Ever wonder what would it be like to see what a hawk sees from its soaring view over mountains and valleys? Only an hour’s drive from Londonderry, you can take in a spectacular view that includes The White Mountains, Manchester, Boston, Vermont and all the verdant green in between – all in one swoop. You don’t have to fly, but you do have to go… up!
Pack Monadnock is in Miller State Park, just east of Peterborough. The peak is part of the Wapack Range, a 20-mile mountain range that is rather stretched out, so that the peaks appear more separated, rising abruptly from the surrounding area. Even the name, Monadnock, is derived from a Native American term for this type of “lone” peak; and the word “monadnock” is used to denote other mountains with this characteristic. “Pack”, is yet another native derivation meaning “little”. Though smaller than its big brother, Mount Monadnock, Pack Monadnock is definitely not small. At 2,290’ it rises well above the surrounding area, allowing unobstructed, absolutely jaw-dropping views that reach across three states. The best part? You don’t have to be a hard core hiker, or climber to get to the top.
To get here from Londonderry, take NH Rte 101A through Nashua, and either go through, or around Milford, to get to Miller State Park. Admission to the park is four dollars for adults, and one can either drive to the summit, or park and day-hike up.
The auto road is about a ten minute drive and lies between the two hiking trails, each 1.4 miles to the summit. If you hike, plan on a few hours for the round trip. That’s two and half hours, what we took at a steady, but easy pace, with a half hour at the top.
We took the Marion Davis Trail, denoted by blue blazes, that wends its way up east of the road. This is a good healthy hike, and if you visit the health club on occasion, you’ll probably find this nearly hour-long trip a pleasant exercise. It’s not a walk in the proverbial park. The trail is rough. There are lots of tree roots, and stones, with larger elevation changes, and a little more clambering over larger “steps” of rock closer to the top. Kudos to the trail crews that have placed countless stones strategically for good footing – it must have been mighty work! Along the trail, we saw plenty of families, and a couple groups of mature women, all enjoying the trek through the dappled light and peaceful hush of the forest.
At the summit, we stepped up into the lot through a narrow slot, which felt a little anti-climactic. A side trail and sign beckoned us to the Boston View. This is where we received our reward for the climb. A dome of ledge creates a shoulder on the east side of the peak. Rising above the deciduous forest, it provides an unencumbered view that reaches from the doorstep of the White Mountains in the north, eastward to Manchester and Londonderry, then southward to a horizon bristling with tall buildings – Boston! This view is so complete it feels surreal; like looking at a diorama of the area: massive expanses of rolling green, little villages, distant cities. It’s clear that we are fast approaching a time when this view will become a spectacular quilt of autumn colors, and in the crisp fall air, there’s a good chance one could see a blue, distant ocean!
At north of the lot, there’s a view of nearby North Monadnock, framed by both the Green and White Mountains. You can also climb up a fire tower to a small platform just below the observatory, which was closed, for an utterly dizzying 360° view that includes the majestic spire of Mount Monadnock, 3,165’ in height, to the west.
Stroll a hundred yards down a westerly trail, the Raymond Trail – white blazes, and it takes you to an alpine break and another beautiful north-facing overlook. The day we were there it was covered with bird watchers. This local group assembles to frequently release rehabilitated raptors back into the wild, and had sent a red tailed hawk on his way earlier that afternoon!
For a little variety, we took the Wapack Trail, denoted by yellow blazes, down. This 1.4 mile trail is just west of the auto road. Unlike the Marion Davis Trail, it runs through evergreen forest, and your big elevation changes are encountered half way down. Some of this is not for the faint of heart. One bypasses some rock cliffs by way of a steep descent through large, angular stones – stepping down through some of these 3 and 4 foot drops required turning around and climbing down instead of walking. The reward is that those cliffs give you some gorgeous “bonus” views on the way down. Stepping out on one ledge, I could imagine what Native American scouts might have felt like; surveying from the hawk’s view, looking for clearings and water for survival, feeling the air move, and the surge of spirit that comes from being surrounded by nature’s beauty and might. It felt good to stop, rest and take in these views. It would have been too easy to merely become absorbed in watching one’s footing, though highly advisable, one would be missing the scenery. Bottom line on the Wapack Trail, and its cliff bypasses; it’s probably easier to ascend, than descend this trail. If you’re dizzied by steeper climbs, stick to the Marion Davis trail for the entire round trip.
• Pack Monadnock is 60 minutes drive from Londonderry.
• It’s an inexpensive family outing. Admission to Miller State Park is $4 adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; children ages 5 and under and NH residents age 65 and over are admitted free.
• You can drive to the top in minutes, if you choose.
• The trails are a convenient day-hike. Set aside at least three hours for the round trip. Always follow the Hike-Safe Rules: www.hikesafe.com Let someone know that you’re going, and when you plan to return and bring water for each climber.
• The Wapack Trail has big elevation changes on the bottom half, and uses steep climbs over large rocks to by-pass some rock ledges and cliffs. Great extra views. The climb finishes in evergreen forest.
• The Marion Davis Trail is the easier of the two trails, and better for someone that wants a steadier climb. It ascends through deciduous forest with no bonus views. Though bigger elevation changes are closer to the top, there is a modest amount of clambering over stones.
• Pets are permitted in the park.
This information was provided by Andy Mack, Jr. Andy is a Londonderry native, and loves everything New Hampshire. The former radio professional is a fan of old farms and the people who run them. Andy now writes, and consults for farms, artists and charities.