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  Mount Washington

What to Bring

Hiking shoes   Hat
Backpack   Sunglasses
Trekking poles   Swiss army knife
Fleece vest   Emergency blanket
  Plastic bag for
First aid kit   Insect repellent
Sunscreen   Water
Flashlight   Food
Watch   Snacks
Compass   Balaclava


From Boston, take I-95 North
In Portsmouth, take left exit for Spaulding
Turnpike/route 16 north
For the next 90 miles, follow route 16 until after North Conway
At the intersection of route 16 and route
302, take right to stay on route 16 north
The parking lot is about 10 miles after the
intersection, on the left (sign)
  Good to know in advance
Check the weather before leaving at:

Parking in the White Mountain National
Forest cost $5 for 5 days or $20 for a year (an envelope will be placed on your car
sometime during the day for payment)

Stop at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center to get latest weather info and news
It is always safe to leave with the area
map: you can buy AMC's Mount Washington Range map at the Visitor Center (less than $5)
Stay on trails to minimize erosion
Carry out your trash

ID Card

Overall rating: Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating
Difficulty: 4/5
  Time from Boston: 3 hours
  Duration: Full day


  Main activity:


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At 6288 ft, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast. Though its altitude is moderate compared to other mountains in the Rockies or in Europe, this summit is truly a league in itself, with extremely bad weather and vegetation similar to the one found in sub-arctic areas.

All this makes scaling Mount Washington a very challenging and exciting hike. In the summer, the ascent is arduous but within reach of fit hikers. Cars that climb there through the Mount Washington Auto Road demonstrate the relative accessibility of the summit. In the fall, winter and spring, however, poor weather conditions make a summit attempt a real adventure to be tried only with the support of a mountain guide. Alpinists are known to trek through the Presidential Range in winter to train for the Denali ascent in Alaska.

More than half of this hike is above timberline, offering magnificent views over the rest of the Presidential Range and over most of New England when visibility is good. You will walk in a barren and rocky environment, where grass and plants are rarely more than a few inches tall.

This hike takes a moderately difficult route up to the summit. Allow about 8 hours for the round-trip, including some rest at the summit. On summer weekends, the trail and the summit house can be crowded but the views and the fresh mountain breeze will more than compensate for the inconvenience.

Even in the summer, weather can change quickly and become quite cold, windy or foggy in a few minutes. Make sure you have several protection layers to keep you warm, as well as food and plenty of water. Bring a flashlight if you have to stay longer on the slopes due to foggy or other adverse conditions.

Considering the distance from Boston, and the length of the hike, you may want to spend the night before your ascent close to the mountain. North Conway is a convenient location, featuring many hotels and B&Bs. You can also try to land a spot at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Pinkham Notch facility, conveniently located at the trailhead (call the information desk at 603-466-2725).

From the AMC Pinkham Notch facility, take the main trail, named Tuckerman Ravine Trail. After more than 2 miles of moderate climb, take Lion's Head trail on the right. The climb will be steeper but always manageable. Wind is likely to pick up as you reach the flat open spaces called the Alpine Garden before the final push for the summit -in some cases wind can be strong enough to make you lose balance. Be careful to follow cairns and always stay on the trail on your way down the same route.

(Picture courtesy of Patrick LaFreniere)

Paddling Biking Mountaineering