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Summer Visits to Mount Washington

So you want to visit Mount Washington? That sounds great. As an organization which has operated a weather station, scientific research center, and educational facility atop the mountain since 1932, the Mount Washington Observatory certainly understands the attraction of this place, the highest mountain in the northeastern United States. This information is meant to guide you in planning your visit, to help you make it an enjoyable and safe one, and one which respects the mountain's special environment.

The links in the Summer Visits box at right provide more detailed information.

Who might be interested in Mount Washington?

Mount Washington has attracted visitors at least since 1642. People come for various reasons – to ride a coal-burning steam (or new bio-diesel) locomotive up a mountain, to test themselves against a physical challenge, to enjoy grand mountain scenery, to experience remarkable weather, to view "dwarf" flowers and other unusual vegetation, to enjoy the companionship of family and friends in the outdoors. Each year about 250,000 people visit the peak.

Folks who might think twice about a visit would be those who have a great fear of high and open places (the mountain, in general, is not as precipitous as many mountains, but those with great sensitivity to such things might experience some discomfort). Also, individuals who have significant pulmonary or cardio-vascular difficulties may be challenged due to the diminished oxygen available here – though the mountain's 6,288 feet is low by global standards, and does not cause altitude problems in most people, those with pre-existing medical conditions that may be aggravated by low oxygen (approximately 15% to 20% less than at sea level) should consult their medical care provider before visiting.

How to Get Here

To reach the general area of Mount Washington, getting here depends on where you are coming from and then how you wish to ascend the mountain.

From the nearby towns to the south: Route 16 is the straightforward approach, going through West Ossipee, Conway, North Conway, and Jackson in its approach to Pinkham Notch, which is the valley immediately to the east of Mount Washington. Pinkham Notch is the site of the Appalachian Mountain Club Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, where some of the mountain's major trailheads can be found. Pinkham Notch also is the site of the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road.

The AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center is about 30 minutes' drive from North Conway village, assuming light traffic and no weather-caused or other delays.

From the nearby towns to the north: Route 16 leads into Pinkham Notch from Gorham. Gorham is located at the eastern intersection of Route 16 and Route 2.

From the nearby towns to the west: from the Twin Mountain area, major trailheads and the Cog Railway base station (also known as Marshfield) can be reached by going east on Route 302 to Fabyans, and then taking the Base Road east. (The narrow, somewhat rough Mount Clinton Road goes from Route 302 near the Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center, at the north end of Crawford Notch, to the Base Road about a mile or so from the Cog Railway base station.)

For visitors traveling from Boston, two major options are to go north to the Portsmouth area and then north on Route 16, or to go north through Manchester and Concord, following Route 93 through Franconia Notch and then easterly on Route 3. From Twin Mountain, one can follow Route 302 easterly to the western side of the mountain, or can continue north on Route 3, then take Route 115 and Route 2 to Gorham, and then Route 16 to the eastern side of the mountain. Which route is better for you would depend in part on your exact point of origin and your ultimate destination.

A Few Words about "Summer" on Mount Washington

When we use the word "summer" on Mount Washington, we sometimes use it loosely. For operational purposes, we sometimes consider as summer that part of the year during which – weather permitting – the Mount Washington Auto Road and Cog Railway are in regular operation, and the Mount Washington State Park's summit building is open to the public. In a typical year, that period spans from about mid-May to about mid-October. But the early part of that period - roughly, late spring – and the later part of that period – roughly, early fall – may have weather and ground conditions that are obviously NOT like the typical picture of summer. See below, in the "weather" section, for more information.

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