View Full Version : Just how far can you see from the summit?

04-03-2009, 02:34 PM
Hello to you from Maryland!

My Mom lives up there in North Conway and I try to get up to see her a few times a year. I have heard people say you can see some of the highrises in downtown Boston on a clear day - I am assuming that may be true. I was curious to know, if you could see that far to the south, could you also see some of the skyline of Montreal? The distance by air would be roughly the same so I'm guessing you might be able to. I can't imagine though you could see much further than that - I doubt you could see all the way to New York, Quebec City or Ottawa but I don't know. What about to the east - could you see Portland or Bangor? I've heard too you can see the Atlantic Ocean along the coast of Maine. Could you see the Connecticut or Rhode Island coastlines and Narragansett Bay? Surely, you couldn't see all the way here to Maryland though - that would certainly be a bit of a stretch! Anyway, thanks for the info!

David Larson

Bill O
04-03-2009, 03:56 PM
Sorry, Boston and Montreal skylines are too far, but it is possible to see the glow of lights from those cities. Montreal lights are a bit of a stretch, but they're out there.

It has more to do with the curvature of the earth than the thickness of the atmosphere.

That will answer all of your questions for locations farther than those cities.

Yes, you can see the Atlantic coastline off Maine from the summit. When the sun shines off the water in the morning it is very prominent.

To the west you can see the Adirondacks. If atmospheric conditions are just right you can see mountains over 120 miles away. Mountains that would normally be below the horizon are distorted by the atmosphere.

Several years ago I flew up to the Mount Washington area in a small plane from Connecticut. Shortly after we took-off, south of Hartford around 5,000 feet we could clearly see Mount Washington on the horizon.

I'm a little fuzzy on the details of this anecdote, but when I was visiting national parks in Utah many years ago they made claims at having some of the clearest air in the country. In the 1800s, given the right location you could see points over 300 miles away. Tall mountains are also an important factor here.

04-03-2009, 09:55 PM
Thanks for the information, I appreciate it. I never gave a thought to the fact of the earth's curvature preventing someone from seeing that far. I remember some years ago being down in Key West and wondering why you counld't see the lights of Havana if it's only 90 miles off and everyone said it was due to the earth's curvature.

I remember going up to the summit many years ago when I was very young - I'd love to get up there again someday.

Interesting story about seeing the mountain from a plane so far off - but it does make sense, when you think of it.

Again, thanks for the info and keep up the good work.

David Larson

Bill O
04-04-2009, 08:53 PM

This is a cool calculator. Just enter the height of your eye to determine how for the horizon is. If you want to compare two locations that have elevation just add their heights together.

From the summit of Mount Washington the horizon is 113 miles away.

To see a 700 foot tall building in Boston the city would have to be less than 98 miles away.

Or, at a distance of 130 miles (approx Boston to Mount Washington) you'd have to be on a building about 4,000 feet tall to see Mount Washington.

Mount Washington would have to be taller than Mount Everest to see the Connecticut coast line.