(Note: On April 1, 2020, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Trail Maintaining Clubs formally requested the official closure of the 2,193-mile Appalachian Trail due to the growing risk of spreading COVID-19. This includes closure by the National Park Service of all overnight shelters and privies on land administered by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Park Office.)
On July 23, 2017 we hiked Mt. Washington (6,288 feet) from the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and the Lion Head Trail (4.3 miles). The best road map for this strenuous hike is the AMC White Mountain Guide, which contains maps and trail descriptions. The Pinkham Notch Visitor Center also sells maps for a nominal fee, has free advice and info, and a scale model of the mountain and its trails.
Having attempted the 100 Mile Wilderness two weeks earlier, we now set our sights on Katahdin later in the summer, and focused on getting in some climbing to prepare for this capstone hike. We packed light, though, and focused on water and snacks. Dad carried a pack with clothing and essentials, and daughter used a small Camelbak pack that held a water bladder and not much else.
Knowing that the parking lot and the trail would be busy on a Sunday in the summer, we got an early start, signing the trail log and beginning our hike before 7 am. Still, we were not the first ones to hike the mountain that day, because a scary fit guy wearing no gear came running hard down the trail, having already been to the top.
About 0.3 miles up, we stopped to take a picture of Crystal Cascade. The next two miles were a steady climb upward on a wide, rocky trail. We shed some layers as the sun rose higher in the sky, then took the right-hand turn onto the Lion Head Trail.
The trail became a lot steeper as we approached the edge of the tree line. We took a break shortly after clearing the tree line to apply sunscreen and eat some peanut butter M&Ms, a favorite of ours. Hiking a mountain with such light packs seemed easy, after our 100 Mile ordeal.
The open climb and bright summer morning gave us excellent views of Tuckerman Ravine below. We also paused several times to admire the foliage in an area close to the Alpine Garden Trail.
There is so much more to see, and this is a great video describing some of the varieties of plants and flowers in the Alpine Garden.
The final climb to the summit, .4 miles, which seemed to go straight up, with no end in sight, ended abruptly at the parking lot near the summit. This has always seemed a strange juxtaposition, to be immersed in nature, then to have so much commerce at the top of New England’s highest peak, but we also enjoyed the opportunity to buy a chili dog and slices of pizza in the snack bar. For round-trip hikers, there are restrooms, as well, and water points to refill for the descent.
We made the decision to purchase tickets for the van shuttle back down to the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center, rather than hiking the descent, as daughter was fighting a headache, and we had done the fun part of the climb already. The price was reasonable ($31 for dad, $13 for daughter), and included a pass to the Mt. Washington weather museum, which we visited while waiting for our scheduled van. The moral of the stories contained in the museum seemed to be: be careful on Mt. Washington in the winter. Daughter purchased a plush moose she instantly named Tuckerman, and a clever cat-themed t-shirt (“The Meow-ntains are calling, and I must go”).
You can see how volatile the weather can be from the featured image at the top of this post – immediately above is a photo from dad’s summit in June 2016, with better visibility. Dad usually climbs Mt. Washington once per summer, via the Tuckerman Ravine or Lion Head routes.
After a short jaunt down the auto road in the van, and back to our car at Pinkham Notch, we drove the 15 minutes south to Jackson, NH, where we cooled off in Jackson Falls and picked blueberries by the side of the river to end the day.