Little Monadnock Mtn., North Meadows,
and Rhododendron Forest

Destinations:  Little Monadnock Mtn. (1883'), North Meadows (1740'), Rhododendron Forest (1200')
Trails:  Rhododendron Loop Trail, Little Monadnock Trail, Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, Laurel Trail, Wildflower Trail
Region:  NH - Southwest  
Rhododendron State Park
Location:  Fitzwilliam, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, slab cave, rhododendron forest
Distance:  3.8 miles  
Elevation Gain:  700 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 2:15  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 4:00  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  07/12/2008 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  05/18/2009  
Weather:  88 degrees, overcast
Author:  Jeff Littlejohn

Rhododendron forest at Rhododendron State Park (photo by Robin Hood)

Route Summary   

This hike has two segments. First it takes you up a moderate slope to the summit of Little Monadnock Mountain. The peak itself doesn't have views but the hike also visits North Meadows on the northern ridge which offers 180-degree vistas.

After descending from Little Monadnock, take an easy stroll on universally accessible trails through a 16-acre native rosebay rhododendron (Rhododendron maximus) forest. This section also includes a wildflower trail with identifying signs for the various plants.

Hike to Little Monadnock Mountain and North Meadows:
  • From the north end of the Rhododendron State Park parking lot, enter the trail system to the left of a bulletin board, between two stone pillars. We will later return via the path that leaves the lot near the toilets.
  • Walk on Rhododendron Loop Trail for 0.2 mile, keeping straight/right when you meet the junction with Laurel Trail on the left.
  • Near where Rhododendron Loop Trail curves to the left, bear right onto Little Monadnock Trail at a signed junction.
  • Follow the yellow-blazed Little Monadnock Trail uphill for 0.9 mile where it will end at a T-junction with Metacomet-Monadnock Trail. About half-way up Little Monadnock Trail, look for a small boulder cave to the right of the trail.
  • Upon reaching Metacomet-Monadnock Trail you will find a view of Mount Monadnock (Grand Monadnock) to the northeast. Turn left here to proceed to the summit (we will check out more views on the way back).
  • Hike for 0.3 mile on the white-blazed Metacomet-Monadnock Trail up to the summit of Little Monadnock Mountain. The summit consists of open ledge yet is ringed by trees so there is no view.
  • After "bagging" the peak, turn around and descend for 0.3 mile back to the junction of Metacomet-Monadnock Trail and Little Monadnock Trail.
  • Now, continue straight ahead, still on the white-blazed Metacomet-Monadnock Trail for a bit more than 0.1 mile.
  • You will reach an area of open ledges, called North Meadows, which offers fantastic 180-degree views. From left to right, you should be able to see the Green Mountains far to the west and Mount Ascutney, both in Vermont; then the nearby town of Troy, New Hampshire, Mount Monadnock (Grand Monadnock), Gap Mountain (with a notch in its middle), and Temple Mountain and the Wapack Range.
  • After enjoying the vistas, retrace your steps south for 0.1 mile back up to the junction of Metacomet-Monadnock Trail and Little Monadnock Trail.
  • Turn left and descend on Little Monadnock Trail for 0.9 mile back to its junction with Rhododendron Loop Trail.

Tour of rhododendron forest and wildflower path:
  • Now turn right to continue your exploration of the rhododendron forest.
  • Walk on Rhododendron Loop Trail for 0.3 mile until reaching a junction with Wildflower Trail.
  • Bear right to get onto Wildflower Trail and follow it for 0.3 mile. The plants will have small signs helping you learn to identify wildflowers.
  • Wildflower Trail will end where it bumps into Rhododendron Loop Trail at a T-junction.
  • You could turn right here to reach the parking lot in less than 0.1 mile, but for now turn left in order to check out the remaining paths in the rhododendron grove.
  • Walk on Rhododendron Loop Trail for less than 0.1 mile, then where the trail curves left, stay straight to follow a connector trail for less than 0.1 mile to Laurel Trail.
  • Turn left and follow Laurel Trail until it bumps into Rhododendron Loop Trail after 0.1 mile.
  • Turn left onto Rhododendron Loop Trail and follow it for about 0.1 mile which will bring you back to the junction with the connector trail that earlier led you to Laurel Trail.
  • Turn right and follow Rhododendron Loop Trail for 0.1 mile back to the parking lot, bypassing the junction with Wildflower Trail on the right.

Place         Split
Rhododendron State Park parking lot (1200') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Rhododendron Loop Trail/Little Monadnock Trail (1200') 0.2 0.2
Jct. Little Monadnock Trail/Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (1750') 0.9 1.1
Little Monadnock Mtn. summit (1883') 0.3 1.4
Jct. Little Monadnock Trail/Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (1750') 0.3 1.7
North Meadows (1740') 0.1 1.8
Jct. Little Monadnock Trail/Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (1750') 0.1 1.9
Jct. Rhododendron Loop Trail/Little Monadnock Trail (1200') 0.9 2.8
Rhododendron State Park parking lot (1200') 1.0 3.8



Trail map of hike route to Little Monadnock Mtn. and Rhododendron State Park (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

We went to Rhododendron State Park but had not planned on hiking Little Monadnock Mountain, so were not as prepared as we normally would have been. We started out to walk through the gardens and when we saw the sign for Little Monadnock, we decided to go since it was only about a mile to hike up.

The downside was that it was more vertical than we expected, but still just walking, no real climbing. The trail was very passable and well marked. Although there weren't any good views from the top, there is a great lookout from near the summit where we sat and ate wild blueberries while enjoying the view of Grand Monadnock.

View of Grand Monadnock (photo by Robin Hood)

After hiking to the summit and back, we walked around the garden loops and enjoyed the wildflowers and rhododendron forest. This is the largest stand of Rhododendron maximus, commonly called rosebay, in New Hampshire. Some areas are completely covered by the rhododendrons and it was like walking through a cave made by them. Although we missed the peak blooming time, the area was very peaceful, picturesque, and overall pretty amazing.

The trails around the gardens are approximately 0.7–1.0 mile depending on how many side paths and loops you take. You should count on 60 to 90 minutes to thoroughly enjoy the rhododendron forest and wildflowers. For the climb to Little Monadnock, allow 2–3 hours at a relaxed pace, with a break at the summit.

As we were driving out of the park, we pulled over to check out the Old Patch Place located near the park entrance. This is a 200-year-old farmstead now on the National Register of Historic Places. We walked around the grounds, which included some more flower gardens, and a small herb garden.

Old Patch Place (photo by Robin Hood)



NH - Southwest

  Driving Directions   

Rhododendron State Park and the trailhead for climbing Little Monadnock Mountain are located in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.

From the east:
  • From the junction of Routes 12 and 119 in Fitzwilliam, travel on Rt. 119 West for about 0.2 mile where you will reach a stop sign opposite Fitzwilliam Inn.
  • Turn left and keep following Rt. 119 West for another 0.6 mile.
  • Bear right onto Rhododendron Road at the state park sign (the old Town Cemetery will be on your left).
  • Follow Rhododendron Road for 2.0 miles.
  • Turn right onto Rockwood Pond Road, then almost immediately bear left into the park's entrance road. The parking lot is at the end of this access road.

From the west:
  • From the junction of Routes 10 and 119 in Winchester or from the junction of Routes 32 and 119 in Richmond, travel on Rt. 119 East.
  • Turn left onto Old Troy Road at Beechwood Corners. This is about 9.6 miles east of Winchester, or 3.4 miles east of Richmond.
  • Follow Old Troy Road for 1.0 mile where it meets Rhododendron Road. (There will be an old tennis court on your left at this junction).
  • Turn right onto Rhododendron Road and follow it for 1.3 miles.
  • Turn left onto Rockwood Pond Road, then almost immediately bear left into the park's entrance road. The parking lot is at the end of this access road.


  • Toilets
  • Picnic area
  • Benches

Other Notes   

An entrance fee is charged for Rhododendron State Park when the park is staffed.

For more information on entrance fees please refer to the New Hampshire State Parks Fees page.

Rates: (Subject to change.)
  • $5 for adults
  • $2 for children ages 6-11
  • Children ages 5 and under and NH residents age 65 and over are admitted free.

Dogs are restricted. See below for details.

The park's gates are closed from November until May so you will need to park along the road and walk 0.1 mile up the entrance road in order to access the trailheads during the off-season.

Rhododendron tunnel (photo by Robin Hood)

About Rhododendron State Park   

Rhododendron State Park and Rhododendron Conservation Easement spans Fitzwilliam, Richmond, and Troy, New Hampshire and cover 2,723 acres. The highlight of the park is a small universally-accessible trail network that winds amongst a 16-acre grove of Rhododendron maximus, a type of rhododendron commonly referred to as rosebay. This native shrub/small tree grows to heights of about 20 feet.

The park's rosebay grove constitutes the largest stand of this shrub in northern New England. The trunks and branches form tangled thickets. The leaves are evergreen and the pink or white flowers blossom in mid-July forming large clusters about six inches across.

The Fitzwilliam Garden Club established and maintains a 0.3-mile section of trail with many wildflowers that bloom throughout the spring and summer. The area includes a small bog and some of the plants are marked by small identifying signs. The club has created a brochure listing the flowers and blooming periods; it is generally available at the park and there is an online list.

At the park's entrance is the Old Patch Place, a small house built by Captain Samuel Patch or his son Sam Jr., sometime around 1800. In 1865, the property was purchased by Stephen Follansbee who used the beautiful rhododendrons in a commercial venture. Rhododendron blooms were sold for 5 cents a bunch, 10 cents a tub, or 25 cents for a buggy-full. Potted rhododendrons, mineral water, and silica were also sold both in person and via mail.

In 1901, Mary Lee Ware purchased the land in order to conserve it and gave it to the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) who later transferred the property to the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. The Old Patch Place is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The grounds include an herb garden typical of what a Colonial family would have to serve medicinal, culinary and household needs.

The park is open year-round but is not maintained for winter use. Gates open in mid-May and close in early November.

Dogs: Leashed dogs are allowed only on the 0.2-mile section of Rhododendron Loop that starts between the stone pillars in the parking lot and proceeds directly to the junction with Little Monadnock Trail. Dogs are allowed on Little Monadnock Trail but not in the rhododendron and garden areas except as just described.

About Metacomet-Monadnock Trail   

The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail starts in Rising Corner, Connecticut near the Connecticut/Massachusetts state line and runs north for 114 miles. It traverses Massachusetts, and dips up into New Hampshire, ending at the summit of Mount Monadnock.

The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail was originally laid out by the late Professor Walter M. Banfield of the University of Massachusetts starting in the late 1950s. It made use of abandoned farm roads and existing hiking routes as well as blazing new trails.

Metacomet-Monadnock Trail leading over Mount Grace (photo by Webmaster) Portions of the route on Mount Monadnock and the Holyoke and Mount Tom Ranges date back as far as the 18th century. Early trail building was supported by various summit resort hotels, popular in the 19th century. Such resorts once stood on Mount Holyoke, Mount Nonotuck, Mount Tom, and Mount Monadnock (at the Halfway House site). Most of them had burned down or had became defunct by the early 20th century and never recovered.

Despite being easily accessible and close to large population centers, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail is remarkably rugged and scenic and passes through some of the prettiest landscapes in Western Massachusetts.

The route includes many areas of unique ecologic, historic, and geologic interest. Features include waterfalls, dramatic cliff faces, exposed mountain summits, woodlands, swamps, lakes, river flood plain, farmland, and historic sites.

The trail is blazed with white painted rectangles on trees and rocks and supplemental white, metal, diamond-shaped signs affixed to trees and poles at road crossings and other trail intersections.

Much of the trail is considered easy hiking, with sections of rugged and moderately difficult hiking along the Holyoke and Mount Tom Ranges and on Mount Monadnock.

There are several primitive lean-to's and campsites, and a few campsites with facilities along the trail, but camping is discouraged in many areas. Campfires are generally prohibited, except in established fire rings in state park campgrounds.

A complete guidebook with topographic maps is published by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail connects to the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway to the north and to Metacomet and Mattabesett Trails in Connecticut to the south. The linked trails collectively cover about 240 miles running from Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire south towards Long Island Sound in Connecticut.


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