Anybody familiar with the Mount Washington area?

8:39 p.m. on March 3, 2012 (EST)
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I've already posted a general topic about my Summer trip up the East Coast.

One place that I would like to try to fit in is Mount Washington and since the AT runs over the top of it I was thinking the whole family could ride to the top and the hikers could split off and do an overnight hike to the nearest road.  The family would pick us up the next day.  

I posted a query on whiteblaze but didn't get the kind of info I have come to enjoy here.  I did gather that you have to stay at the huts or a campsite near Mizpah Springs Hut and that it is fairly rocky.  Any input as to whether we should hike North to Pinkham notch or South to Crawford notch.  I am leaning toward North because the shelter is close to midway.  Also a little more on what to expect other than "rocky terrain" would be appreciated.

If there are better mostly down hill hikes that would be easier and or more scenic feel free to suggest them. 

Also are there any good online maps of the area?

9:33 p.m. on March 3, 2012 (EST)
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It's been a while, but Barb and I have done hikes both directions. Most of the hikes were day hikes from the trailhead to the summit and back, though on one loop from Crawford Notch, we intentionally stopped overnight at one of the leantos (abt 20 mi RT, once as a day hike, once with the overnight stop). One nice version in both N and S went over all the peaks between the trailhead and summit. One time going through the Great Gulf from Glenn House (where the Mt Washington Toll Road starts) was in a thick fog on the upper part - we started hearing this clanking sound and suddenly realized we were standing right next to the cog railway. The trail is easy to find, though steep in the upper part of the Gulf (typical of NE trails up mountains). This was about 15 mi RT. Great Gulf is pretty scenic and does get back to the toll gate, an easy place for the family to meet you. The trails out of Pinkham are steeper in places, though the view as you go over Lions Head is pretty good, and they are shorter RT.

Since you are going downhill, if you are in reasonable shape, you can do top to bottom in a day easily. I remember there being a lot of leantos on all the trails. But that is close to 40 years ago, so things might have changed. Oh, it does rain really hard often in summer in those mountains, plus Washington like all tall mountains likes to generate thunderstorms on summer afternoons ("bumpers" they call'em). We always preferred to start on the trail early in the morning to be off the hill by midafternoon at the latest.

9:35 p.m. on March 3, 2012 (EST)
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Ocala- I was just there a couple weeks ago to take an ice climbing course and have stayed in North conway on more than one occasion. That said I am no expert on the area. I believe iclimb lives close and I think he's the guy to ask any info regarding that area. Maybe send him a PM.

Pinkham notch is beautiful, and I would highly recommend it, that said though the entire area is beautiful!

Apparently I'm about as helpful as the people on whiteblaze!

Cue Iclimb.......

12:39 a.m. on March 4, 2012 (EST)
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@Bill

We're not necessarily in what you would call decent shape.  I wouldn't attempt a day hike from trailhead to summit and back, hence the downhill direction. 

@Jake

At least you read my post completely.  The last guy to post, who was chastising the others for telling me how difficult and hard it was a jumping to conclusions wondered why they thought I was going to hike all the way to Crawford gap, which I had plainly stated in my two sentence OP. One person got the idea I was meeting a through hiker.  Another suggested a different route to hike up the mountain and back down.

2:54 a.m. on March 4, 2012 (EST)
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John, go to www.viewsfromthetop.com It is a NE website. Not sure what the status is on joining at the moment, but as a guest you can read the posts and there is plenty of info there on local conditions and trails, including Mt. Washington.

I've never been hiking back there at all, so no personal advice, but from what I read, the weather can be pretty nasty, so being overprepared is far better than thinking these are casual hikes. There are fairly regular stories posted about someone being rescued because they either got lost or hurt up there, mostly from wandering off without proper gear.

1:24 p.m. on March 4, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy - Mt. Washington isn't a technically challenging hike on most trails, but the terrain is rocky and steep.  Expect to pull yourself up a few times and have to scoot on your rump on the way down a few times.  A few warnings:

1. You should be in good shape. nearly every trail to the summit gains several thousand feet in less than 10 miles. So, get on the stairmaster with a pack in preparation.  This isn't a peak to lose steam on because:

2. THE WEATHER, event in summer, can be very bad.  I've been close to hypothermic on this peak in August.  So, bring a rainsuit, warm hat, gloves, thermos, extra food, insulating layer, and exercise good judgement.  If the weather turns, head down.

If you're planning a several day excursion, consider booking a room at one of the AMC huts.  They are friendly, comfortable, and reasonably affordable.

It's a lovely peak, and you'll enjoy it!



2:09 p.m. on March 4, 2012 (EST)
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Check out the Hermit Lake shelters.  There are several options to descend from the summit to there dependent on your time and degree of difficulty.  Boot spur gives nice views of Tucks.  Lions Head, and Ravine trails will all get you to those shelters with some options for exploration on the way.  To get the rest of the way down you have 3 or more options that will all bring you out at Pinkham Notch.  

I would suggest Boot Spur, to Hermit Shelter than back out the link to finish on Boot Spur.  But like I said there are many options that you can exercise nearer your trip.  One thing is you need to pay for the stay at Hermit Shelter at Pinkham Notch prior to your stay there.  

Thats all I got right now.  Heres a map of that section.   http://hikethewhites.com//wash/map2.jpg

7:33 a.m. on March 5, 2012 (EST)
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My .02: I'll second the Boot Spur idea, it's a fine route. If you don't want to carry all the gear needed to stay at Hermit Lakes, you could stay at Lakes of Clouds (a.k.a. "Lakes of The Crowds"), that way in addition to traveling lighter you only have to hike down to Lakes form the summit on day 1 and might have some time to explore in the alpine zone. The descent from the summit to Lakes is really rocky so it's nice to be able to take your time. Then you could hike out to Pinkham via Boot Spur on day 2. Hiking pure steep downhills is also very hard on the legs, so a little advance training would definitely be a good idea.

If you think you've go the legs to go a little further, AND you get good weather, then consider heading north over or around Jefferson and Adams and down to Crag Camp or Grey Knob, two cabins run by the Randolph Mountain Club.  The former is in a primo spot looking down over the rock glacier in King Ravine, one of the coolest features of the range. Looks like they're still first come first serve and pretty well maxed out in August. I don't recall the distance from Washinton to Crag Camp but I'd give it a full day, most of the trails in the northern prezzies are rough and rocky.

Here's a usable planning map of the northern prezzies, Mt. Washington is just off the southern end of the map.

5:06 p.m. on March 5, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

@Bill

We're not necessarily in what you would call decent shape.  I wouldn't attempt a day hike from trailhead to summit and back, hence the downhill direction.

 Yeah, I know you said you wanted to go downhill. I should note that going downhill, especially on the steep, rock/root trails in New England, is harder on the knees than going uphill. Couple years ago when I was doing some peakbagging in NE as training for one of my long expeditions, I made a comment to one of the hut managers about how steep the trails in the Appalachians are compared to the trails west of the Mississippi. I knew this, since I lived in Boston for a few years and in the Deep South, hence had hiked at both ends and some in the central parts of the range, plus growing up in the West and having back here for a couple decades. His explanation, which makes a lot of logical sense was this: the pre-Columbian inhabitants traveled on foot, hence tended to stick to the most straight-forward paths, as did many of the early European settlers. By contrast, the West was "conquered" by the Mountain Men traveling on horseback with pack animals and by settlers moving Westward with wagons. The Anglos (generic term for the "white eyes") needed to build trails with switchbacks for the sake of the animals. This carried on with the "iron horses" in the 19th Century and the early automobiles in the 20th Century.

Anyway, point is no matter which trail you pick to head down from Washington, it will be steep and have lots of rocks and roots. The Boot Spur, Lions Head trails are among the steepest. So is the upper part of Great Gulf. Barb and I tended to stay away from the guarded huts because of 1. the crowds and 2. the cost. When we were living there, there were no fees or reservations for the leantos or campsites. I don't know if this is the case now (I doubt it - probably have to have reservations and pay a fee just to breathe the mountain air). The reference to "Lake of the Crowds" was (and still is) right on. I do know that my visits to New England in the last 10 years found the guarded huts to be exorbitantly expensive, even by my present standards (ok, my present standards for paid accomodations run in the Motel 6 range, and I consider a lot of those expensive, though at least those have HVAC, bathroom, and shower, unlike my preferred tent).

The Crawford Path is less steep (in part because it is longer) and does visit several peaks along the way down. But any of the tracks are scenic. Just remember to bring your trekking poles and use them.

11:41 p.m. on March 5, 2012 (EST)
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I think I have decided not to try to hike up or down Mt. Washington. 

  1. Very steep and rocky and I'll have a 9 year old.
  2. Weather can turn nasty very quickly. FL's weather maybe nasty but it's not combined with steep rocky terrain and sudden high winds.
  3. Expensive accommodations. I think I saw $86 a night? Really??

Thanks to all those who responded.  I'm going to look in NY at Adirondacks or Vermont.

5:34 a.m. on March 7, 2012 (EST)
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There are dozens of shorter day hikes in NH, VT, and NY that might be good bets. Sometimes it's better to choose something more out of the way.

Here are a few somewhat easier hikes that come to mind:

in NH:

North(?) Moat Mountain via Diana's Baths near North Conway

Black Mountain in Haverhill, not far off I-91

Mount Chocorua in Tamworth

In VT:

Camels Hump via the Monroe/Alpine Trails. An absolute classic (although the longer Bamforth Ridge trail is even better).

Hunger Mountain in Waterbury, across the Stowe valley from Mt. Mansfield.

Mount Pisgah above Lake Willoughby

Various short hikes in Groton State Forest.

Hiking in Merck Forest in S. Vermont, where they have rustic cabins you can stay in for the night. Easy hiking in rich forest.

In the ADKs I've done mostly canoeing, but you should be able to find some good day hikes there too. Mount St. Regis?

6:56 a.m. on March 7, 2012 (EST)
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It sounds like you have made a wise decision for your group.  If you need verification, read "Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire" by Nicholas Howe. 

If you end up hiking in Vermont, this native Vermonter recommends Mount Hunger for a hike with great views and a variety of terrain. It is near Montpelier with trails from the west side (Waterbury/Stowe area) and from the east side (Montpelier/Middlesex).  Having hiked from both sides, I would recommend going up from the Middlesex side as less taxing although you will have to scramble over lots of rock.  The Waterbury trail follows steep stream bed (can be wet) for a lengthy section and is hard on those of us with short legs (or claustrophobia) in places wehre it is very steep and narrow with rock sides.  "Day Hiker's Guide to Vermont" has directions to get to trailheads on both sides. 

Camel's Hump is a great hike as well and my recollection of the trail from the Waterbury side is that is would be kid-friendly - I last went up with a bunch of teens 20+ years ago. Time to go again!

The "walkers" and "hikers" might all enjoy driving up Mt. Mansfield's Toll Road and hiking along the spine of the Green Mts. - great views above treeline.  There are so many good hike in the area - The Green Mountain Club is located in Waterbuy and can be of great help.  https://www.greenmountainclub.org/

I hope you enjoy your trip to New England as much as we enjoy our winter breaks in Florida! 

9:07 a.m. on March 7, 2012 (EST)
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You've already decided not to hit Mount Washington (a great spot, except for the crowds at certain times), but I still want to give a quick recommendation for the Appalachian Mountain Club's guidebooks and maps.

These are excellent resources and go beyond The Whites:

AMC Hiking Guides

Mimi is right about the Green Mountain Club being a great resource for Vermont.

Have fun wherever you end up, and share a trip report.

6:57 p.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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If you are planning on climbing in the summer, there are several options and all are awesome choices -

On the West side of the mountain, you will generally find less crowds. The summit in summer sees 250,000+ ppl, a number that dwindles to a couple thousand at most in winter. I'd say the east side of the mountain where Tuckerman's and Huntington ravines are, are the most popular route choices, and thus very crowded.

For a less crowded hike, do the Ammonousuc Ravine trail or take the Jewell trail up to the top. As a previous poster stated, none of them are easy in terms of how strenuous they are. Plan on 4,000 feet or more gained during any trail.

If you decide to stay at Mizpah hut area, there are tent platforms that provide great places for tents to be raised with no need to worry about rocky terrain. Wherever you do go, plan to bring $30-$40 in cash with you, in small bills (lots of $1's and $5's). The tent platforms generally run $8 per person per night if I remember correctly, and this helps to pay the care taker who gets to compost your pee and poop in the outhouses. Also most of the huts have snacks, homemade cookies and soups, basic supplies, and souvenirs. 

Whatever route you choose, you can't camp just anywhere, it has to be designated areas because of the fragile alpine plant life. The huts are amazing, and you get a 5 star meal, a bunk bed, and wool blankets for the night, which means you won't have to carry a tent. They book fast though and aren't too cheap.

Let me know which route you choose to take and I can provide you with great detail about the approach from that direction, approximate mileage, length of time, etc....this is my playground and I've been up almost every route, yet interestingly I haven't made the summit yet. My reasoning here is because I'm reserving the summit for a winter climb, and 3 times have been turned around due to atrocious weather.

5:42 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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just noticed that you didn't want to do mt washington - that's no reason not to visit the whites tho. There are several much easier day hikes in the southern presidential section of the white mountains that have incredible views of Mt Washington as long as the weather is clear. The first that comes to mind is Mt Jackson, but Mt Pierce is a great choice also, and both are within a few short miles of Mt Washington making for spectacular views. In fact, a quick day hike up Pierce and back down would be awesome - the crawford path claims itself as the oldest maintained hiking trail in the country - it's well forged, easy to follow, and does a pretty good job at using switchbacks so that it is never too steep. If you wanted to do an overnight to break up the length a little, you could stay at the tent platforms by mizpah hut and pay $8 per person to stay there for the night. At this site is a hut that you can go in during the day, a potable water source, and lots of wild life.

8:58 p.m. on April 3, 2012 (EDT)
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checkout jewell trail leaves N side of lot opposite of amonoosuc trailhead,easiest way up as long as weather holds,no traffic up some coming down.decent sites on N side below treeline.

10:22 p.m. on April 3, 2012 (EDT)
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ocala,everything they say about the weather is true,it can be deceptive,be prepared!when i hike washington with casual hikers in my party i always do jewell because there's almost no deviation in ascent rate(with the exception above treeline)so i can listen about blisters for hours!there is no scenery till treeline with the exception of looking to your right(S)into the ravine where the cog railroad is.one advantage 95%are on E side of mountain,where you cant set up overnite.once you get around 3500' you can start looking to your left(N)for camp,because of the fragile vegetation leave no trace is even more important,if you go at least 300-400' to your north off the trail there is plenty of undisturbed area to overnite.bonus depending on conditions there's a brook that runs almost parallell to trail approximately 600' to north starting around 4000',but better off not counting on that especially since it's been really dry around here for months.ive taken my wife and kids and dog there its completely doable as long as the weather cooperates.one of the major advantages in my situation is i can set up base just below treeline so my wife and daughter and dog can stay at camp while i summit.pretty tough to do with east side ascent.

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