The Ultimate Guide To Mount Washington

The Ultimate Guide To Mount Washington

New Hampshire
The Ultimate Guide To Mount Washington

Mount Washington, the pinnacle of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains!

Mount Washington, looming more than six thousand feet above sea level, is the tallest peak in the northeast US, and its summit is home to Mount Washington State Park, known for its museum, observatory & phenomenal views!

Located in the heart of the White Mountains, the northern part of the Appalachian Mountains that covers a large portion of New Hampshire and a small portion of Maine, Mount Washington is the tallest peak in the northeastern US and the Presidential Range, a mountain range whose summits are named after US Presidents. The summit of Mount Washington is home to the Mount Washington State Park and, on a clear day, offers spectacular views of New Hampshire and the neighboring states of Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and a portion of Canada.

Mount Washington’s base was once the dwelling place of the Native Americans, who referred to the peak with several different names, including Kodaak Wadjo, meaning the hidden top, Agiocochook – the place of the spirit, and Waumbik, which means white rocks. The indigenous people considered the top of the mountain a sacred place, where the GODs lived, and never climbed to the top of the mountain. However, things changed upon the arrival of the European settlers, and shortly surveyors and geologists started exploring Mount Washington. The summit of Mount Washington soon became a top tourist destination of New England and home to a few radio stations and several radio-transmission facilities. 

Undeniably, all the fun is atop the summit of Mount Washington, but getting to the summit of Mount Washington is equally exciting and fun!

Spectacular mountain vistas, valley views, a museum, and an observatory awaits you atop Mount Washington! However, the journey to the summit is equally enthralling and fun! Summiting Mount Washington is on the top list of several hikers, but there are a couple of other easy and fun ways to get to the top of Mount Washington, including Mount Washington Auto Road and the Mount Washington Cog Railway. The winding roads, the steep ascends and descends, flora and fauna, and finally, the phenomenal views from the summit make the summit of Mount Washington one of the most sorted after destinations in the US! 

Here is my ultimate guide to Mount Washington, featuring essential trip-planning information, major attractions, options to get to the summit, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants near Mount Washington!

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Planning Your Trip To Mount Washington

Planning Your Trip To Mount Washington

Visit during summer and fall, fly into Portland International Jetport in Maine, and then drive to Mount Washington for the best sightseeing trip to the summit of Mount Washington! 

Best Time To Visit Mount Washington: Given the altitude, the summit of Mount Washington remains inaccessible during the winters months, but the ski resorts and parks at the base of the mountain continue to operate throughout the year. However, if you’re going to Mount Washington for sightseeing and exploring the summit, your best option is to travel during the summer and fall months, mid-May through mid-October, when the Cog Railway and the Auto Road are open. Even during the warmer months, the weather at the summit is very erratic, and I highly recommend checking the weather conditions before heading up to the top and carrying warm clothing. 

Time Required At Mount Washington: You don’t need more than half a day to summit and explore Mount Washington unless you’re planning a multi-day hiking trip. If you’re driving up the Mount Washington Auto Road, you would need an hour and a half to drive up and down the mountain from the Toll House, located at the mountain’s base, and an additional hour or two to explore the summit and the museum. The Mount Washington Cog Railway offers 3 hours roundtrip excursions with a one-hour layover at the summit. There are several hiking trails to the summit, but the most popular trail, Tuckerman Ravine Trail, takes about 4 – 5 hours to get to the summit of Mount Washington.

Getting To Mount Washington: The best and the most convenient way to get to Mount Washington is by flying into Portland International Jetport, renting a car, and then driving to Mount Washington. Alternatively, you could also take an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus to Portland and then drive to Mount Washington.

  • Flight: The domestic airport in New Hampshire, Lebanon Municipal Airport, is serviced by very limited airlines, making the Portland International Jetport the best choice of airport to get to Mount Washington. Portland International Jetport (PWM), Portland, Maine, is serviced by all major airlines and is around 85 miles from Mount Washington.
  • Train: While there’re no direct Amtrak trains to New Hampshire, you could take an Amtrak train to Portland in Maine, located approximately 90 miles from Mount Washington, and then drive to Mount Washington. 
  • Bus: The closest Greyhound bus stop to Mount Washington is located in Portland, Maine, about 100 miles southeast of Mount Washington.

Parking, Shuttles, & Passes In Mount Washington: If you’re hiking the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, you can park near the trailhead at Pinkham Notch camp area. If you’re taking the Cog Railway, you will have to park at Marshfield Station near the Cog Railway Base Station. If you’re driving up the Mount Washington Auto Road, you have to pay the entrance fee at the Toll House near the base of the mountain. Once at the summit, you can park at the Mount Washington State Park Sherman Adams Visitor Center. Mount Washington Auto Road offers a one-way seasonal shuttle service for hikers, mostly used by hikers on their way down after a strenuous hike up the mountain. 

Lodging Options Near Mount Washington: While you don’t necessarily need to stay close to the Mountain, but if you’re seeking solitude and nature, you may as well stay in one of the charming bread and breakfasts and resorts in the town of Bretton Woods, Jackson Village, or Gorham. Here’re my top picks for hotels near Mount Washington

Dining Options Near Mount Washington: The dining option at the summit is limited to its only snack bar, Mount Washington Snack Bar, serving comfort food, including pizza, hotdogs, snacks, and beverages. However, you will find several restaurants serving various cuisines near the base of Mount Washington, in the nearby town of Bretton Woods and Jackson Village. Here’re my top picks for restaurants near Mount Washington – The Notch Grille for American fare, Stickney’s Restaurant for fine dining, The Shannon Door Pub & Restaurant for some great finger food and pizzas, and Autumn Nomad, Cakes & Cafe for quick bites.

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Summiting & Exploring Mount Washington

While all attractions and the best views are atop Mount Washington, the trip to the summit is by itself an enthralling and unique experience! Outside the winter months, there’re three ways to summit Mount Washington – hiking, driving the Mount Washington Auto Road, or riding the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Though winter isn’t the most popular time to summit Mount Washington, there’re snowcat tours to Mount Washington Observatory offering an unmatched Mount Washington experience!

Whether you choose to hike up the mountain, take the Cog Railway, or drive the Auto Road, you will be passing through a fascinating and diverse landscape! Once at the top, you can explore the several attractions of Mount Washington, including the Mount Washington State Park, the popular geological summit marker, the historic Tip Top House – one of the oldest structures built atop Mount Washington, a museum, Mount Washington Observatory, and exceptional mountain and valley vistas.

Here’re three exciting ways to summit and explore Mount Washington in New Hampshire, outside the winter months!

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Scenic Mountain Train RideThree Hours

Mount Washington Cog Railway, colorful passenger cars climbing up and down the steep slopes of Mount Washington, is one of the steepest mountain-climbing cog railways and first of its kind in the world! The Cog Railway ride begins at the Marshfield Base Station, located on the western side of Mount Washington’s base, and climbs through the mountain’s steep western slopes to the Cog Railway Summit Station at the top of Mount Washington.

Passing through lush valleys and rocky terrains, the Mount Washington Cog Railway features spectacular mountain vistas, alpine pools, and a lifetime experience! Once at the top, there’s a one-hour layover, which provides enough time to explore the summit, marvel at the panoramic views, the geological summit marker, the historic Tip Top House, the cafeteria, and summit gift shops. The Cog Railway is a popular way to summit Mount Washington, and I highly recommend making advance reservations.

Mount Washington Auto Road

Mount Washington Auto Road New Hampshire

Mount Washington Auto Road

Scenic DriveGuided ToursTwo / Three Hours

Mount Washington Auto Road, an eight-mile steep scenic road starting at the Pinkham Notch on Mount Washington’s eastern base going all the way to the summit, is one of the most scenic mountain drives in the US! However, the Mount Washington Auto Road is pretty steep, with a few narrow sections, and involves hairpin turns, and is recommended only for seasoned drivers. The drive up to the summit takes about 45 minutes, and the descend down takes approximately 30 minutes. Once atop the mountain, you can spend as much time you wish exploring the attractions at the summit. 

However, if you’re not comfortable driving up and down the steep and narrow roads, you could take a guided shuttle tour, where a knowledgeable and experienced guide drives you through the Mount Washington Auto Road to the top of the mountain and back. The guided tours take about two hours, with sufficient time to explore the attractions at the summit. 

Hiking Mount Washington

Hiking Mount Washington

Hiking Mount Washington

Tuckerman Ravine Trail ✦ Strenuous 3.8 Miles Hike ✦ 4 – 6 Hours

While there are several hiking trails leading to the summit of Mount Washington, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is the most hiked and popular summit hike in Mount Washington. The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is a 3.8 miles one-way, extremely strenuous, and challenging hike through rough and rocky terrains and recommended only for seasoned hikers. Most hikers hike to the summit and then take the hikers shuttle down to the mountain’s base. 

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail starts near the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and steadily climbs towards the summit, passing through alpine lakes and wooded regions. Hiking to the summit of Mount Washington can be very rewarding and is on the top of the list of many hikers worldwide. However, hiking Mount Washington requires proper preparation, hiking & camping gear, and the latest information about the trail, which can be found on the Mount Washington website.

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The Ultimate Guide To Mount WashingtonI hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Mount Washington, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to Mount Washington. You can find other attractions in New Hampshire in my New Hampshire Travel Guide.

Happy feeding your soul!
Shreyashi

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