The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail (“The Ammi”) is the quickest route up to the Lakes of the Clouds hut and a beautiful way to start a hike to the summit of Mt. Washington. Leaving from the west side of the mountain at the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead, it is 3.1 miles to the hut and 4.5 miles to the summit.
The bottom 2 miles are moderately flat, crossing Franklin Brook, and then following the Ammonoosuc River for the majority of the distance. This gives the illusion of being in the rain forest- the river yields a constant hum and everything is green and damp. Though there is little elevation gain, the terrain is not easy, as there are rocks and roots, typical of a trail in the Whites, and everything is damp. When you cross over a one-handled, wooden bridge and then over the river, you have come to the end of the mild section of the Ammi and have reached the bottom of the headwall of the ravine.
From this point on, the trail essentially goes straight up, with lots of stair-like steps on mostly rocks. There are several river crossings, a few flat rocks to clamber up, and plenty of breathtaking views both up (waterfalls!) and down (looking down the river, streams, or trail out into Crawford Notch and beyond). There are a few tricky sections of flat rock, so take a minute to consider your next move and often you will find a more obviously traveled option. Look to the sides of the flat rocks and there are usually small trails with steps or foot-holds chiseled out, allowing for more sure-footed scrambling. This mile tends to stay very wet, as there are streams and falls all around the trail, so be prepared to take your time (this is even more necessary when descending).
After you have reached the hut, to continue to the summit of Mt. Monroe, take a right onto Crawford Path and it is only .3 miles up to the top. To get to the summit of Mt. Washington, follow Crawford Path for 1.4 miles. This section of the hike is also like a rock staircase, with some moderate and some steeper sections. The rocks right now on this trail were dry and in good condition, and the cairns are well spaced, so it was easy to see the route ahead (keeping in mind I was lucky enough to get pristine weather). It was warm, dry, and only slightly breezy, so no extra layers were needed once I reached the summit (but of course I had them in my pack just in case!). From there, I went back the same way that I came and enjoyed incredible views of the alpine tarns, Crawford Notch, and the Southern Presidentials as I descended to the hut. The hike down the Ammi was very slick, so it took longer to descend than it did to ascend.
The hike is listed in the AMC White Mountain Guide and is found on AMC Map #1 for the Presidential Range. You can make reservations for Joe Dodge Lodge as your base camp or at Lakes of the Clouds Hut (just a few days left of this season!) by calling 603-466-2727 Monday through Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Call us here at Pinkham Notch anytime to check on weather, trail conditions, or for back country advice! We can be reached at 603-466-2721 from 6:30am to 10:00pm, 7 days a week or by email at email@example.com.
To many safe and happy adventures!