Hike Mt. Monroe and Mt. Washington Via the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
The early going on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail along the headwaters of the Ammonoosuc River.

3.4 miles to Mt. Monroe summit, elevation 5,372 feet
4.5 miles to Mt. Washington summit (including Mt. Monroe side hike), elevation 6,288 feet
6-8 hours round trip
Difficulty: Pack the Aleve

The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, accessing the summits of Mt. Monroe and Mt. Washington, is equal parts majestic beauty and watch-your-step treacherous, sheltered tranquility and boot-to-boot hiker highway, destination hike and the fastest route between Point A (ground floor) and Point B (the AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut). Combined with the Crawford Path and Jewell Trail for a nine-mile loop of New England’s tallest mountain, this is a can’t-miss New Hampshire hike.

The trail begins with a leisure stroll through dense forest that while still close to the road feels miles apart inside. There’s an easy rock hop across Franklin Brook and at the one-mile mark the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail connects with the access trail from the Cog Railway base station. From here the trail turns right and follows the Ammonoosuc River for a stretch over rocky terrain where any elevation gain is gradual at best.

Gem Pool on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
The Gem Pool cascades.

Eventually the trail reaches Gem Pool, a great spot for a snack break to take in the scenic waterfall and fuel up for the pending climb. Once across the Gem Pool’s outlet brook, the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail’s initial nature walk is over and the real butt-kicking hiking begins with steep staircases that give way to full-on rock scrambles. There’s also several awe inspiring viewpoints as the trail overlooks the cascades and ultimately crosses the primary brook at a flat spot. It should go without saying that caution needs to be exercised around the cascade ledges.

The rock scrambles are more frequent in the upper portion of the trail, which can be tricky when wet, especially on descent. The viewpoints are also on the rise as the shrinking trees thin out, delivering grand vistas of Mt. Washington. At the three-mile mark the trail emerges above treeline a short distance from the Lakes of the Clouds Hut and the Crawford Path junction. To summit Mt. Monroe, it’s a relatively easy, 0.3-mile side hike with only one spot where the footing gets tricky on a ledge. This diversion does require backtracking to return to the hut, but the views of the Presidential Range from the Mt. Monroe summit are 100 percent worth the effort.

From the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, it’s a 1.4 mile hike on the Crawford Path (also the Appalachian Trail) to the summit of Mt. Washington that’s tougher than it looks. The cone is one giant, seemingly-never-ending, rock pile, and the entire climb is out in the open and exposed to the elements. Whether you believe it or not, the Mount Washington Observatory doesn’t boast recording the world’s worst weather for nothing, so come ready for anything. It’s also best to mentally prepare for the Disneyland crowds sure to be found on the summit, especially on weekends. And don’t worry when you see the train, you’re not hallucinating.

When traveling on U.S. Route 302 East, turn left onto Base Road, which is located immediately after Fabayan’s Station Restaurant and a billboard for the Cog Railway. The trailhead parking lot is 5.4 miles from the intersection on the right. It is a White Mountain National Forest lot with a $3 per day fee. 

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail Staircase
The steep, rocky climb begins immediately after Gem Pool.
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail Rock Scramble
In the wise words of Mr. Young MC, “So don’t just stand there bust a move.”
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail Cascades
The crossing point on the upper cascades.
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail View
An early viewpoint of Mt. Washington. The smoke is from the Cog Railway.
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail View of Mt. Washington
The scenic views become more frequent as the trail nears the treeline. Here the summit of Mt. Washington can be seen awash in the early morning light.
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail View of Mt. Monroe
The view of Mt. Monroe from just above the treeline on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.
AMC Lakes of the Clouds Hut
The AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut. Or so they say…
Presidential Range Traverse
The view of the southern Presidential Range from the summit of Mt. Monroe. Don’t forget to breathe.
Mt. Monroe View of Mt. Washington
Ho. Hum. The view of Mt. Washington from the summit of Mt. Monroe.
Lakes of Clouds Mt. Washington View
I love this shot of Mt. Washington taken next to one of the Lakes.
Crawford Path View of Washington
Looking back on Mt. Monroe from the Crawford Path ascent of Mt. Washington.
Crawford Path Mt. Washington Climb
To all the thru hikers who’ve had the misfortune of hiking the Presidential Range and Mt. Washington in inclement weather, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to torment you.
Presidential Traverse from Mt. Washington
(As far as you know.)
Mt. Washington Summit
Atop at last! The con: you’ll likely have to wait in line to get a picture with the summit sign. The pro: there’s plenty of people to take the shot for you.
Northern Presidential Range
The northern Presidential Range class photo in order from left to right: Mt. Clay, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison. Shot taken from the Mt. Washington observation deck.
Posted in
New Hampshire, New Hampshire Trail Reviews, Pack the Aleve
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Wow! You made it all the way to the bottom. If you enjoyed this article, please check out my book, Open Season: True Stories of the Maine Warden Service on Amazon or at www.wardenstories.com. You can also follow Northeast Hikes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as contribute to our sponsored Google+ Community.
2 responses to Hike Mt. Monroe and Mt. Washington Via the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
  1. Sri says:

    Thank you, enjoyed reading it all the way till the end!

  2. P.J. says:

    Plan on going up the Ammonoosuc and down the Jewell this weekend!! Thanks for the info. Good stuff!!!

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