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The Other Way In

Hike to life-list hot spots without waiting in life-list lines. These under-the-radar trails deliver everything but the crowds.

Mt. Washington
White Mountain National Forest, NH

X    Trade route Tuckerman Ravine Trail
→   Sneak route Huntington Ravine
Key stats 8.5 miles (one-way), 4,280 feet of elevation gain
Off-radar cred The AMC’s White Mountain Guide discourages “novices” and those who “tend to feel queasy” with exposure.

With six trails, a paved road, and a cog railway leading to its summit, “popular” is a bit of an understatement. You can’t land a plane on top of Mt. Washington, but just about any other way to the top of the New England landmark is fair game. Get on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail in the summer or early fall and you’ll never be alone. But thankfully, the mountain is as big as its reputation—and amid all the trade routes lies a scrambley route reserved for fit hikers who’d rather climb up steep rock than plod along with the crowd, nose to tail. It has plenty of exposure to go with the class 3 scrambling, and Northwest editor Michael Lanza (born and raised 100 miles from here) calls it “the East’s toughest trail.”

Do it From the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, hike 1.3 miles on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the junction with the Huntington Ravine Trail. Follow it through the gradually thinning spruce and fir forest to the level area at the bottom of the ravine, where you’ll find a jumble of large boulders. The real climbing starts here at mile 2.7. Pick your way up the chute to The Fan, a talus slope leading up to the right-slanting Central Gully (an ice-climb in winter). Follow yellow blazes up the slabby chute, finding cracks for hand- and footholds. As you exit the main gully at about 5,300 feet, take a left onto the Alpine Garden Trail, named for the alpine goldenrod, bluet, and other wildflowers that bloom in late July and August (they’re delicate; stay on the trail). Continue west on the Lion Head Trail (mile 3.6), and then pick up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail at mile four to gain the summit in .8 mile. (Aim to reach the top by 10 a.m. if you want to avoid the brunt of the car and railway traffic.) Rather than downclimbing your route (steep, and dangerous if wet), descend the more benign (hence well-trafficked) Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Best bet: mid- to late summer, in dry weather.

Get there From Gorham, take NH 16 10.5 miles north to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.
Map Buy the BACKPACKER PRO MAP
Permit None required for day trips.
Contact (603) 536-6100; fs.usda.gov/whitemountain

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