Make no mistake – no matter which trail you choose, hiking to the summit of Mount Washington is a serious challenge that requires a certain level of physical conditioning. Much of the route involves hopping from rock to rock or quad-busting giant steps or hand-over-hand crawling up lichen-covered boulders. And the descent can be even tougher as your legs strain to fight gravity with every step.

But with patience and some advance preparation, even first-time hikers can make the journey.  Physically, there two types of training that really help: stamina conditioning and hill-climbing. Hiking Mount Washington is a day-long workout for most people, and the route is steadily uphill on the way up and downhill on the way back, with very few flat sections to provide relief. So overall conditioning and legs accustomed to hill-climbing are key.

Mount Washington is a full body workout

If you have access to a gym, a combination of aerobic and resistance work-outs are ideal, with a heavy dose of stair-step training. Work the legs, especially the quads, but don’t ignore the upper body and core. Ascending Mount Washington is a full body workout.

If regular trips to the gym are not in the cards, a routine of calisthenics at home, again mixing aerobic activities with strength training, will work fine.

Of course, actually getting outside an hiking daily with your loaded day pack, even on sidewalks through your town, will help prepare you for the feel of the weigh. If you live in an area without hills, look for multi-story buildings where you can work on the stairs wearing your pack. Once you can walk up and down 10 flights of stairs without stopping and still be smiling, you are ready for the “easy” routes up Mount Washington. “Easy” is in quotes because all trails up the mountain are strenuous; some are just a little less so than others.

In the meantime, here are some additional resources to help get physically ready for your Mount Washington day hike:

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.


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