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Winter Driving Around Mount Washington

First, for those interested in driving around the Mount Washington region, there are a few roads which are not maintained for winter travel - some are simply unplowed, others are gated and locked. Among these are:

photo of WMNF sign The Dolly Copp Road (also known as the Pinkham B Road) which goes from Dolly Copp Campground on Route 16 south of Gorham, to Route 2 in Randolph.

The Jefferson Notch Road, which goes from Route 2 in Randolph to the intersection of the Base Road and the Mount Clinton Road, near the Cog Railway Base Station. (The Jefferson Notch road is often heavily traveled by snowmobiles.)

The Mount Clinton Road, which goes from Route 302 at the north end of Crawford Notch to the Base Road near the Cog Railway Base Station. (In some past winters the Mount Clinton Road was plowed for use by Cog Railway employees, but was typically gated and locked, and not considered open for the public. Some other winters have seen it unplowed and used by snowmobilers. In any event, one should not expect it to be available for public wheeled-vehicle use in winter.)

The fact that these roads are impassable in winter can affect trips around the mountain or approaches to certain trailheads (such as the Caps Ridge Trail, the Pine Link, and Edmands Path).

Note re: The Base Road, from Route 302 at Bretton Woods to the Marshfield base station of the Cog Railway. From the winter of 2004-2005 through the winter of 2007-2008, the Base Road to the Cog Railway was plowed and open to the public, as the Railway was offering limited winter operation. Though the Railway has not had public winter operations since that time, the Base Road has been plowed, allowing public vehicle access to the Base Station area. Extra caution is advised if traveling the Base Road, as it includes some steep hills and may become snowy or icy between plowings.

The Mount Washington Auto Road is closed to public vehicular use throughout the winter - this prohibition includes snowmobiles. The Road is not plowed for wheeled vehicles, so that snow and ice, sometimes in prodigious quantities, are to be expected. The Road Company has authorized the Mount Washington Observatory and Mount Washington State Park to operate their snow tractors on the road for supporting their facilities at the summit of the mountain, so that the Road is regularly packed down and drifts flattened out, on the average about two times a week, including Wednesdays (weather permitting) when the summit crews normally change their work shifts. Weather between tractor trips can lead to deep drifting in lee areas.

snowcoach photo

The lower four miles of the Mount Washington Auto Road are maintained as part of the cross-ski country network of Great Glen Trails, so that any pedestrian visitor on the road, whether using skis or snowshoes, is required to pay their trail fee. The Auto Road Company also operates a special snow-coach tour to timberline in winter, so the casual visitor with a strong sense of adventure can have an opportunity to experience some of the scenery and exposure to the elements normally reserved for the more dedicated mountaineer. (For information on the snow-coach tours, call 603 466-2333.)

The casual visitor or mountain tourist - someone who might visit the mountain in summer by the Road or Railway, but not by trail - would do best to be satisfied with a car ride around the mountain or a ride on the Auto Road's snow-coach. Getting more "up close and personal" with the mountain in winter definitely requires a good level of fitness, plus appropriate clothing and equipment for the mountain's variable and sometimes extreme conditions.

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