Sam hiking Mount Washington

Hiking Mount Washington: Trail Routes + How To Best Prepare

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Mount Washington, known as the “most dangerous small mountain in the world,” attracts thousands of visitors each year, and for good reason. It’s the highest mountain in New England with views that won’t leave you disappointed.

In a Hurry? Here is the gear you’ll need on your trip!

  • Smartwool Socks – Mens | Womens – These are our favorite moisture-wicking, blister-resistant hiking socks!
  • La Sportiva Hiking Boots – Mens | Womens – Both Dylan and I love our La Sportiva hiking boots. These are great for ankle support!
  • Daypack – Mens | Womens – The 28L Womens Daypack and 22L Mens Rimrunner are great daypack options to pack layers, water, and snacks for your hike.
  • 3L Gregory Reservoir – I’ve used this water reservoir for my hiking trips for a year now and only have good things to say! I’ve never had a problem with spillage.
  • Hiking Poles – After our experience hiking Mount Washington, we highly recommend bringing hiking poles for the steep and rocky terrain!
Dylan and I at the top of Mount Washington

Hiking Mount Washington: An Overview

Before we dive deeper into some of the logistics of some of the most popular trails on Mount Washington, here is a brief overview of the ones we’ll be covering!

  • Mount Washington Auto Road (Summit)
  • Mount Washington Summit Loop Trail
  • Alpine Garden
  • Nelson Cog Trail
  • Pinkman Notch Trailhead
  • Boott Spur Trail
  • Tuckerman Ravine Trail
  • Tuckerman – Lionhead
  • Huntington Ravine
  • Base Station Road
  • Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
  • Jewell Trail
  • By Connecting Trails
  • Gulfside Trail
  • Crawford Path Trailhead
  • Crawford Path
  • Presidential Traverse

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Hiking Mount Washington: Trail Routes

Are you thinking about hiking Mount Washington, but are wondering which trail to take? It’s great to show up to this mountain prepared because there are a few different trailhead options to choose from depending on which hike you’d like to do, and cell phone service can be spotty.

Let’s go over a few of the most popular hikes on Mount Washington and their respective trailheads. The list will start from easier to more challenging. Just remember that many of these trails can be made shorter or longer depending on how you adjust or add to your route!

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    Mount Washington Auto Road (Summit) – Fee Required

    • Mount Washington Summit Loop Trail – 1.7 miles, challenging, loop, average time of 1 hour 24 minutes to complete.
    • Alpine Garden – 3.3 miles, out and back, moderately challenging, average time of 1 hour 44 minutes to complete.
    • Nelson Cog Trail – 6.4 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 4-6 hours to complete.

    Pinkman Notch Trailhead

    • Boott Spur Trail – 5.7 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 5 hours 14 minutes to complete.
    • Tuckerman Ravine Trail – 8.2 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 7 hours to complete.
    • Tuckerman-Lion Head – 8.5 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 8 hours 30 minutes to complete.
    • Huntington Ravine – 10.15 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 9 hours to complete. Take a different way down!

    Base Station Road

    • Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail  – 8.2 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 6 hours 22 minutes to complete.
    • Jewell Trail – 9 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 6 hours 50 minutes to complete.

    By Connecting Trails

    • Gulfside Trail – 10.8 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 7 hours and 26 minutes to complete, accessed via intersecting trails including Crawford Path and others.

    Crawford Path Trailhead

    • Crawford Path – 15.5 miles, out and back, challenging, average time of 10 hours and 4 minutes to complete.
    • Presidential Traverse – 18 miles, point to point, challenging, many choose to complete within two to three days, accessed at the South parking lot for $5/day with a free shuttle to the north point. AMC shuttles begin June 1st.

    How to Prepare for Hiking the Top of Mount Washington

    It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, because this mountain is known for its unpredictable, unpleasant weather. Before you decide to hike the top of Mount Washington, you must arrive prepared.

    Sign at the top of Mt Washington

    Check the Weather Forecast

    First and foremost, you’ll want to check the weather forecast before driving to the top. The top of the mountain can get extremely windy, and in some instances, the trails will be closed due to the dangers that these high-intensity winds can create for hikers.

    Even if it isn’t windy out, there are days when the top of the mountain is surrounded by clouds, making it extremely difficult to see where you’re going. Thunderstorms are also likely, and a sunny day can turn cold quickly.

    The road to the top also closes during the winter season, so if you want to hike the summit, you’ll need to plan your visit during the season when you have access to the auto road. You can still hike the mountain in the winter, however, you’ll have to use a trail from the base of the mountain and hike to the top.

    Bring The Proper Gear

    After checking the weather forecast, you’ll better understand what type of gear to bring. This covers everything from proper shoes to packing layers, and bringing optional hiking gear that’ll make you more comfortable on your endeavor. Let’s dive in.

    Sam wearing sandals at the top of Mt Washington

    Wear Proper Footwear:

    First things first, you’ll want comfortable and supportive footwear to hike the top of the mountain, because it isn’t so much of a path as it is a rock scramble.

    I made the mistake of wearing Teva sandals, and my ankles weren’t very happy with me afterward. I suggest bringing hiking shoes or boots that provide adequate ankle support. You’ll also want to bring a pair of wool socks to prevent your feet from blistering.

    Our favorite wool socks that keep our feet from blistering on uneven and rocky terrain are Smartwool. They’re moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and great for preventing blisters and hotspots.

    Additionally, after buying a pair of La Sportiva hiking boots I can honestly say I’m 100% a loyal customer. La Sportiva is an Italian mountaineering company, so they’ve perfected the art of great shoes for ankle support. They run pretty true-to-size, and they even offer a wide-toe option for those who need a little extra wiggle room.

    $ Buy Women’s or Men’s Smartwool Socks here!
    $ Check prices on La Sportiva hiking boots

    (Womens | Mens)!

    Pack Layers:

    Next up: Clothing. Even if you plan on hiking the top of the mountain in the summertime, it can get fairly chilly due to the high elevation. Make sure to pack layers in your day pack in case you get cold.

    Sam hiking Mount Washington

    This can be anything from a fleece sweatshirt, a down jacket, or a raincoat. If you’re only going to bring one layer, make it a raincoat in case the weather takes a turn for the worst. I wore a cotton flannel, and while it wasn’t the best option for this hike, it still added some warmth to my outfit.

    Since you are going to be at a high elevation, a sun hoodie may also be a good idea. Sun hoodies are SPF-proof and provide an extra layer of insulation for the chillier moments.

    $ Shop a sun hoodie for your next outdoor adventure here!
    $ Check prices on this Women’s Edie Bauer Down Jacket!

    Bring Gloves & Hiking Poles (Optional):

    Climbing gloves aren’t required for this hike, but they can be extremely helpful for difficult parts of the hike. It depends on what trail you decide to take at the top, but for some, you’ll need to scale some rocks, and gloves can be helpful to protect your hands from wear and tear. If you already own a pair, I would suggest bringing them.

    Pack adequately for Mt Washington

    Hiking poles are also a viable option to bring on this hike to take some strain off of your legs. They can also provide additional balance when scaling uneven or unsteady rocks. As you can see in the picture above, I could’ve benefitted from both!

    $ Shop these Pacemaker Carbon Collapsable Hiking Poles to put your knees at ease!

    Pack Adequate Hydration & Food:

    Although most of the hikes at the top of Mount Washington are day hikes, you’ll still want to be prepared for any given situation on the mountain. Like any hike, you’ll want to make sure you’re packing enough food and liquids.

    Dylan after hiking the trails at the top of Mount Washington

    It’s recommended to bring 1/2 a liter of water for every hour you plan to be on the trail. However, it never hurts to bring more than that, because some parts of the course are uphill and can be quite challenging.

    Since you’ll be at a high elevation, you’ll also want to pack a salty snack. This can be anything from a granola bar, trail mix, or a handful of nuts. Dylan and I also sometimes drink Liquid IV which can be extremely helpful in getting that salt intake during a difficult hike.

    The easiest way to do this is by bringing a backpack for your snacks with a water reservoir. That way you’ll have both snacks and water on hand. I bought Dylan a $100 Camelbak 22L Rim Runner Backpack for Christmas that comes with a 2L water reservoir, which is a steal of a deal!

    $ Shop the Men’s Camelbak 22L Rim Runner Backpack!
    $ Check out the Women’s 28L Dueter’s Backpack here!
    $ Pair the Women’s Pack with this 3L Water Reservoir!

    Submit Your Name for the Hikers Log

    At the visitors center, park rangers will ask you to write down your name, emergency contact, and hiking route onto a log for safety precautions. This is so they will know who to contact if something happens on the trail. Mount Washington has claimed over a hundred lives due to poor preparation, so it’s always best to ensure at least one person knows what trail you’ll be doing!

    Lake of the clouds

    Wrapping Up: How to Prepare For Hiking the Top of Mount Washington

    Now that you’re adequately prepared, make sure to have fun and be safe! The views are worth all the precautions you’ll need to take before you hike Mount Washington!

    Happy trails!