Hiking Mount Washington’s Popular 5 trails
New Hampshire is famous for being home to some of the tallest peaks found in New England. Mount Washington proudly stands tall above them all at 6,288 feet. Mt. Washington has a reputation of having one of the world’s worst weather conditions, even in the middle of summer.
A hike here will feel like it is deep into winter. Albeit the lousy weather, nothing is as satisfying as conquering another peak to add to your list.
Despite the bad reputation, day hikes on this Mountain in the summer months are very popular. Some routes are scary, while others are serene. The good news is that there are plenty of different paths to the peak for both newbies and experienced hikers.
Mount Washington Park has many interconnected trails, but the most used trails include:
- Tuckerman Ravine and Lion’s Head Trail
- Jewell Trail
- Boott Spur Trail
- Ammonoosuc Trail
These trails offer different hiking experiences. For instance, Tuckerman is steep and one of the problematic trails, while Jewell is one of the easier paths to use.
How Long Does It Take to Hike Mount Washington: Lion’s Head Trail and Tuckerman Ravine Trail
The Tuckerman Ravine and Lion’s Head Trails ascend more than 4000 feet up on the mountain’s east slope with a mix of forests and steep rocky slopes at the summit.
Both start at Pinkham Notch. From the trailhead till the summit mountain, the hike is roughly 4.3 miles, so if you trek to the top and back, you will have done over eight miles of walking. Once on the summit, the hikers have the option of taking a bus back to the starting point or using other trails to get back to the trailhead.
Lion’s Head Trail is rockier and steeper than Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Because of this, hikers tend to avoid it, but here you will get a fantastic view of the Tuckerman Ravine with its ledges constructed using granite.
It can get very windy near the summit, which can be dangerous for unexpectant hikers. The trail is near the edge of the ravine, so extra caution is needed. The Lion Head Trail merges with the Tuckerman Trail at a junction and leaves the remaining distance at 0.4 miles towards Washington’s peak.
These trails come with unique challenges of their own. You may experience dangerous weather at times, so you should be cautious with the weather conditions and be ready for abrupt changes.
These trails experience frequent avalanches. Before heading out, confirm the forecast of the day with local News Channels.
Boott Spur Trail
If you are looking into a longer hike that is less crowded on the east side, then you should consider Boott Spur Trail. This trail is 5.4 miles long and is located on the east side of the Mountain on the second side of the Tuckerman Ravine. When you’re above the thicket, hikers are rewarded with magnificent views of Lake Hermit, the gorge at a distance, the mountains summit cone is visible.
In order to have access to the trail, hikers start at the Pinkham Notch, then trek along the Tuckerman Trail for about half a mile, and then branch off at a marked intersection and start climbing uphill on the Boott Spur. To arrive at the summit using this trail, hikers will go through John Sherburne Trail and then climb territory dominated by forests and rocks. It’s roughly two miles dominated by rugged rocks to the summit.
Lastly, climbing Mount Washington using this trail route is about five and a half miles, at an elevation of 4,500 feet. The views are fantastic on this trail as much of it is above forests.
The Jewell Trail is on the west side of the mountains and is quite popular. It starts at the parking lot in Cog Railway Station and measures roughly 5.2 miles on a one-way journey. The trail is on an elevation of 4000 feet and is easier to climb than other stepper trails.
Once you clear the forests, the views dramatically improve, and the trail gets a little rockier as it nears the intersection with the Gulf side Trail at 5,400 feet. You have 1.4 miles of hiking to do to get to the summit from the junction. Hikers will definitely enjoy a stop at the Great Gulf Wilderness on their way to the top.
Ammonoosuc Trail is the quickest route to get you to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, which is three miles from where the trail starts. This trail is 4.5 miles to the summit of the Mountain. Before you get to the Cloud Lakes, The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail begins at the Cog Railway parking lot and ends on the Jewell.
This trail is a little bit shorter as compared to the Jewell Trail but considerably rockier and steeper for the most part of it. If you intend to visit the Lake found at Clouds AMC hut and include it in your Mount Washington hike, we recommend using the Ammonoosuc Trail.
How to Prepare for a Hike on Mount Washington
Hiking isn’t just a stroll into the woods; it requires stamina and balance. Before embarking on a hike, it’s essential to get your body and mind in shape for the upcoming task by doing the following:
Run or walk for an hour every day to build and strengthen your muscles. Exercise during the week to build up your quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings. Hiking for hours will take a toll on your body, so it’s best to get your body ready.
Some of the exercises that will help with core strength include crunches, lunges, and pushups.
Eat a balanced diet as you will need all the energy you can get. Drink a lot of water and avoid alcohol.
Pick the Right Shoe
Your footwear can make or break your hike. Be sure to wear the same shoe you intend to wear while hiking every day for at least a week to break it in. It should be comfortable and well-padded to cushion your heel and ankles.
If your shoes are ill-fitting, your feet will get blisters that can make walking very painful.
A mid-cut boot is ideal for long treks. It offers extra cushioning than you would get in sports shoes, and they are waterproof, so your feet remain dry even in wet conditions. Wear cotton socks, as they are breathable, and carry an extra pair just in case.
Pack a Backpack
Pack only the essentials to reduce the weight of your bag. Before your hike practice carrying the backpack, see how you fair on it, and get used to the load. Some essentials include packed food and energy bars, water, painkillers, a basic first aid kit, extra socks, sunglasses, sunscreen, a fleece hat, a waterproof jacket, a map, and a compass.
Safety Precautions before Your Mount Washington Day Hike
Hiking, in general, comes with some risks associated with potential weather changes and rugged terrain. Here are some ways to prepare for a safe hike.
Prepare yourself mentally
Hiking can take a toll on your body and mind. Once on the trail, dangers are real and sometimes life-threatening. Unplanned hazards such as falls or at worst avalanches can happen at any time.
Check weather reports
Mount Washington has erratic weather, and it changes quickly. Before heading out on that hike you had planned for, check the weather forecast, and make an informed decision.
Study the trails you intend to use
Look for the trail crossings and junctions to make sure you don’t take wrong turns and get lost. If you are not familiar with the trails, stick to well-trafficked routes where you will encounter other hikers. You can check out a trail guide AMC’s White Mountain Guide.
Hire a guide to take you to the summit if you are unsure what trail to take. Having an expert guide has its perks even though it comes at a price. They know the best places to see, and if something goes awry, they will know what to do or know someone who can assist.
Carry the right equipment with you
For instance, hikes can take longer than the expected time. For that reason, carry a headlight for when you run late. You do not want to descend a mountain in total darkness. Wear the right clothing, usually warm, breathable, and waterproof.
Because all the terrains on Mount Washington are rugged, hikers are advised to pack trekking poles for added stability and to aid with walking.
When Is the Best Time to Hike on Mount Washington?
Most hiking on the Mountain is done during the summer months (May to October) when the weather is warmer.
During winter and spring, the trails are covered with snow and ice. Don’t hike during this time. The temperatures are below zero, and avalanches are common in these seasons.
Mount Washington is a hard mountain to hike, but beginners to pros can accomplish making it to the summit. Beginner or pro hiker don’t attempt it alone, join a group because there is safety in numbers just in case something goes wrong.
You don’t need any permits or pay fees to hike here. Get your essentials and your friends, and enjoy a day on this Mountain. Get an early start, so you don’t run the risk of getting delayed and descending when it’s dark.
Check the Mount Washington Avalanche Center for more information regarding the trails and the best times to hike.
You might also like: Is Summer the best time to hike Mount Washington?
You can read more hiking articles here.