Sam hiking Mount Washington

How To Prepare For Hiking The Top Of Mount Washington

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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.

Dylan and I at the top of Mount Washington

Preparation for Hiking the Top of Mount Washington: An Overview

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, it’s important that you arrive prepared. Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:

  • Check the weather forecast
  • Bring the proper gear
  • Footwear
  • Layers
  • Gloves and Hiking Poles
  • Pack adequate hydration and food
  • Submit your name on the Hikers Log

How to Prepare for Hiking the Top of Mount Washington

Now that we’ve covered a brief overview of all the ways that you can prepare to hike the top of Mount Washington, let’s dive a bit deeper into some of the details. Mount Washington is a wonder to experience… and it’s even better when you arrive prepared.

Check the Weather Forecast

First and foremost, you’ll want to check the weather forecast before driving all the way 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.

Sign at the top of Mount Washington

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. As I said… unpredictable and unpleasant weather.

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.

Tip #1: The first way to prepare for hiking the top of Mount Washington is to check the weather forecast. You can also call the visitor center which is located at the top for an accurate weather description because the bottom of the mountain can differ tremendously from the top.

It’s advisable to bring a rain jacket even in the best of weather. Should the weather become unsafe, turn around at your earliest convenience.

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.


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.

Sam wearing sandals at the top of Mount Washington

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 Smartwool Socks on Amazon by clicking here!
$ Check prices on La Sportiva Women’s boots here!


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 definitely 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!

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 Mount 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.

Tip #2: One of the best ways to prepare to hike the top of Mount Washington is to bring the proper gear. You’ll want to bring comfortable hiking shoes or boots with ankle support, good socks, and layers for unpredictable weather. Climbing gloves and hiking poles are optional but can be extremely helpful and provide some relief during the hike.

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.

If you plan on being on the trail for a while, plan ahead and pack a lunch. You’ll most likely work up an appetite for this hike, so adding some substance can help tremendously. If you don’t want to pack a lunch, try adding in some fruit in case your salty snacks don’t satisfy your hunger.

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 Camelbak 22L Rim Runner Backpack here!

Tip #3: Prepare for hiking the top of Mount Washington by making sure you have enough water and food. Bring 1/2 liter of water for every hour of hiking, salty snacks, fruit, and a lunch if you’ll be gone for a long period of time.

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!

Tip #4: Sign the hiker’s log at the visitors center in case of an emergency.

Lake of the clouds on the top of Mt Washington

Hikes at the Top of Mount Washington

Now that you know how to prepare for the top of the mountain, let’s get into the fun stuff! There are a few hikes that you can do at the top. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are a few options for day hikes…

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 the Mount Washington summit!

Happy trails!