The highest mountain in the northeast, Washington was first climbed in 1642 by Darby Field and two native guides. There is a cog railroad running to the summit from the west and an auto road from the east. South of the peak is the AMC's Lakes of the Clouds hut. At the base of the east side is the AMC's Pinkham Notch Visitors Center. The highest surface wind ever recorded on earth was on the summit of Mt Washington, 231 MPH on April 12, 1934.
The summit is covered with several buildings, including the Sherman Adams Visitor's Center, TV and radio antennas, the Yankee Building and the Mt Washington Observatory. It is known for having the worst weather in the world, especially bad in the winter. There are many monuments to hikers who've died on the mountain, including this one to Lizzie Bourne. During the summer months, there is a cafeteria, museum, payphone, gift shop, and even a post office in operation. In winter, there is no access to any of the buildings. The Obs is staffed year-round by weather observers.
There have been several hotels on the summit. The original Tip-Top House was a simple stone building with a wooden extension. Later, a fancy wooden hotel was built, directly connected to the Railroad. It burned down and a new simpler hotel was built in the early 1900's. In recent years the wooden extension of the Tip-Top House was removed. You can tour the inside of Tip Top House during the summer months.
On the east side of the mountain are three major ravines; The Great Gulf, Tuckerman which is famous for its late spring skiing and Huntington, a rock and ice climber's playground. On the west side, the Ammoonosuc Ravine dominates. Just south of Lakes of the Clouds is Mt Monroe, and just north is Mt Clay, and a bit further is Mt Jefferson.
There are many options for hiking to the summit of Mt Washington. The most popular routes start at Pinkham Notch, on the east side of the mountain. Climbing from the east means that you are sheltered from the usual strong winds out of north and west for the majority of the hike. The main route is up the Tuckerman Ravine trail (4.1 miles) which goes straight from Pinkham to the summit, but the headwall of the ravine. On the south side of the ravine is the Boott Spur trail (5.4 miles) and the north side has the Lion Head trail (4.5 miles). Both are slightly longer than Tuckerman Ravine but also easier on the knees. The Huntington Ravine trail (5.1 miles) branches off the Tuckerman Ravine trail and climbs the bare slabs of Huntington Ravine. This is probably the most difficult trail in the White Mountains, and should not be attempt in bad weather or used for descent. From there, people usually take the Alpine Garden trail to Tuckerman Junction and continue to the top from there.
From the west side of the mountain, starting near the Marshfield Station of the Cog Railroad, there are two routes. The Ammonoosuc Ravine trail (3.9 miles) starts at a parking area just below the Cog parking lot and climbs up the Lakes of the Clouds hut. Hikers continue up on the Crawford Path to the summit. The Jewel trail (4.6 miles) leaves from the far side of the Cog Railroad parking lot (park at the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead) and climbs up to the ridge where it joins the Gulfside trail.
- Pinkham Notch Visitors Center - Take Rt 16 north from North Conway, located about 10 miles north of Jackson. Parking in the main lot does not require a WMNF parking pass, parking in the overflow lots does. There are bathrooms, coin operated showers, food, some gear, and pay phones. Lodging is available with reservations.
- Ammonoosuc Ravine - From Rt 302 in Bretton Woods, take the Base Road 6 miles to the trailhead parking area on the right, just before the Cog Railroad. A WMNF Parking Pass is required.