If you ever get up to the New England states and you travel to New Hampshire, a visit to Mount Washington is something you do not want to miss. On a good day you will get to witness one of the most spectacular views anywhere in the country. Reaching 6288 feet into the New Hampshire sky, Mount Washington is the king of the White Mountains and is one of many peaks in the Presidential Range. If you look it up on Wikipedia, you'd see this...
"The Presidential Range is notorious for having some of the worst weather on Earth, mainly because of the unpredictability of high wind speeds and whiteout conditions on the higher summits. Because of the poor weather conditions, the Presidential Range is often used for mountaineering training for those who go on to climb some of the world's highest mountains, including K2 and Everest."
One thing they tell you right before you get off the train at the top is "don't miss the train going back down", You don't want to have to hike down this mountain. Even in the summertime, the top of Mt Washington is covered in fog 90% of the time. During the trip up and down the mountain on the cog railway you'll notice all of the stacks of stones known as cairnes (can be seen and talked about in the videos below). Those are used as trail guide markers for the hikers. Since you can hardly see in front of you in the fog, the markers are placed VERY close together to help keep you on the path and not fall off the mountain. As you approach the top of the mountain the Appalachian Trail crosses the tracks, and the hike across Mount Washington and the Presidential Range is considered to be the most difficult hike on the entire Appalachian Trail.
So... that leaves the cog railway. THIS is the way to go. This is from their website:
The Mount Washington Cog Railway is a narrated 3-Hour-Round Trip train ride to the summit of Mount Washington on a historic and awe-inspiring railway. Averaging around 1 hour each way, you have 60 minutes to explore and take in the Summit of Mount Washington, including the Sherman Adams Visitor Center. Inside the Visitor Center is a museum, post office, small snack bar and 360° views of the surrounding areas including up to 5 states, Canada and the Atlantic Ocean!
The day we went up was about as good as it ever gets on Mount Washington, so the windows were down on the train. Keep in mind, some of the worst and wildest weather in the U.S. occurs on Mount Washington. Most of the time the mountain is in the clouds with fog and mist. In the winter, that fog and mist become rime ice that covers everything up there. For nearly sixty-two years Mount Washington held the world record for the fastest wind gust ever recorded on the surface of the Earth: 231 miles per hour, recorded April 12, 1934 by Mount Washington Observatory staff. To learn more about the day that wind speed was recorded, click on this link. Another item to note, the tree line starts about 5000 feet. Out in the Rockies, that elevation is about 10,000 feet.
The maximum temperature ever recorded on the summit is only 72 degrees and the high the day we rode up was about 60 degrees, so it was a relatively warm day on the top. The image below shows the conditions right before we started the ride up (we had a 12:30 pm train). It was an incredibly warm day at the bottom, we had seen temps in the low 80's driving to the mountain so we knew the top shouldn't too bad. Even the winds cooperated that day and stayed at speeds that wouldn't blow you off the mountain like they normally do. Notice that our visibility was about 80 miles... today it's 1/16 of a mile (see image below). Here's a link to the current data.
The station has a gift shop, a restaurant, and restrooms. If you didn't purchase your ticket online, you get your tickets here. There are no restrooms on the train so go before you board.
It's very cool looking up toward the top of the mountain from the station. You can barely make out the tower on the top, and off in the distance you can see the train tracks going up the side of the mountain. Now... picture yourself hiking that. 🙂
Anyway... here are my videos from the front of the train. I should have mounted the camera on the left side window to catch the views, and I was going to on the way down, but someone on the other side of the aisle asked if they could swap seats with us for the return trip. And being the nice person that I am, we swapped, so I didn't have the best view coming back down. And trust me, the left side is spectacular. The pictures I have just don't do it justice. The conductor was great and full of information, I was glad I captured his narration on the videos.
Once you're at the top there are several places to explore, and if you're hungry you can grab a bite to eat eat while you're there. And there is even a United State Post Office on the top so you can send mail with a Mount Washington postmark. The Mount Washington Observatory on top is continuously staffed even in the winter time. Research is conducted on new weather instruments and manually taken weather readings occur on schedule 24/7.
Not much more to say except you need to add this place to your bucket list. I do recommend the train up, but if you think you may want to drive up, watch this video below. You will be amazed and terrified at the same time. 🙂