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.


Getting in Shape to Hike Mount Washington — 6 Comments

  1. Im interested in climbing mount Washington
    Between 7th and 21st of May this year 2022
    Can you advise on cost , clothing , weather etc

    • Hi Ken,

      Climbing Mt. Washington is an amazing experience but requires a great deal of care and planning. Even in mid-summer, the weather can change quickly and go from a pleasant clear day to violent storms. Early May is even more so. Normal temps on the summit in May are in the upper 20s or low 30s with average wind speeds of 30 mph. Those are averages – it can get much colder – easily below zero with wind chill. Snow is still likely with average snowfall of about 12 inches in May, and the record one day total in May of 22 inches! So the bottom line – be prepared for any weather and be prepared to turn back if harsh conditions (like white-outs, freezing rain or thunder storms) arise. There is freezing rain on the mountain as I write, less than a month from your proposed dates.

      There are links to other articles at the bottom of this page to gear ideas and trail ideas. Regarding cost, the fees will be for parking, depending on which trailhead you use. I would suggest the Jewell Trail if this is your first time on Mt. Washington. Bring money for the visitors center at the top; you will likely want to purchase food or drink if it is open.

  2. I climbed Mt.Washington ast age 14 in 1970. I am now 65 years old and take a four mile walk on flat terrain every day and am considering climbing it again, fifty years later. I consider myself in reasonably good shape for my age. Is climbing Mt. Washington a reach for someone like me?

    • Good for you for staying active! There are certainly 65 year olds who do ascend Mt Washington. It’s impossible, though, for me to say whether you personally can do it. I would suggest you try mixing in some hill work for a while to see how that feels – flat walking doesn’t really strain the quads the way up and down hill do. If that goes well for then, then give the Jewel Trail a try. And prepared for highly changeable weather – it snows every month of the year on the summit. Good luck!

  3. I’m planning a trip to Mt. Washington in late July / early August and always bring my dog hiking. I know the trails are steep and strenuous, but are they appropriate for an active dog?

    • It depends on the dog and how much hiking you have done with him/her. Many dogs become distressed on this hike because they are not accustomed to the terrain. Their pads get badly cut on the sharp rocks and they leave bloody paw prints along the trail. If you have not had him/her on rocky trails before, I would not recommend this as the first try.

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