Mount Washington State Park is in New Hampshire, United States of America. It is a 59-acre (23-hectare) park at the summit of Mount Washington, the tallest mountain peak in the entire northeast. It is surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest.
Mount Washington has an elevation of 6,288 feet (1916 m) and is home of the Mount Washington Observatory which is manned year round. The mountain is home to some of the most extreme weather anywhere, and the record for highest measured land-based windspeed was recorded here in 1934 (231 mph). The weather at the top of the mountain is similar to that in Siberia, and winter temperatures can be as low as -47°F (-44°C).
The Mount Washington State Park is closed from mid-October to mid-May. There is no shelter or facilities for hikers at the summit once the park has closed.
The first recorded climb of the mountain was in 1642. The mountain really took off as a tourist destination in the 19th century when bridle paths were first cut on the mountain (which ended up becoming the Mount Washington Auto Road). Construction of summit buildings, Carriage Road, and the Cog Railway all began in the 1850s. In 1908 a fire destroyed everything on the summit except Tip Top House.
Mount Washington is the central, highest summit of an alpine mountain massif called the Presidential Range where many peaks are named after former U.S. presidents. Other high peaks -- Mounts Clay, Jefferson, Adams and Madison -- the Northern Presidentials arc to the north and northeast. Massive Chandler Ridge heads ENE over secondary summits before descending to the valley of the Peabody River. An automobile road ascends this ridge. Great Gulf -- a large glacial cirque -- lies between Chandler Ridge and the Northern Presidentials.
East of the peak are two more cirques, Tuckermans's Ravine famous for spring skiing, and steeper Huntington Ravine attracting rock climbers in summer and ice climbers in winter, however these face away from the summit and are not visible from it. Distant views extend east across the Carter Range to the lowlands of southern Maine. At night, light from Portland and other coastal cities may be visible, but the Atlantic Ocean is just over the horizon.
South of the peak is a plateau above 5,000 ft (1,500 m) named Bigelow Lawn. Beyond there are two major ridges. The higher ridge -- Southern Presidentials -- heads SW along a series of minor alpine peaks mostly named after presidents to Crawford Notch. Montalban Ridge heads south and rapidly drops below treeline beyond prominent Boott Spur. Oakes Gulf separates the two southern ridges.
Flora and fauna
The park is in the alpine zone, approximately 1,500 feet (500 m) above treeline. Flora is limited to lichens, grass and alpine herbs, including a dwarf variety of cranberry. About 1/2 mile (1 km) east of the park and some 1,000 ft (300 m) lower, Alpine Gardens occupies a small plateau area at the head of ancient glacial cirques. Alpine Gardens are known for abundant alpine herbs and grasses, and for displays of flowers in late spring-early summer. The Alpine is to be protected so it can flourish properly, and it is encouraged for hikers to watch their steps not to crush them.
Homo sapiens touristicus is by far the most abundant fauna, but limited numbers of birds and insects inhabit the alpine zone in the warmest months.
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Data from NOAA (1981-2010) and is taken at the summit.
Mount Washington has earned the title of "Home to the Worst Weather in the World". It's also great place to study weather and the meteorologists at Mount Washington Observatory do that year round at the summit. It is important that you, too, are aware of conditions and forecasts as they can change very quickly here.
- The Mount Washington Auto Road, Rt 16 (8 mi (13 km) south of Gorham), ☎ . Open to public vehicles except in winter. The auto road takes you up to the top of scenic Mount Washington without all of the hassle of a day-long hike. It takes a little over a half hour to reach the summit via the 8-mile (13-km) road. There are various limitations on vehicles permitted to use the road, including model types and passenger and luggage weights. Exercise caution while travelling down the road as brakes can easily overheat. Tours are also available at the base.
- Directions to the Auto Road:
- From Boston, and southern New England: Follow Interstate 95 North to the Spaulding Turnpike in Portsmouth, NH to Rt. 16 North. Follow through North Conway, NH towards Glen, NH, and then follow Rt. 16 North through Pinkham Notch. The Mount Washington Auto Road is approximately 2 miles north of Wildcat Ski Area.
- From west of Boston, Nashua and Manchester, NH: Follow Interstate 93 North through Franconia Notch to Exit 35, Rt. 3 North. Follow Rt. 3 through Twin Mountain, NH. Then take Rt. 115 to Rt. 2 in Jefferson, NH, follow Rt. 2 East to Rt. 16 and then follow Rt. 16 eight miles south out of Gorham, NH to the Mount Washington Auto Road.
- From Western New England, Mid-Atlantic States and Montreal: Follow Interstate 91 to US 302 East to Rt. 3 North to Rt. 115 North Rt. 2 East to Rt. 16 South. The Mount Washington Auto Road is on Rt. 16, 8 miles south of Gorham, NH.
- The Mount Washington Cog Railway (off Route 302 in Bretton Woods), toll-free: . The world's first (1869) mountain climbing cog railway and is still in operation today. The round trip takes three hours with a 20-minute stop at the summit. The train runs from late April to late November (check the website for details), and has special "ski train" runs during the winter.
There are at least 15 trails up the mountain, including the Appalachian Trail which follows the crest of the Presidential Range. The most popular route is a path known as the Tuckerman's Ravine Trail.
If you don't want to hike back down the mountain, there is a shuttle service available. However, room is not always guaranteed, so do not assume there will be room on the shuttle and be prepared to hike down if needed! However, most tourists who drive up on their own will be willing to take down a visibly exhausted hiker.
After flying you would need to rent a car. Logan International Airport in Boston is a 3½ hour drive. The Jetport in Portland, Maine is a 1½ hour drive. Manchester Airport in Manchester, NH is 2½ hours away.
Fees and permits
There is a fee to use the Mount Washington Auto Road.
- Car and driver: $20 (including a bumper sticker and audio tour on CD or cassette in English, French or German)
- Motorcycle and Operator: $12
- Each additional adult: $7
- Children ages 5-12: $5
- Children ages 4 and under: Free
Outstanding views are the main act. The Huts are provided for hikers to seek shelter and food. If you have special permission or access you can get a private tour of the Weather Station-workers leave here throughout the seasons and take observations and study certain aspects of Mount Washington. Some other highlights include:
- Tip Top House. Built in 1853 and the only structure to survive the 1908 fire.
- Sherman Adams Summit Building. The visitor center.
Hikers can park at one of the available parking lots by the bases of the White Mountains. From there they can hike up with their belongings and reach on of the first huts below tree line called, Mizpah Spring. It's at an elevation of 3,800 ft. It is in full service with meals early June to mid-October. The distance from the shuttle stop to Crawford Path parking to the Hut is 2.6 miles. The distance to the next hut Lakes of the Clouds is 4.8 miles. The other huts include Lonesome Lake, Greenleaf, Galehead, Zealand Falls, Carter Notch, and Madison Spring.
- Crystal Cascade. Crystal Cascade Trail is a fifteen minute walk from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. The trail is very easy, even for kids. Named after the falls, the trail leads to the Crystal Cascade after following the Cutler River. 30 minutes.
- Lost Pond. This trail leads from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center to Lost Pond, a body of water hidden not far from NH 16. Beginning in a swampy area, the path offers the chance to spot beavers and other native wildlife. Like most trails, the path is not difficult, but problems with mud may arise should there be heavy rainfall. 1 hour.
- Thompson's Falls. A long trek with good rewards, Thompson's Falls trail begins at Wildcat Mountain and ends above the falls. The path progresses from easy, low elevation trails to steeper paths that are less suitable for small children. Wet weather may make the slight climbing required an issue, so be prepared to turn back before completing the journey should that occur. Park at Wildcat Mountain Ski Area. 2 hours.
In the winter many attempt to climb up the Tuckerman Ravine in order to get their fulfillment of skiing. It is very steep and probably should only be attempted by those who are experienced. People who ski and are looking for a challenge often come here to get a different type of steep skiing in. Snow boarding and snowshoeing are also popular activities.
- Climb to the Clouds. July. This auto race up Mount Washington was first run in 1904. While it hasn't been run every year, the current incarnation has been going since 2011 when it was brought back for the road's 150th anniversary.
- The Birthday of the Mt. Washington Auto Road. August.
- [dead link] Annual 24 Hours of Great Glen. August. A 24-hour mountain bike race that also includes a weekend-long festival.
There is a gift shop at the summit. Also, if you are staying at the huts they have little shops set up where you can buy merchandise with the huts name on it. They have Mount Washington souvenirs available, too. Hiking gear is available for the cold climate and to protect people from the hot sun.
There is a cafe at the summit. If you choose to stay at the huts the workers that live there make 2 meals a day. They provide you with an early breakfast to fill all of the hikers appetites before they take off hiking for the day. Also, they provide them with a nice big dinner. Where the Cog Train loads up there is a little restaurant there available for people ti fill themselves up before they head up the mountain.
There is a cafe at the summit available with drinks of your choice, and the huts have water fountains to fill up your water bottles when you are about to leave to go hike the rest of the trails.
If you are partaking in the Hut to Hut program they have several huts available along the trails for hikers to rest up at and to receive food. Depending on the trip you can stay at the huts for a certain amount of nights for a certain price. It is well worth the experience of roughing it out in the beautiful mountains that provide hundreds of breath taking views. For Sleep options see: White Mountain National Forest.
There are many trails to travel such as: Cascade Brook, Falling Waters, Lonesome Lake, Old Bridle Path, Gale River, Zealand, Crawford, Ammonoosuc Ravine, Tuckerman Ravine, Nineteen Mile Brook, Air Line, and Valley Way Trails. All are surrounded with beautiful scenery with flowers, trees, and amazing views of the valleys and into several other states such as Vermont, Maine.
For more information on the lower sections of the Mountains see section at White Mountain National Forest.
This mountain is home to some of the worst weather in the world. Always be prepared and take necessary precautions while hiking or skiing, and be sure to let someone know where you are. The paths are clearly marked for good reasons: do not stray off of them as several people have perished due to unexpected falls. Also exercise extreme caution during the winter months, particularly while skiing, as there are dozens of avalanches each year. Also remember if you do any daytime activities in the winter, it will get dark at 4pm.
- Be sure to understand closing time so as not to be locked in.