Mount Washington State Park
The Mount Washington State Park is closed from mid-October to mid-May. There is no shelter or facilities for hikers at the summit once the park has closed.
The first recorded climb of the mountain was in 1642. The mountain really took off as a tourist destination in the 19th century when bridle paths were first cut on the mountain (which ended up becoming the Mount Washington Auto Road). Construction of summit buildings, Carriage Road, and the Cog Railway all began in the 1850s. In 1908 a fire destroyed everything on the summit except Tip Top House.
LandscapeMount Washington is the central, highest summit of an alpine mountain massif called the Presidential Range where many peaks are named after former U.S. presidents. Other high peaks Mounts Clay, Jefferson, Adams and Madison -- the Northern Presidentials arc to the north and northeast. Massive Chandler Ridge heads ENE over secondary summits before descending to the valley of the Peabody River. An automobile road ascends this ridge. Great Gulf -- a large glacial cirque -- lies between Chandler Ridge and the Northern Presidentials.
East of the peak are two more cirques, Tuckermans's Ravine famous for spring skiing, and steeper Huntington Ravine attracting rock climbers in summer and ice climbers in winter, however these face away from the summit and are not visible from it. Distant views extend east across the Carter Range to the lowlands of southern Maine. At night, light from Portland and other coastal cities may be visible, but the Atlantic Ocean is just over the horizon.
South of the peak is a plateau above 5,000 ft (1,500 m) named Bigelow Lawn. Beyond there are two major ridges. The higher ridge -- Southern Presidentials -- heads SW along a series of minor alpine peaks mostly named after presidents to Crawford Notch. Montalban Ridge heads south and rapidly drops below treeline beyond prominent Boott Spur. Oakes Gulf separates the two southern ridges.
Many other peaks of the White Mountains, especially the Franconia Range lie to the SW. Vermont's Green Mountains and New York's Adirondacks are to the west.
Flora and faunaThe park is in the alpine zone, approximately 1,500 feet (500 m) above treeline. Flora is limited to lichens, grass and alpine herbs, including a dwarf variety of cranberry. About 1/2 mile (1 km) east of the park and some 1,000 ft (300 m) lower, Alpine Gardens occupies a small plateau area at the head of ancient glacial cirques. Alpine Gardens are known for abundant alpine herbs and grasses, and for displays of flowers in late spring-early summer. The Alpine is to be protected so it can flourish properly, and it is encouraged for hikers to watch their steps not to crush them.
Homo sapiens touristicus is by far the most abundant fauna, but limited numbers of birds and insects inhabit the alpine zone in the warmest months.
Mount Washington has earned the title of "Home to the Worst Weather in the World". It's also great place to study weather and the meteorologists at Mount Washington Observatory do that year round at the summit. It is important that you, too, are aware of conditions and forecasts as they can change very quickly here.
The Mount Washington Auto Roadphone: +1 603 466-3988address: Rt 16Open to public vehicles except in winter. The auto road takes you up to the top of scenic Mount Washington without all of the hassle of a day-long hike. It takes a little over a half hour to reach the summit via the 8-mile (13-km) road. There are various limitations on vehicles permitted to use the road, including model types and passenger and luggage weights. Exercise caution while travelling down the road as brakes can easily overheat. Tours are also available at the base.
- Directions to the Auto Road:
- From Boston, and southern New England: Follow Interstate 95 North to the Spaulding Turnpike in Portsmouth, NH to Rt. 16 North. Follow through North Conway, NH towards Glen, NH, and then follow Rt. 16 North through Pinkham Notch. The Mount Washington Auto Road is approximately 2 miles north of Wildcat Ski Area.
- From west of Boston, Nashua and Manchester, NH: Follow Interstate 93 North through Franconia Notch to Exit 35, Rt. 3 North. Follow Rt. 3 through Twin Mountain, NH. Then take Rt. 115 to Rt. 2 in Jefferson, NH, follow Rt. 2 East to Rt. 16 and then follow Rt. 16 eight miles south out of Gorham, NH to the Mount Washington Auto Road.
- From Western New England, Mid-Atlantic States and Montreal: Follow Interstate 91 to US 302 East to Rt. 3 North to Rt. 115 North Rt. 2 East to Rt. 16 South. The Mount Washington Auto Road is on Rt. 16, 8 miles south of Gorham, NH.
The Mount Washington Cog RailwayThe world's first (1869) mountain climbing cog railway and is still in operation today. The round trip takes three hours with a 20-minute stop at the summit. The train runs from late April to late November (check the website for details), and has special "ski train" runs during the winter.
By footThere are at least 15 trails up the mountain, including the Appalachian Trail which follows the crest of the Presidential Range. The most popular route is a path known as the Tuckerman's Ravine Trail.
By shuttleIf you don't want to hike back down the mountain, there is a shuttle service available. However, room is not always guaranteed, so do not assume there will be room on the shuttle and be prepared to hike down if needed! However, most tourists who drive up on their own will be willing to take down a visibly exhausted hiker.
By airAfter flying you would need to rent a car.
Logan International Airport in Boston is a 3½ hour drive.
The Jetport in Portland, Maine is a 1½ hour drive.
Manchester Airport in Manchester, NH is 2½ hours away.
Fees and permits
There is a fee to use the Mount Washington Auto Road.
- Car and driver: $20 (including a bumper sticker and audio tour on CD or cassette in English, French or German)
- Motorcycle and Operator: $12
- Each additional adult: $7
- Children ages 5-12: $5
- Children ages 4 and under: Free
Tip Top HouseBuilt in 1853 and the only structure to survive the 1908 fire.
Sherman Adams Summit BuildingThe visitor center.
Hikers can park at one of the available parking lots by the bases of the White Mountains. From there they can hike up with their belongings and reach on of the first huts below tree line called, Mizpah Spring. It's at an elevation of 3,800 ft. It is in full service with meals early June to mid-October. The distance from the shuttle stop to Crawford Path parking to the Hut is 2.6 miles. The distance to the next hut Lakes of the Clouds is 4.8 miles. The other huts include Lonesome Lake, Greenleaf, Galehead, Zealand Falls, Carter Notch, and Madison Spring.
Crystal CascadeCrystal Cascade Trail is a fifteen minute walk from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. The trail is very easy, even for kids. Named after the falls, the trail leads to the Crystal Cascade after following the Cutler River. 30 minutes.
Lost PondThis trail leads from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center to Lost Pond, a body of water hidden not far from NH 16. Beginning in a swampy area, the path offers the chance to spot beavers and other native wildlife. Like most trails, the path is not difficult, but problems with mud may arise should there be heavy rainfall. 1 hour.
Thompson's FallsA long trek with good rewards, Thompson's Falls trail begins at Wildcat Mountain and ends above the falls. The path progresses from easy, low elevation trails to steeper paths that are less suitable for small children. Wet weather may make the slight climbing required an issue, so be prepared to turn back before completing the journey should that occur. Park at Wildcat Mountain Ski Area. 2 hours.
In the winter many attempt to climb up the Tuckerman Ravine in order to get their fulfillment of skiing. It is very steep and probably should only be attempted by those who are experienced. People who ski and are looking for a challenge often come here to get a different type of steep skiing in. Snow boarding and snowshoeing are also popular activities.
Climb to the CloudsThis auto race up Mount Washington was first run in 1904. While it hasn't been run every year, the current incarnation has been going since 2011 when it was brought back for the road's 150th anniversary.
The Birthday of the Mt. Washington Auto RoadAugust.
Annual 24 Hours of Great GlenA 24-hour mountain bike race that also includes a weekend-long festival.
For Sleep options see: White Mountain National Forest.
BackcountryThere are many trails to travel such as: Cascade Brook, Falling Waters, Lonesome Lake, Old Bridle Path, Gale River, Zealand, Crawford, Ammonoosuc Ravine, Tuckerman Ravine, Nineteen Mile Brook, Air Line, and Valley Way Trails. All are surrounded with beautiful scenery with flowers, trees, and amazing views of the valleys and into several other states such as Vermont, Maine.
For more information on the lower sections of the Mountains see section at White Mountain National Forest.
- Be sure to understand closing time so as not to be locked in.