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Starting from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, this 7.9-mile loop offers two approaches to the southern headwall of Mount Washington: Tuckerman Ravine or the Boott Spur Trail. The trail winding up the ravine passes the Crystal Cascades Falls before wandering creekside up to Hermit Lake. There, brace for the first of two headwall challenges of the day.
After cresting the first headwall, the hike to the top is mostly a boulder field scramble from cairn to cairn. Pass the Visitor Center near the top (knowing you did it the hard way) and enjoy expansive views of the neighboring Presidential Peaks. Backtrack down the boulders and take Davis Path to the Boott Spur Trail, a route that descends a broad ridge above the ravine, offering a handful of overlooks with views back up the mountain.
CAUTION: Known as the most dangerous small mountain in the world, 6,288-foot Mt. Washington boasts some scary stats: The highest wind velocity ever recorded at any surface weather station (231 mph) was logged here on April 12, 1934. And 137 fatalities have occurred since 1849. No surprise: Most are due to hypothermia–and not only in winter. “They call them the White Mountains for a reason,” says Lieutenant Todd Bogardus, SAR team leader for New Hampshire’s Fish & Game Department. “We see snow right on through the year.” Several weather patterns collide on Washington and produce its notoriously foul weather, which can move in quickly. In 60-mph winds, hiking becomes nearly impossible: Traveling north along the Crawford Ridge from Washington’s summit, hikers routinely–and unknowingly–get blown off course by powerful westerly winds, which shove them down off the ridge into the Great Gulf or the Dry River Valley. “It’s human nature to go with the wind rather than into it,” says Bogardus. Unfortunately, hikers often find the winds have steered them many miles from trails and roads, thwarting their safe return.
SURVIVAL PLAN: Lots of New England’s nor’easters are predicted well in advance, so check the Mt. Washington Observatory forecast (mountwashington.org/weather). And most accidents occur in shoulder seasons to hikers not expecting winter to last so long or summer to end so quickly. Plan for high winds and icy temps, and pack warm, weatherproof layers and an emergency blanket or bivy sack. Check hikesafe.com for more tips on surviving Washington.
See more hazardous hikes at America’s 10 Most Dangerous Hikes.
-Mapped by Trung Q. Le
WHITE MOUNTAINS PRO TRIP PLANNING GUIDE
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CONDITIONS Check weather at Jacksonn, NH (08583).
INFO For more information about travel planning in the region, check out the Visit White Mountains website.
White Mountain National Forest Headquarters 71 White Mountain Drive, Campton, NH 03223 (603) 536-6100
White Mountain Visitor Center 200 Kancamagus Hwy, N Woodstock, NH (603) 745-3816
International Mountain Climbing School 2733 Main St, North Conway, NH 03860 (603) 356-7064 ime-usa.com
L.L.Bean Outlet North Conway, NH 1390 White Mtn Hwy, North Conway, NH 03860 (603) 356-2100 llbean.com
Eastern Mountain Sports 1498 White Mountain Highway, Unit C30, North Conway, NH 03860(603) 356-5433 ems.com
North Conway Area Restaurants
Moat Mountain Smokehouse 3378 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, NH 03860 (603) 356-6381 moatmountain.com
Horsefeathers 2679 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, NH 03860 (603) 356-2687 horsefeathers.com
Delaney’s Hole In the Wall 2966 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, NH 03860 (603) 356-7776 delaneys.com
Peaches Restaurant 2506 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, NH 03860 (603) 356-5860 peachesnorthconway.com
Lincoln Area Restaurants
Common Man Restaurant 44 Pollard Road, Lincoln, NH 03251 (603) 745-3463 thecman.com
Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery 135 Main Street, North Woodstock, NH 03262 (603) 745-3951 woodstockinnbrewery.com
Gypsy Cafe 117 Main Street, Lincoln, NH 03251 (603) 745-4395
- Distance: 12.7
Location: 44.257576, -71.253515
Start behind the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and head north on the well-traveled but rocky Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Allow 4-5 hours for your ascent of Mount Washington. Note: The Visitor Center rents trekking poles for day use.
Location: 44.258025, -71.253623
Continue straight, passing the Blanchard Ski Trail.
Location: 44.26063, -71.25608
The trail crosses Cutler River over a wooden footbridge; up ahead, a short spur leads to Crystal Cascade, a photo-worthy waterfall.
Location: 44.259546, -71.257893
Go right @ Y-junction to continue on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The route back to the trailhead returns via the Boott Spur Trail to the left.
Location: 44.261767, -71.269212
Keep left @ Y-junction, staying on Tuckerman Ravine Trail.
Location: 44.263351, -71.275497
Cross a tributary of the Cutler River on a footbridge.
Location: 44.263691, -71.277817
Continue straight (bearing slightly left @ Y-junction on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. To the right, an unmarked winter ski trail heads towards the Lion Head Trail.
Location: 44.26178, -71.279823
Continue straight. To the left, a small side trail leads down to the running river.
Location: 44.262279, -71.283073
Bear left 3-way junction on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. To the right is the Huntington Ravine Trail. From here, the trail starts a steady, rocky climb.
Location: 44.261009, -71.284531
Continue straight @ 3-way junction on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. To the right is the Lion Head Trail.
Location: 44.26001, -71.286346
Hermit Lake and Hermit Lake Cabin: Campsites and lean-tos are nearby. Check the weather report at the caretaker’s cabin before a quad-busting assault up the first, smaller headwall, which can be a circus of skiers, hikers, even tubers. You’ll climb over occasional large rocks and boulders on this well-tred section as the trail makes its way to treeline and beyond.
Location: 44.26295, -71.300561
Continue up rocky ledges to the main headwall. Watch out for loose rocks and ice (depending on the season).
Location: 44.263273, -71.30245
Go right @ 4-way junction, bearing north up steep rocks. Numerous trails intersect at this confusing junction. This section of trail is marked by large cairns, space about 20-feet apart-this is most likely for backcountry ski fanatics, as the path is relatively obvious in the summer.
Location: 44.265885, -71.302793
Continue on Tuckerman Ravine Trail. You can begin to hear cars up ahead as they arrive at the summit parking area. Also, listen for the whistle of the cog train. From here, the climb is a scramble up a large boulder garden. Follow the larges cairns up to the summit, but take a few breaks and look down for great views of Tuckerman Ravine.
Location: 44.269681, -71.302208
Mount Washington summit area. The actual summit is up and across the parking area near the Visitor Center.
In the background, you might see a black plume of smoke coming from the cog train.
If you happen to bring money, there is a cafetera where you can refill with normal cafeteria fare after a hard earns climb.
Location: 44.270284, -71.303319
Mount Washington (6,288 ft.): On clear days, views stretch 90 miles. Not a bad spot for lunch if the wind is low. When you’re ready, head down the way you came. Continue straight at Waypoint 13 on the Lawn Cut-off Trail (toward Davis Path).
Location: 44.258125, -71.302965
Turn left @ 3-way junction, heading southeast to continue on the Davis Path Trail. To the right, veering northwest, the Davis Path Trail offers another approach to the summit.
The trail now traverses a ridge/plateau, offering stunning views of Tuckerman Ravine below to the left. The trail continues to travel over a rocky path, but with less boulder gardens.
Location: 44.253299, -71.294854
Go left @ 3-way junction onto the Boott Spur Trail. From here, the trail ducks back into the cover of trees and begins a steep, knee-jarring descent down the ravine. The trail travels over small rocks and exposed roots, which can be very slippery when wet.
Location: 44.254559, -71.283867
Keep right @ 3-way junction to continue on the Boott Spur Trail. To the left, a link trail heads back towards Hermit Lake. From here, the trail exits tree cover and travels down a steep section of rock gardens.
Location: 44.25439, -71.280155
The trail arrives at Split Rock.
Location: 44.257511, -71.279373
Tuckerman Ravine Overlook. Look to the northwest for views of Lion Head.
Location: 44.259646, -71.269877
Overlook: The trail travels under the cover of very small trees, which are tall and dense enough to keep views of the ravine few and far between. When there is an opening, take a peek to get a bearing of your surroundings.
Location: 44.2594, -71.263182
Continue straight on Boott Spur Trail. To the right is a small overlook. Ahead, the trail descends to Waypoint 4; continue straight (northeast) to return to the Visitor Center.
Location: 44.26093, -71.257067
Tuckerman Ravine Headwall
Location: 44.260536, -71.288178
Location: 44.265409, -71.303029
Looking down at the Rock Garden climb to the summit.
Location: 44.267161, -71.302342
Large boulders on the way to the summit.
Mount Washington Summit
Location: 44.269684, -71.302117
A theoretical view set against an actual view.
Cairns on the Lawn Cut-off Trail
Location: 44.26272, -71.303008
The cairns are about 20-30 feet apart and last as far as the eye can see.
Cairns on the Davis Path Trail
Location: 44.259508, -71.302428
View of Mount Washington up in the clouds.
Location: 44.254406, -71.279898
View up the ravine
Location: 44.257572, -71.279125
View from the overlook
Location: 44.259646, -71.269737