jefferson and Adams checked off, that leaves 10 left!

32px-Black_Paw.svgA Dog’s Walk:

Mount Jefferson and Mount Adams is a moderate to difficult hike. The first mile or so on Caps Ridge Trail is fairly easy and flat while the rest of the hike is a bit more difficult with plenty of rock scrambling and hopping to contend with. You may need to boost your adventure companion here and there but if they’re a mountain goat like Milo, then there shouldn’t be a problem. The Gulfside Trail is a bit easier to contend with as you and your pooch are hiking along the ridgeline but other than that, it is your typical New England trail conditions. It is a long strenuous hike for humans and dogs alike. And getting down the scrambles can be more difficult for your four-legged friend. There were times Milo needed a lift to get down certain sections. And as we were nearing the end of the hike (from mid-The Cornice and on), Milo got a bit tired and lazy so he needed some coaxing even for the simplest rock hops. As always, check your dog’s paws after a rocky hike like this to be sure their pads aren’t in need of TLC. And keep them hydrated (little water along the trail besides snow and ice at the summits) and well rested with breaks.




© Elizabeth Tran 2011-2017