Mt. Washington | 6,288′ | Strenuous
Mt. Washington (6,288 feet) is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River and north of the Carolinas. The upper part of the mountain has a climate similar to that of northern Labrador and supports a variety of alpine flora and fauna.
Note: For complete trail descriptions, times, elevation, trailhead directions, and major features, see the AMC White Mountain Guide.
Strenuous: From the east side, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is the easiest and most popular route to the summit. There are many other routes available, and though all of them are substantially less crowded, they are also either longer or more strenuous. In good weather the Boott Spur Trail offers better views, and though it is longer it is not substantially more difficult; one can ascend by this trail and then descend through Tuckerman Ravine with the crowds, or make the easier, faster ascent through Tuckerman Ravine and then make a leisurely descent via Boott Spur. The Lion Head Trail is about the same length as the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and also offers better views, but it has steeper sections and is generally rougher; for most people, it is probably a better route for the ascent than for descent.
The AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge and Pinkham Notch Visitor Center are located at the start of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and provide a good base camp for exploring the region. The AMC also operates Hermit Lake Shelters and campsites in Tuckerman Ravine.
The AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut is located 1.5 miles to the southwest of the summit of Mt. Washington, providing an overnight stop for those who wish to continue hiking in the Southern Presidential range. It is open from mid-June to early September, offering meals and overnight accommodations.
Safety in Summer and early Fall
The AMC recommends all hikers check weather conditions in advance, carry a current map and guidebook, along with a compass and knowledge of how to use it. For recommendations on how to plan a safe hike in the White Mountains, see: The 10 essentials for a safe and pleasant hike.
Note: Inexperienced hikers sometimes misjudge the difficulty of climbing Mt. Washington by placing too much emphasis on the relatively short distance from the trailheads to the summit. The most important factor in the difficulty of the trip is the altitude gain of around 4,000 feet from base to summit. If you are not an experienced hiker or trained athlete, you will almost certainly enjoy the ascent of Mt. Washington a great deal more if you build up to it with easier climbs in areas of less exposure to potentially severe weather. For complete coverage of weather and mountain safety issues, see the White Mountain Guide.
Winter Hiking on Mt. Washington
Winter hiking anywhere in the White Mountains requires specialized equipment and skills, and experience in coping with weather, navigation, and winter gear. Extremely severe storms can develop suddenly and unexpectedly, especially above treeline. The combination of high wind and low temperatures has such a cooling effect that the worst conditions on Mt. Washington are approximately equal to the worst reported from Antarctica, despite the much greater cold in the latter region. Hikers interested in extending their activities into winter are strongly advised to seek out organized trips with leaders who have extensive winter experience. Several AMC chapters offer winter hiking and backpacking instruction, and AMC offers several guided winter mountaineering trips; search for “Instruction” in AMC’s activity listings. Helpful information can also be found in the AMC Guide to Winter Hiking and Camping .
The alpine plants on Mt. Washington have attracted many professional and amateur scientists, and many of the features of the mountain are named for early botanists such as Manasseh Cutler, Jacob Bigelow, Francis Boott, William Oakes, and Edward Tuckerman.