Mount Washington is shrouded in mystery, but the answers to your questions about the great mountain don’t need to be. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the highest mountain in the Northeast.

  • How long does it take to hike up Mount Washington?

    The hiking time to reach the summit can vary widely depending on route, physical preparation and on-trail conditions. We have seen well-conditioned trail runners go from base to summit on the Jewell Trail in under an hour. That is exceptional and is by no means the norm.

    More usual for those who hike regularly is a pace of about 1 1/2 to 2 miles an hour, leading to ascent times of two to three hours.

    For those who have not hiked regularly and are taking on Mount Washington as a challenge of physical ability, we commonly see times of five or six hours, or even longer. Don't fret. As long as you leave early in the morning, you will still make it to the top.

    One piece of advice, though: if it have taken you more than 4 hours to ascend and you arrive after 12 PM, consider taking a ride down instead of attempting to hike down. Believe it or not, for most people the descent is harder than the hike up.

  • How many miles is the hike to the top of Mount Washington?

    Generally between 4.2 and 5.4 miles, depending on which trail is taken. The Lions Head and Tuckerman Ravine trails are on the shorter end of that range; the Boott Spur Trail is the longest of the main day hike trails to the summit. The Ammonoosuc Trail and the Jewell Trail are in the middle of the range.

    Keep in mind that when hiking uphill, the terrain is often a bigger consideration that the mileage, especially with relatively little difference between the shortest and the longest route.

  • What is the easiest trail to the summit of Mount Washington?

    The Jewell Trail is generally considered the easiest trail to day hike to the summit of Mount Washington. At 5.2 miles from the parking lot of the Cog Railway to the summit, it is a little longer than some of the other trails. But the added distance is offset by generally less severe terrain. Make no mistake, the Jewell Trail is a steady uphill hike. But steady is the keyword as the trail lacks the extended steep climbs encountered on the shorter trails.

  • How high is Mount Washington?

    The elevation at the summit of Mount Washington is 6,288 feet above see level, according to  the official website of the Mount Washington Observatory. For anyone not in the US, that is 1,716 meters. Or 1.2 miles.

    While that may sounds like a lot, Mount Washington is relatively low on the list of tallest mountains in the world. In fact, the tallest 100 mountains in the world are all more than 23,000 feet high, a fact which makes Mount Washington sound kind of puny.

    Believe me, when you're rock-hopping up to the summit or gazing out across 6 states, it feels plenty tall enough.

  • What is the elevation of Mount Washington in New Hampshire?

    The elevation at the summit of Mount Washington is 6,288 feet above see level, according to  the official website of the Mount Washington Observatory. For anyone not in the US, that is 1,716 meters. Or 1.2 miles.

    While that may sounds like a lot, Mount Washington is relatively low on the list of tallest mountains in the world. In fact, the tallest 100 mountains in the world are all more than 23,000 feet high, a fact which makes Mount Washington sound kind of puny.

    Believe me, when you're rock-hopping up to the summit or gazing out across 6 states, it feels plenty tall enough.

  • How long does it take to drive to the top of Mount Washington?

    Approximately 30-45 minutes, plus any stoppage time for sight-seeing. The road is not long - less than 8 miles from valley to summit - but it is narrow, steep, and for those who are afraid of heights, terrifying. For more information about driving up the Mount Washington Auto Road, including the cost, vehicle restrictions and other important information, click through to the official site.

  • Is Mount Washington safe for a first-time hiker?

    It can be, if you are prepared. Hiking up Mount Washington, even by the "easier" trails, is no walk in the park so proper preparation in advance is critical. That includes pre-trip planning, choosing the right trail, having appropriate gear, physical conditioning and mental readiness. For complete information on how to prepare for a Mount Washington day hike, check our series of articles in the links above.

    Many first time hikers find that hitting the trail with a few more experienced hikers is a great way to get started. If you are interested in joining our annual Summit Mount Washington hike, you will find all the details at this link.

     

  • What gear do I need to hike Mount Washington?

    Because of the speed with which the weather and hiking conditions can change on Mount Washington, having the right gear and clothing is critical to a safe and enjoyable hike. Good footwear, layers of non-cotton clothing and a few basic pieces of equipment are a gerat start. Here is a more detailed guide for what to pack for a Mount Washington day hike.

  • Is there food available at the top of Mount Washington?

    Yes, the Sherman Adams Visitor Center hosts a cafeteria which sells a limited menu of hot and cold items. Don't expect anything fancy but if hot dogs, chili and pizza are your thing, you are in luck. During busy weekends, the wait time in line can be a bit long so be prepared to be patient.

  • How much water should I carry to hike up Mount Washington?

    Staying hydrated is critical to proper functioning of your muscles and your nervous system, a system which of course includes your brain. Dehydration can lead to muscle fatigue and even disorientation. So be sure to bring enough water on your Mount Washington day hike.

    For most people, about half a gallon will be sufficient for the ascent.  In hotter weather, bring a little more.

    For the descent, there are water bottle filling stations on the summit.

  • How much hiking experience do I need to hike Mount Washington?

    We do an annual hike up Mount Washington, and every year we have first-time hikers as part of the group. Seeing them experience the wonder of breaking above treeline and sense of accomplishment when they right the summit, especially hiking for a good cause, is priceless.

    On that basis, the answer to the question is, none. Even newbie hikers can ascend Mount Washington, especially if they are with an experienced group to help guide them.

    That said, advance preparation and proper safety planning is important.

    And it doesn't need to cost a fortune but some basic equipment and clothing is essential to deal with unpredictable climate and rugged terrain.

    Preparation is also key. Check out our guides for the best trails to choose for your ability, and how to train physically and to prepare mentally for the hike.

    By following the Boy Scout motto, Be prepared, even first time hikers can have a safe and successful day hike of Mount Washington.

  • Do I need to be in shape to hike Mount Washington?

    Hiking Mount Washington is both physically and mentally demanding, so some measure of physical conditioning is required to make the hike safe and enjoyable.

    That said, one does not need to be an Olympic athlete to make it to the summit. With some basic strength and stamina conditioning, an early morning start, and a willingness to pace yourself, most people in reasonable shape can make it. But please don't read the last phrase and skip over the first three. Prepare yourself. If you not accustomed to extended periods of physical exertion, check with a doctor to make sure you are ready to push yourself to your physical and mental limit.

    You can follows these links for more information about physical conditioning to hike Mount Washington and preparing yourself mentally for the challenges and decisions you can face on the mountain.

  • What are some lodging options near the Mount Washington Cog Railway?

    The following listings are driving distance to Mount Washington Cog Railway where HIKE for Mental Health begins its annual hike.

    Mountain View Grand

    101 Mountain View Road
    Whitefield, New Hampshire 03598
    1-855-837-2100

    Bear Mountain Lodge

    3249 Main Street
    Bethlehem, New Hampshire 03574
    603-869-2189

    Briarcliff Motel

    2304 White Mountain Hwy.
    North Conway, New Hampshire 03860
    603-356-5584 or 1-800-338-4291

    Carroll Motel & Cottages

    73 US Route 3 South
    Twin Mountain, New Hampshire 03595
    603-846-5553

    Granite House Cottage

    340 North State Street,
    Concord, New Hampshire 03301
    603-724-4765

    Omni Mount Washington Resort

    310 Mt. Washington Hotel Rd.
    Bretton Woods, New Hampshire 03575
    603-278-1000

    Hampton Inn Littleton

    500 Meadow Street
    Littleton, NH 03561
    603-444-0025

    Carlson’s Lodge

    330 US-302
    Twin Mountain, New Hampshire 03595
    603-846-5501

    Profile Deluxe Motel 

    P.O. Box 99
    580 Route 3 South (Daniel Webster Highway)
    Twin Mountain, NH 03595
    603-846-5522 or 800-682-7222

    Bretton Woods Rentals

    1800 US 302
    Bretton Woods, NH 03575
    603-389-2121

    Twin Mountain KOA

    372 NH-115
    Twin Mountain, New Hampshire 03595
    603-846-5559

    Additional information about lodging, activities, restaurants and more when staying in the Mount Washington area can be found on The Cog Railway ~ Area Lodging web page.

Further reading on Mount Washington day hikes

Looking for more information about day hiking Mount Washington? Here are some pages to check out.

Learn about our annual Mount Washington HIKE for Mental Health

Interested in joining a great hike, for a great cause? Learn about HIKE for Mental Health's annual Summit Mount Washington day hike.


Comments

Frequently Asked Questions about Hiking Mount Washington — 10 Comments

  1. I’m 71, and been hiking 5 years in NC mts every 2 weeks in the warm 6 months of the year. I’ve got severe arthritis; total hip replacement and 2 back surgeries for arthritis problems. Always use knee braces, trekking poles, and ibuprofen. I do 5 hour to 10 hour hikes of 6-12 miles w/ elev gains of 1,500 to 3,500 feet. Want to do Washington this fall or next year.

    Every yr I train pre-hiking season 3-4 days/wk on treadmill (only now doing 25 minutes & max 175hbm, avg 154), stationary bike, and ab crunches/push-ups. During season I cut back some, but i’m wondering if I’m overworking or underworking this year (now hiking once/week since retired). Do I need more recovery time between hikes at 71 years of age.

    My strength & stamina fine for most part, but some hikes in heat wearing me down. Just wondering if I should workout more, or do less, between hikes during season. Thanks.

    • Hi Gary, it is great that you are able to be so active! Not being a medical professional and not knowing you in person, it’s hard for me to give you a specific answer your question. Your best bet is to find a doctor, NP or PA locally who is also a hiker and understands what level of activity is required to give you an opinion. But a good rule of thumb – if you feel like your workouts are wearing you down too much, back off a bit until you find a level that is challenging but not debilitating. If you are still feeling tired two days after your routines, it might be too much. Be especially careful in the heat -d ehydration and heat stroke can sneak up on you suddenly. I hope some of that is helpful to you.

  2. To date my biggest accomplishment has been the Bright Angel Trail (from Phantom Ranch to the trailhead), how would this compare?

    Also, is there any climbing involved (I see the picture of a hiker being assisted over a boulder), I am not a climber.

    Finally, if I hike up is there a shuttle, or something, to get a ride down? I’d like to do some exploring while I’m at the summit, so hiking back down would not be a great idea.

    • Hi Mike,
      It is hard to compare the 2 trails as the terrain and environment are so different between the northeast and the Grand Canyon. If you are talking about hiking from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch, the elevation gain is about the same for Mt Washington, the distance is much less for Mt. Washington Jewell trail, but the terrain is much more rugged. There is not technical climbing, but you will be scrambling over rocks and boulders as you approach the summit. There are 2 (non-emergency) ways down from the summit without hiking: the Cog Railroad (https://www.thecog.com/) and the shuttle vans (https://mtwashingtonautoroad.com/guided-tours/hiker-shuttle). They come out on totally different sides of the mountain so be sure you match your choice with the choice of trail you use, or you will have a very, very long walk to get back to your car.
      Leo

    • Because of the variability of the weather on Mt. Washington, there is no definitive answer to the question. There are generally days in March and April when the less rigorous trails are accessible. Your best bet is to check the current conditions as you get closer to your intended hike date.

      In terms of getting a ride down, there are generally two options. Beginning in April, you may be able to ride the Cog Railroad down to the parking lot if you take the Jewell or Ammonoosuc Trails; here is the link to the info and tickets: https://www.thecog.com/schedule-tickets/. Or take a hiker shuttle over the auto road to base of the auto road if you are trying to get to that side of the mountain. The shuttle starts running 7 days a week in May, Here is the link for info and tickets: https://mtwashingtonautoroad.com/hikershuttle.

  3. Is there an option to get on a trail part way up the mountain? My friends and I are planning a trip there but, being native Floridians, we are a bit concerned about enjoyably making the entire climb. (Florida’s highest “peak” is 435 feet!) I thought there might be somewhere that hikers can get dropped off to make for a shorter hike to the summit.

    • Interesting question. There is an auto road that goes to the summit, and it does run near one of the trails near the summit. The challenges will be (a) finding someone who is willing to drive you up and drop you off and (b) knowing where to get dropped off and how to find the trail and get oriented on it (so you are walking in the right direction) once you are dropped off. If you can find a ride and are VERY good with trail & terrain maps, it is probably doable. But certainly not easy; and it might be better to simply start early in the day from the Cog Railway and take the Jewell Trail at a pace you can handle, with plenty of stops to rest, hydrate, and eat energy snacks.

    • Possible – yes. Advisable, maybe not. Why not? To be on the summit for sunrise means hiking before sunrise (i.e. in the dark) up the mountain. To be there for sunset means hiking down after sunset (again in the dark). Unless you are an experienced hiker and/or very familiar with the trails, Mt. Washington is definitely not the place for a night hike. None of the trails would be easy to follow in the dark, especially above treeline where the only markings are cairns that will be all but invisible from one to the next even with a flashlight.

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