The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway is a hiking trail that links Grand Monadnock with Mount Sunapee in southwestern New Hampshire. It is nearly 50 miles in length, winding along the Monadnock Highlands that divide the Connecticut and Merrimack River drainages.
The original Monadnock-Sunapee Trail was laid out in 1921 by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, New Hampshire’s oldest and largest conservation organization. The trail runs through three NH state parks, and now over 80 private land owners voluntarily agree to host the trail, and in some cases, campsites on their land. Through cooperation with these folks, a good hiking route has been established
The Greenway is ideal for novice hikers, the family enjoying the weekend on the trail, or for experienced hikers wanting to power their way through the rolling to moderate terrain that the Greenway offers. A few favorite day hikes on the Greenway are climbing Mt. Monadnock, hiking through the Andorra forest at Pitcher Mt. or moose watching in and around Pillsbury State Park. For those interested in hiking the entire 49 miles in one shot, you’ll find 5 campsites along the way and should plan on the trip taking 3-4 days. There’s a little of everything on the Greenway – Hope to see you on the trail.
More about the Greenway
The original Monadnock-Sunapee Trail was laid out in 1921 by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Acquisition efforts were underway to create forest reservations on Monadnock and Sunapee, and the Society’s hope was to protect land on both mountains and along the corridor between them. The concept for the trail was first suggested by Allen Chamberlain, then president of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), in 1919. His goal was to eventually link this path with Mt Moosilauke and the White Mountain trails to the north.
The first trail went through the hills and valleys that had once supplied many of the sheep and cattle for Boston markets. By the early 1920s the population had declined, leaving behind abandoned roads, paths, and open meadows, ideal for hiking. The trail followed the old roads past farms and small New England villages where innkeepers offered simple room and board. During the Great Depression the trail fell into disuse. The 1938 Hurricane and the advent of World War II effectively ended the original trail; it was not maintained again.
The new route was developed after a summer-long study by the Forest Society in 1974. The Forest Society’s unique planning program sought to develop a trail with wide appeal for hikers, skiers, naturalists, and historians without creating problems for private landowners and local communities. Appalachian Mountain Club staff was brought in as trail consultants, and helped to sponsor the trail’s initial planning, design, and construction. The Forest Society established good working relationships with private landowners, and the AMC provided both professional construction and volunteer maintenance expertise.
This trail, combined with the Forest Society’s program to protect a corridor of land around it, embodied the Greenway concept. In recognition of this, the new trail was named the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway.
From 1974 through the early 1990s the trail was maintained by cooperation among the AMC and SPNHF. By the early 1990s, however, it became clear that the trail needed the attention of its own organization. So in 1994, a small corps of trail fans, led by Tim Symonds, formed the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club. The club now coordinates the Greenway’s maintenance, landowner relations, relocations, campsites, and many other aspects.
Over 80 private landowners have voluntarily agreed to host the trail and, in some cases campsites, on their land. Through cooperation with these folks, a pretty good hiking route has been established. However, most of these agreements are revocable. If the Greenway is not treated with respect, and there are problems such as parking congestion, litter, and vandalism, then the Greenway concept will not work because landowners will not trust the sponsors and users of the trail.
It is essential that hikers using this trail understand that much of it passes over private land, and that they must demonstrate care, concern, and a high degree of respect for the private property over which they travel to assure the continued existence of the Greenway.
Hiking the Greenway
Be Prepared: The well-prepared hiker should be familiar with the trail description in this guide, and always carry a map and compass, adequate clothing and rain gear, first aid kit, flashlight, food, and especially, water (1 to 2 quarts per person for a full day hike).
Water: CAUTION. No water source found on the Greenway can be considered safe! You must sterilize, either by boiling or with chemicals, all “drinking water” found on the Greenway.
Camping: Camp only in designated areas, clearly defined in the trail guide and designated by signs. Backpackers should carry a small gas stove. No wood or charcoal fires are allowed the trail. The continued evidence of campfires on the trail jeopardizes its existence. Hikers currently have five 3-sided Adirondack style shelters (Spiltoir, Crider, Washington, Max Israel and Steve Galpin Shelter at Moose Lookout), then one tent campsite along the Greenway (Fox Brook), there is no guarantee that those sites will be unoccupied.
Blazes: The trail is blazed with white 2″ x 6″ paint blazes. A double blaze, one over the other, indicates either an imminent change in trail direction or a junction with another trail or road. If you lose track of these markings, find the last blaze passed and try to locate the next one, consulting map, compass and the guide, to prevent confusion. The guide notes where the standard Greenway blaze is occasionally joined by another style of trail marking. Side trails are blazed as noted in this guide.
Winter: Winter travel on the Greenway presents special hazards. Besides the obvious effects of the weather, the trail’s white blazes are difficult to follow in snowy conditions. People have spent uncomfortable nights out on this trail after getting lost. A winter hiker/skier should be familiar with the trail in other seasons before attempting a hike on the Greenway, which is little traveled in winter.
Safeguarding the Trail
For your protection and the protection of the Greenway, please remember:
- You are a guest on these lands that have been opened through the generosity of the owners. Treat the land with respect.
- Leave all gates as you found them.
- Plan your trip carefully. Many secondary roads crossing the Greenway are impassable during mud season, and are not maintained in winter. Have a guidebook and compass with you at all times.
- Leave your itinerary with someone reliable; not on your car windshield.
- Do not cut trees or shrubs, or disturb signs, fences, boundary markers, or other features.
- Kindle no campfires. Use a portable stove. Exercise special care with smoking material. Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.
- Don’t wash dishes, clothes, or yourself directly in a pond or stream, or dump wastewater of any kind into a water source. Dispose of all such waste water at least 200′ from the water supply.
- Camp only in areas designated in this guide. Leave your campsite in better shape than you found it.
- Carry out all litter and trash, and pick up any litter found along the trail. Don’t leave orange and banana peels.
- Do not feed wild animals. Free tidbits don’t encourage self-sufficiency. Keep food supplies sealed tight, away from reach of black bears, and not inside the tent.
- Park only where advised in this guidebook. Do not block roads or driveways even if they appear unused.
- Teach hikers and campers who don’t have your experience.
- Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints.
The Future of the Greenway
The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway and the side trails described in this guide are maintained by the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club. Hikers who use and enjoy the trail are encouraged to join in this volunteer effort. The management and maintenance of this trail will always need additional volunteer help.
Keep up with Greenway changes by joining the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club. Contact us at: Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club: P.O. Box 164, Marlow, N.H., 03456; www.msgtc.org.