Numerous routes lead to the summit of Mt. Washington. Here we will describe the most popular trails leaving from the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. For other trails, you should consult the AMC White Mountain Guide, USGS topographic maps, or other resources. In general, you can expect all trails to the summit to be physically demanding. You’ll be climbing about 4000 vertical feet from Pinkham Notch, and then you’ll still need to have energy for the hike down.
While getting down from the mountain may seem obvious and intuitive, there are some things we’d like you to know before you go:
- One of most common and most avoidable injuries we see as Snow Rangers is a lower leg injury caused by a person glissading with crampons on. Please realize that it is extremely easy to injure yourself this way, as well as it being an entirely preventable injury. If you must glissade, put your crampons in your pack. If you must keep them on, stay on your feet!
- When the sun goes down, the snow can get hard very quickly. This is particularly true in the springtime. We commonly see hikers descending the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, or down through the Lip, on boilerplate snow conditions. A fall here would take you to the floor of the ravine more quickly than you probably care to go. Be smart, take either Lion Head or the Boott Spur.
- The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is closed each spring from the Alpine Garden Trail to Lunch Rocks. Do not attempt to descend via Tuckerman Ravine. You may be hiking above crevasses, open waterfalls, large boulders, and on very icy snow. In the winter be prepared for avalanche danger and a mountaineering adventure.
- The Auto Road and Cog Railway do not run in winter. In late spring they may be operating, but they do not take reservations. You are not guaranteed a ride down, so be prepared to hike down as well as up when making your plans.
- If traveling across the Alpine Garden in poor visibility it’s crucial that you stay on the trail. In the past, parties have been known to mistakenly head down into Raymond’s Cataract (between Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine). This would put you into an epic bushwhack that you probably would want to avoid.
Driving up to Pinkham Notch in the winter you’ll see a sign saying “Winter Climbers Please Register.” These registers are used by the Snow Rangers in the event of missing or overdue climbers. One of the first things we want to know if someone is reported missing is whether there is even a chance they are still on the mountain. We certainly don’t want to be out on the mountain looking for someone who is down in the valley eating dinner at his or her favorite restaurant. By telling us what is your intended route, what vehicle you’re driving, etc., you are helping us narrow down the options for what might be happening. And, if you happen to be the missing party, it’ll help us get to you more quickly so we can help you out. Just so you know, we do not check the registers unless we have a reason to.
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace, Inc. is a leader in developing guidelines for treading lightly in backcountry areas. Given the incredible numbers of people visiting Mt. Washington each year, it is even more important that when you visit you leave the area in as pristine condition as possible for future visitors.
HikeSafe! is a first-of-its-kind educational campaign created by a collaboration between New Hampshire Fish & Game and the US Forest Service. The goal of hikeSafe! is to give people the information they need to travel safely through the backcountry areas of the White Mountain National Forest, thereby reducing the number of lost and injured persons in need of assistance.