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  1. #1

    Default An End-to-Ender's Guide of the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway

    *This is a stripped down version of guide I put together for MSG. I have a greater in depth version on my personal website with trip reports, photographs, gear lists, etc that may be available in to the public in the future.

    An End-to-Ender's Guide of the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway

    The purpose of this guide is to provide a concise resource for planning a Spring through Fall end-to-end hike of the ~50 mile Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway located in southwest New Hampshire.
    I have hiked the Greenway end-to-end in its entirety four times. These hikes consisted of an early spring northbound hike, a late summer southbound-northbound YoYo, and a late spring southbound hike. All photographs included in this guide are my own.
    Quick LinksMonadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail ClubMonadnock-Sunapee Greenway Facebook GroupAtlas Guides - New England Hiker App Monadnock State Park
    Mount Sunapee Resort
    Maps & Guidebooks
    The MSGTC has published the 8th edition trail guide along with the Greenway SuperMap. Atlas Guides has the New England Hiker app available for phone use.
    General Safety Most imminent dangers include injury from slips and falls, contracting disease from a parasitic tick, potential exposure to precarious weather in exposed areas, and getting sick from poor water quality. Weather hazards are predictable and minimized with strategizing hiking logistics. Tick pressure can be minimized with insect repellants. Wildlife is present, but not inherently dangerous. Proper food storage mitigates problems with wildlife. Water treatment minimizes risks associated with backcountry water. The Greenway can be quiet at times, and mobile device coverage is unreliable most of the trail.
    There are outdoor enthusiasts utilizing the trail and surrounding area year round. The MSG travels through residential neighborhoods, on public roads, and through a small village. During peak hiking season, the trail is lively with day hikers, runners, and backpackers. Hiking midweek or off-season, the trail and campsites can be much quieter.
    Navigation
    Well marked end-to-end with white blazes, trail signs, and cairns. Navigationally straight forward for all skill levels. The Super Map is sufficient to navigate the trail. The New England Hiker app is a comprehensive, GPS enabled smartphone guide and includes a detailed MSG guide for a nominal fee. The paperback guidebook has an honest amount of narrative not necessary for navigating the trail. I suggest leaving it home to save weight. I recommend hikers carrying a smartphone to download the New England Hiker app, and use it to supplement the Super Map.
    TerrainHikers will traverse granite slabs, rocky ridgelines, and asphalt or gravel roads. Rocky, rooty, and muddy trail is common. There are footbridges, bog bridges, and rock hops over water hazards. There is no technical climbing, but a few modest ascents and descents. The trail can be moderately rugged at times, and a smooth path around the bend. Novice, but fit hikers should fare well on this terrain. The Greenway is conducive to an introduction of New England backpacking and serves well as a shakedown hike for the more strenuous Long Trail, Cohos Trail, and Appalachian Trail.
    Southbound vs Northbound Northbound – The hike kicks off with an immediate ascent of Grand Monadnock and seems to gradually climb all the way to the northern terminus with some ups and downs in between. Aside from Grand Monadnock, the most physical and rugged stretch of trail is from Washington to Sunapee. Some could argue having a lighter food bag helps, but being a little worn out from the southern half can make the last ~20 miles feel like one arduous climb. From my four hikes, the popular trend seems to favor northbound hikes for first time MSG hikers.

    Southbound – The hike has a more dramatic finish with a final demanding ascent to summit Grand Monadnock. Hikers reach the Washington General Store faster. The stretch from Sunapee to Washington feels like one big downhill rather than a northbound climb. Reaching the gentler southern half of the trail is easier on weary hikers. Hikers enjoy the more rugged and scenic northern section with fresher legs, but carry heavier food bags. Early birds can enjoy a sunrise hike up Grand Monadnock if they spend their final night at Spiltoir Shelter.
    After two northbound and two southbound hikes, I lean towards a southbound preference.
    Travelling to the Southern/Northern Terminus From Monadnock State Park Headquarters, hikers can ascend Grand Monadnock via the 1.9 mile White Dot Trail, or the 2.1 mile White Cross Trail. The red-blazed, 2.1 mile Sunapee Summit Trail begins to the right of the Lower Bridge ski trail, behind Sunapee Lodge located within Mount Sunapee Resort.
    There is no public transportation, shuttle service, or taxis accessible at either end of the trail. If hiking with a partner, it is best to utilize two vehicles and spot them at each terminus. Solo hikers must arrange a ride to and from the trail, or from one terminus to the other. Each establishment allows short term parking with permission arranged by calling during operating hours. Hitchhiking between terminuses is uncommon and unreliable, it is not advised.

    Itinerary Planning Logistically, the distance between campsites constrains the itinerary. 10-15 miles per day is an average, achievable pace for the majority of hikers. Personally, I think this trail is most enjoyed over the course of 4 days. Experienced backpackers who aim to hike faster are usually in the 2-3 day window. Ultrarunners have completed this trail end-to-end in less than 10 hours. Spotting cars, travelling between terminuses, and hiking approach trails should be incorporated into itinerary planning.
    Budget Hikers may need to pay for short term parking, campground fees, and for food/resupply at the General Store. Most establishments can process a card nowadays, but backpackers always have a bit of cash with them. Travel to/from the trail in addition to a hiker’s meal plan will comprise the greatest expense.
    CampingCamping on the Greenway is prohibited to designated sites only. Generous landowners have allowed these sites to be built on private property.

    5 sites have Adirondack style shelters, 1 has tent platforms. Space for hammocks/tents at each site. Some campsites are dry. Reserved camping available at Monadnock State Park, Pillsbury State Park, and Mount Sunapee State Park.

    Monadnock State Park Campground and Mount Sunapee State Park Campground are a short distance away from where hikers access or come off the approach trails. Most hikers don’t need to utilize these services, but they are a great option if travelling far and want to spend a night close by.
    Seasons & Weather on the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway The MSG is a 4 season experience. Hikers can experience high winds, pounding rain, sleet, snow, thunder, lightning, heavy humidity, frigid temps, blistering heat, intense sun rays, and a little mix of everything now and then. New Hampshire is known for having bouts of intense weather and crushing Nor'easters. The forecast around the Greenway is pretty stable, and can be considered reliable for a few days forward. If scheduling allows a little freedom, taking advantage of a good weather window is sound.
    Spring - Bug and mud season is peaking as spring turns to summer on the MSG. An early spring, fringe hike is okay as the ground has not thawed, and the bugs have not hatched. It is best to stay off the trail mid April - mid June to avoid the highest bug pressure and mud season. Ticks are a year-round concern. Snow and ice can linger on the trail into early May. Once the snow is mostly gone, it’s mud season, and hikers impose a great impact on the trail. A spring hike is only recommended if you can get on trail when it’s dry and before the bugs hatch. Otherwise, this is truly the worst time to be on the MSG.
    Summer - Summer can be hot and humid with temperatures nearing 100 degrees with high humidity. Hiking in the rain can be welcoming. However, summers in NH can have cold snaps, especially in the mountains. It won’t dip to freezing, but an unassuming chill can take over the night, even during the summer. Thunder and lighting storms are common. Mosquitos can be ferocious. Early summer hikes, the bug pressure is high. Mosquitos become lethargic at 60*F, and late summer nights can drop down to these temps.
    Fall - Primetime backpacking on the MSG is early to mid Fall. The humidity of summer has subsided, the temperatures will be cool, bug pressure is minimal, the mud will have dried up, and the chance to catch some incredible autumn colors are for the taking. The only downside to a fall hike is the water sources become less ideal later into the season. A late fall hike can bring the chance of frigid temperatures and bone chilling precipitation.
    Winter - A winter hike is for experienced hikers only requiring extensive knowledge, skillsets, and preparation to safely complete. If you’re confident in your abilities in completing a winter end-to-end, this guide likely isn’t offering much to you.

    Water The MSG is by no means a dry trail, but quality water sources are not as abundant in the later part of the year. In early spring, the melting snow means sources are plentiful. You may just be schlepping through water most of the time as well. I only needed to carry one liter of water between sources on my early spring hike.
    In late summer, there were less listed flowing sources and some were dried up or stagnant mud puddles. I made it a point to hydrate well and carry away two liters of water from quality sources. This strategy allowed me to avoid drinking from less than desirable sources. The water sources near campsites aren’t always the best. Hauling water to a campsite from a quality source a few miles back can be ideal when water levels are low.
    Even in the drier months, there’s plenty of water along the trail. In the form of lakes, reservoirs, springs, and beaver ponds, with some seriously impressive beaver dams. On each of my hikes, I was able to drink water from flowing sources, even if a trickle, and didn’t drink beaver pond water once. It’s less than desirable to drink from the highway underpass either. The General Store is generous to fill bottles from the tap.
    I treated every drop of water using Aquamira and would recommend hikers treat or filter from all sources. Most hikers will prefer a filter over chemicals on this trail, as the sources can be a tad muddy and sedimentary. 3-4L water capacity should cover hiking and camp use needs.
    ResupplyFor most, the trail can be completed without resupply. The generous selection and grill at the General Store allows backpackers to supplement their diet plan. If considering a yoyo hike, Monadnock State Park allowed me to mail a resupply box. Reflecting on it, it wasn't necessary and I had to climb ascend/descend Monadnock twice in one day.
    Lodging, Showers, Restrooms, & Laundry There is no lodging catering directly to hikers on the MSG, but there is one B&B directly on trail. There are no public showers available to hikers. There are pit toilets at designated campsites. The General Store has a restroom available to customers. MSP, PSP, and MSR have restrooms. There are no laundromats accessible near the trail. The campground at MSP has a bathhouse with showers, but is only available to overnight guests. On my hike in spring 2020, a local was building a home on a newly acquired property and mentioned he was interested in creating a hiker hostel.
    Charging ElectronicsThere is electricity at MSP, in Washington, and MSR. Asking permission is always polite.
    Insect Concerns The MSG has areas that are populated with parasitic ticks which I encountered on each of my hikes. Permethrin treatment and carrying an insect repellant is recommended. I found myself checking my body routinely for ticks. If you hike before the early season hatch or into the fall, mosquitos and black flies become tolerable or a non-issue. Late spring and summer, they can be relentless and ruin a hike. The worst thing to happen to me was a wasp sting while descending Lovewell Mountain. Be mindful of ground nests.
    Wildlife Concerns Black bears, moose, porcupines, squirrels, racoons, chipmunks, skunks, and domesticated dogs are common in southwest New Hampshire. While there is a healthy population of black bears in New Hampshire, I have yet to see a bear alive on the MSG. Someone harvested a black bear on opening day of hunting season, and was dressing it on a property abutting the trail.
    Hunting Season Hunters are active along the MSG. Displaying safety orange is advised in season. I encountered multiple hunters and heard firearm shots during bear season, and observed a family dressing a freshly harvested black bear in their front yard.
    Thru Hiking Dogs Dogs are not permitted within MSP boundaries, but allowed on the rest of the trail.
    Trophies The MSGTC offers an End to End rocker patch for those who have completed the trail.
    Fastest Known Timeshttps://fastestknowntime.com/route/monadnock-sunapee-greenway-trail-nh
    Not Done Hiking? Hikers can connect the MSG with the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail or the Wantastiquet-Monadnock Greenway on the southern end. To the north, one can continue hiking onto the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway.
    Musings from Former Hikers
    Rebecca “Socked In” Sperry, Nobo April ‘19
    Advice: Hiking in the spring is not ideal because it can be very wet. I completed it at the end of April and spent the majority of the time with wet feet. All water crossings were doable when I hiked it.
    Favorite Gear: My backpack is the best. I have a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 and I have always found it to be extremely versatile and comfortable.
    General Store Order: Meatball sub and a sprite.
    Eric Ruffin, Nobo June ‘18
    Advice: Don’t be discouraged by the initial road walking (northbound), the rest of the trail is spectacular. Favorite Gear: My ultralight mesh tent by MSR, but I had good weather the entirety of the trip.
    General Store Order: I didn’t get anything!
    Jonathon “J-Slice” Silva, Nobo April ‘19, Sobo May ‘20, Nobo Sept ‘2020
    Advice: Download New England Hiker App.
    Favorite Gear: Yoti’s cuben fiber rain skirt.
    General Store Order: BBQ Chicken Pizza

    Joy “Killjoy” Falls, Nobo April ‘19
    Advice: End at Monadnock!
    Favorite Gear: Headlamp. I have bad time management and night hiked half the trail.
    General Store Order: Veggie sandwich and two orders of fries.
    Tim Wentzell, Nobo April ‘19, YoYo September ‘19, Sobo May ‘20
    Advice: If you can take take an extra day to enjoy the trail, I recommend it.
    Favorite Gear: Trekking umbrella. Excellent rain protection for the MSG when the forecast calls for rain.
    General Store Order: Chef’s Special – Jalapeno Popper Rodeo Burger w/ fries

    Thanks for reading!

  2. #2
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    Nice! I've hiked it twice, both times NOBO in 4 days/3 nights, which does require some long days, but very doable. Both times hit Sunapee in pouring rain, so next trip will be a yo-yo from Sunapee to Washington (grab a burger and a beer) and return... with a sunny forecast!

    I like it in spring before the bugs come out, as soon as the snow is gone, though there might still be some on the ski trails. Ticks are definitely an issue in the blueberry patches - I wear clothes treated with Permethrin.

    Thanks for posting.

  3. #3
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fastfoxengineering View Post
    *This is a stripped down version of guide I put together .....Thanks for reading!
    Inspiring. Literally.

    I hike up Monadnock quite a bit, but never thought to do this trip. Figured camping was problematic.

    Thanks!

  4. #4
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    Nice write-up. I hiked it the first few days of November a couple of years ago and although we had some cold nights, short daylight hours, and foliage was obviously gone - really enjoyed it. Had the trail to ourselves and a memorably good breakfast at the Washington General Store. Like you say, a terrific shakedown hike but with the benefits of some very good views and some moderately cardio challenging climbs. I hope to do it again soon.

  5. #5

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    It's a nice little trail. We climbed Monadnock in a pouring, wind swept rain. Then it cleared up nicely once we were over it and remained nice the rest of the hike.

    It's very helpful if you have a buddy to hike with and can spot a car at each end. Otherwise, getting to or from either trailhead is a real problem.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

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