NewEnglandTravelPlanner.com Logo   Mount Washington NH Travel Guide
Mount Washington, highest peak east of the Mississippi, in New Hampshire's White Mountains, offers spectacular views and some of the world's worst weather.

Mt Washington Snow Coach, Great Glen, New Hampshire
A Mt Washington Snow Coach climbs toward the summit on tracks, not tires.





 

 

Mount Washington, 192 miles (309 km) north of Boston in New Hampshire's White Mountains (map), is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, with its summit at 6288 feet (1917 meters).

Severe Weather!

Loacted at the intersection of three major storm tracks, the summit has an alpine climate that is renowned for its erratic, severe weather and high precipitation which claim the lives of numerous experienced hikers and climbers every year.

New Englanders delight in exchanging horror stories of the latest report: winds of 150 miles per hour (the record for wind recorded by humans, not part of a tropical cyclone, recorded here on the summit, is 231 mph/372 km/h!). Temperatures of -47°F/-99°C are not unheard of. The wind-chill factors don't seem earthly.

Regional news media often carry the reports even though they don't really affect anyone but the eager climatologists at the Mount Washington Observatory who volunteer to sit through the storms on the mountaintop.

I've hiked up Mount Washington into a blizzard, in a temperature of 14°F (-10°C) and winds gusting to 100 mph (161 km/h) at the summit, on the last day of August!

You can check current weather conditions at the summit on the Mount Washington Observatory website.

View of the White Mountains, by Thomas Cole, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CT
View of the White Mountains, by Thomas Cole (1827),
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CT.
Note the peaked Mount Washington, left rear.

How to Reach the Summit

The Mount Washington summit is the centerpiece of Mount Washington State Park. The Tip Top House and Sherman Adams Visitor Center at the summit provide for visitors needs from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

Mount Washington Hotel & Mt Washington summit, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
The Mount Washington Hotel, with Mount Washington behind...

There are three ways to reach the summit:

Hiking

Hiking along any of the numerous alpine trails maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Driving

Driving your own vehicle, or riding in a tour van, up the Mount Washington Auto Road (even in winter).

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Riding in a coach of the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway

Be Prepared!

Since 1849, more than 219 people have died climbing Mount Washington. The leading causes of death are falls, heart attacks, hypothermia, and avalanches. Mount Washington is a "small mountain" compared to the Rockies or the Alps, but it is just as dangerous!

Do these things to climb safely:

1. Study the weather forecast so you know what to expect.

2. Wear/bring proper clothing for the weather at the summit. On that day in August, I started my climb in shorts and T-shirt, and changed to jeans, heavy sweater and sturdy windbreaker, barely enough to keep me warm in the summit's 14°F (-10°C) temperatures and and 100-mph (161-km/h) winds. In winter, have a sleeping bag and shelter so you can survive overnight if you get lost.

3. Study your route and learn its hazards. Stay on the trail. Falls—the leading cause of death—usually occur off the trails.

4. Hike with a companion, and leave notice of your plans with friends so they can alert authorities if you do not keep to your schedule.

5. Don't hurry, don't push yourself hard, and "When in doubt, chicken out." You're doing this for enjoyment, not to tempt death.

If you need to be rescued—if you can be rescued—you will bear the cost, probably in the tens of thousands of dollars.

—by Tom Brosnahan


Mount Washington Auto Road

Snow Coaches in Winter

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC)

AMC Hikers' Huts

Pinkham Notch Visitor Center

White Mountains Nat'l Forest

Gorham NH

Jackson NH

North Conway NH

About New Hampshire

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Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Above, Mount Washington.

Below,
Mount Washington Cog Railway locomotive ready to climb to the summit.



Mount Washington Cog Railway, New Hampshire

Mount Washington Cog Railway.

 

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