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Camping and Staying Overnight on Mount Washington

For those who wish an extended experience on Mount Washington, it is possible to overnight in some locations on the mountain. Because of the heavy use of the mountain, and the need to protect the vegetation from damage, there are some regulations regarding camping and overnight stay. Because of the inherent weather-related hazards, any camper should recognize the serious nature of a night out on the slopes of Mount Washington.

Opportunities and Regulations

Most of Mount Washington is within the White Mountain National Forest, and is subject to Forest Service regulations. In a nutshell, the particularly pertinent camping regulations are as follows:

In the Cutler River Drainage (most of the eastern side of Mount Washington - from the summit down to Pinkham Notch, from Nelson Crag south to Boott Spur) overnight stay is very limited. Within this area, summer visitors may stay ONLY at the Hermit Lake Shelter Area in Tuckerman Ravine (in the lean-to shelters or at the designated tentsites near the shelters). Advance reservations for the Hermit Lake Shelters are not possible for individuals, though educational groups can contact the Appalachian Mountain Club in advance regarding reserving space. Please note that the entire Alpine Garden area is within the Cutler River Drainage, and thus NO CAMPING is permitted there at any time. NO CAMPING is allowed along the Lion Head Trail either.

The Hermit Lake Shelter Area is operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club by special arrangement with the U.S. Forest Service. It is located roughly halfway up the mountain from Pinkham Notch, off the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Total overnight capacity is 86 people; there is a resident caretaker who oversees the Area. There are eight shelters; three of the shelters are partially enclosed with shutters, making them crudely cabin-like. There are also three sites (platforms) for tents. Absolutely no wood fires are allowed in the area. Individuals wishing to stay the night in the shelters or at the tent sites must sign up and pay for space at the front desk of the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. The overnight rate is $15.00 per person per night for the shelters, and $15.00 per person per night for the tent sites. (If you aren't starting your trip from Pinkham Notch, there are limited spaces available for "drop in" overnighters who are coming down off the mountain – an early arrival is strongly recommended.)

Additional information about the Hermit Lake Shelter Area can be found at:
http://www.outdoors.org/lodging/campsites/hermit-lake-shelter.cfm

Within the National Forest outside the Cutler River Drainage, a few general rules apply: Summertime camping is not permitted above treeline (for these purposes, where the height of trees is 8 feet or less). Camping is generally permitted if one is 200 feet away from a trail or stream (a regulation in some areas - such as along the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail - a minimum recommendation in all areas) and 1/4 mile away from a densely used area such as a hut (for instance, Lakes of the Clouds hut) or shelter site, and 1/4 mile from a road. Please visit the U.S. Forest Service website http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/white_mountain/ and check their Backcountry Camping Rules before your trip for complete information.

BE AWARE

While there are many places that camping is allowed on Mount Washington – in terms of overall area – many of the popular places to visit have camping restrictions, because of the fragility of the environment and the great numbers of visitors.

Even where legal, camping in the forests on the mountain can be challenging – the slopes are steep, the forest floor can have rocks or wet areas, and the trees and undergrowth can be dense. There are few places that would traditionally be considered "good camping spots." If you do choose to plan an overnight stay in the forests of Mount Washington, please be aware of the challenge of finding a suitable campsite. Start your search for a site early enough to avoid letting fatigue or impending darkness tempt you into ignoring camping restrictions or good environmental stewardship in your choice of a place to spend the night.

For more background information, check http://www.mountwashington.org/about/visitor/leave_no_trace/

CAMPING ON THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT WASHINGTON IS PROHIBITED

The summit of Mount Washington is a New Hampshire State Park, and camping there is not permitted at any time. There are no facilities for campers, and restrooms are only available during the State Park building's open hours. (Dates and hours of operation for the Summit building are weather permitting depending on Cog Railway and Auto Road Access. State Park lands are always open for recreation, please be reminded that comfort stations might not always be available.)

Cold temperatures, brisk (and sometimes extreme) winds, fog, rain, and snow (which can occur in summer) would make it a most inhospitable and frequently a dangerous place for camping. Park Rangers do not allow any camping in Mount Washington State Park.

If you are planning a day hiking trip, please plan to be off the mountain by dark. If you are planning an overnight camping trip, please plan your trip so that you are well down the mountain, below treeline, and at a legal and environmentally acceptable place for camping by dark.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

The Appalachian Mountain Club operates the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, located at just over 5,000 feet at the intersection of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and the Crawford Path. This above-treeline hut – a simple high-mountain lodge - is open roughly from early June to mid-September. It has overnight capacity for 90 guests. Hut amenities include bunks and blankets, dinner and breakfast are served by the hut crew, and trail snacks and some other trails supplies are available. Advance reservations are required. For more information visit the A.M.C. website at http://www.outdoors.org/lodging/huts/index.cfm

Please be aware that no summertime camping is allowed above treeline, no camping is allowed within mile of Lakes of the Clouds Hut, and no camping is allowed within 200 feet of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.

Special Arrangements at the Observatory

Participate in Summit Adventures led by staff of the Mount Washington Observatory. Mount Washington Observatory's Summit Adventures allow participants to explore the rugged landscape, rich history and extreme weather of New England's tallest peak. Each Summit Adventure includes transportation to and from the base of the mountain, overnight accommodations at the summit weather station and delicious, home-cooked meals.

Mount Washington Observatory is proud to partner with several well-respected and highly skilled climbing schools to offer overnight expeditions to the summit of Mount Washington. These climbing trips include overnight stay at the summit weather station and delicious, home-cooked meals.

photo - caption below
Tuckerman Ravine. The Ravine headwall looms not far from the Hermit Lake Shelter Area, in this view taken on an overcast late October day. Autumn foliage can be seen lingering in a few sheltered locations.
photo - caption below
The rocky summit cone of Mount Washington dominates this view northward from Mount Monroe. The Lakes of the Clouds Hut can be seen on the left, and one of the two namesake lakes is visible on the right.
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