Hike Mt. Washington Via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Tuckerman Ravine Trail Sign

Start here.

4.1 miles (one way)
5-9 hours (round trip)
Difficulty: Family Hike for the first 2.4; Weekend Warriors for the last 1.7
Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots or Trail RunnersTrekking Poles

If you’re looking to boldly hike where no explorer has gone before, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail isn’t for you. On the contrary, Mt. Washington is a major New Hampshire tourist destination. People flock to the summit of this massive mastiff to admire the views from the highest point in New England (elevation 6,288 feet), visit the Mount Washington Observatory, home to the “world’s worst weather,” and attend or participate in one of the mountain’s many signature events. There’s no shortage of routes to the top, either, with the Mount Washington Auto Road and the Cog Railway popular options. For those inclined to bipedal transportation, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail handily beats the Appalachian Trail and other routes in a popularity contest.

Put it all together and the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is the White Mountains’ version of hiking Disneyland. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do it. Quite the opposite, in fact. Mt. Washington and the Tuckerman Ravine Trail offer a truly unique New England hiking experience that should be conquered by anyone remotely interested in the sport. If for nothing else than to say you’ve done it. Consider it required reading for hiking.

Rocky Road of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

The early going on the trail is a wide open rocky road.

The trail begins behind the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center just after the bathroom facilities (running water and flush-able toilets, truly hiker chic). Soon thereafter there’s a bridge crossing the Cutler River, followed further along by a decent river viewing spot at a 90 degree bend in the trail. Just keep an eye on where you’re going as there’s plenty of off-chutes and side trails to distract those prone to getting lost. To stay on track simply follow the wide, rocky road. Ice cream not included. It’s a good thing, too, because the first 2.4 miles is a pedestrian, gradual climb that will barely burn the calories from a cone of rocky road. Overall this stretch is great for tourists with children, but it’ll get serious hikers wondering, “Where’s the beef?” Patience being a virtue I don’t have an abundance of, I found myself exiting stage right for the instant gratification of the Lion Head Trail.

Those who stick to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail will soon pass the Hermit Lake Shelters and reach the base of the ravine. There’s a modest waterfall here good for cooling off on hot days—then again, climbing the mountain works too. From the base to the top of the headwall the trail is narrow but well worn. The climb isn’t nearly as steep as one would think, the switchbacks keep it relatively easy. Trickling streams cross the trail in a few spots, creating the potential for slippery rocks, but there aren’t any truly treacherous spots so long as you stay the course. Off-trail shenanigans could be disastrous. And of course take extra care in foul weather.

One thing to really be careful of when climbing the Tuckerman Ravine headwall is to not step too close to the down-mountain side of the trail. There are many rocks that can easily be knocked loose, endangering hikers below. Though I should have known better, I stupidly made this mistake when yielding to oncoming hikers. Despite a heart-pounding moment where I watched a rock roll free, it soon settled into some debris causing no harm. Thank God. Lesson learned.

Mt. Washington Boott Spur as seen from the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

A quick peek at the Boott Spur from near where the Lion Head Trail intersects with the Tuckerman Ravine Trail (summer junction).

From a distance the Washington cone looks benign. Up close and in person, this final-mile stretch of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is challenging and steep, seemingly climbing a foreign planet of alien rocks. To conquer this section continue past the Alpine Garden Trail on to the Tuckerman Junction intersecting the Southside Trail, Tuckerman Crossover and Lawn Cutoff. While the Southside Trail connecting to the Crawford Path (also the Appalachian Trail) is a viable (and I think easier) route to the summit, the official Tuckerman Ravine Trail takes a 90 degree turn to the right at the junction. The Lion Head trail soon rejoins Tuckerman for the final push to the auto road parking lot and staircase climb to the summit and visitor center. Try not to laugh at any tourists who are short of breath climbing the steps from the parking lot. It’s borderline rude.

Take care in the last push from the Lion Head junction to stay on the trail, marked by cairns and painted rocks. I somehow made the mistake of getting off-target, which in fair weather was a no-harm, no-foul mistake as the summit was a can’t miss. In foul weather this mishap is likely more troublesome. Washington isn’t home to the “world’s worst weather” for nothing, after all. Which brings me to the you’ll-think-your-mother-wrote-it segment of the post. Always consult the weather report before attempting this hike and pack plenty of water, dry-wick and warm layers, and rain gear (even on good days). In late spring and early fall make sure to first check the report on trail conditions in the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center as sections are often closed due to snow and ice.

Mt. Washington Hermit Lake Shelters

The Hermit Lake Shelters just prior to reaching the base of the Tuckerman Ravine headwall.

The views from the summit of Washington are unparalleled. Mt. Madison, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson and other statesman of the presidential range are all lined up as if posing for a post card. Should you get the urge to actually send one, there’s a gift shop and post office inside the visitor center. Then again, if it’s ice cream you’ve got a hankering for, you just might be able to reward yourself at the snack bar. It’ll taste much better than if you drove the auto road.

Directions
From the North take Route 2 into Gorham and connect onto Route 16. The Pinkham Notch Visitor Center is on the right shortly after the turn for the Mount Washington Auto Road and Wildcat Mountain ski area. From the South take Route 302 North from North Conway to connect onto Route 16.

 

Mt. Washington Tuckerman Ravine Trail climbing the headwall as seen from the Lion Head Trail

View of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail climbing the headwall as seen from the Lion Head Trail.

Waterfall near the base of Mt. Washington Tuckerman Ravine

Waterfall near the base of Tuckerman Ravine.

Tuckerman Ravine Trail hike wet from springs

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail can be a little wet and slippery near the base of the headwall, but clearly nothing to worry about.

Mt. Washington Tuckerman Ravine Trail switchback

The trail is fairly easy on the ravine headwall thanks to the switchbacking.

Mt. Washington view of Lion Head from atop Tuckerman Ravine

View of Lion Head from atop the Tuckerman Ravine headwall.

Mt. Washington Tuckerman Ravine Trail cairns

Tuckerman Ravine Trail cairns on the final approach to the Mt. Washington cone. It doesn’t look like much, but this section can take its toll.

Mt. Washington Summit

Better get an early start to see the summit like this. Otherwise, chances are you’ll be waiting in line to take a picture.

Mt. Washington Summit Post Office

Had I known there was a Post Office in the summit visitor’s center, I would have brought my Netflix movie. Just because.

cogtrain

A Cog Railway train on the summit. For those who aren’t hiking, this is a fun (albeit pricey) route to the top.

View of Mt. Washington Auto Road from the summit

The Mt. Washington Auto Road snaking its way to the top.

Comments

comments

Tags
Posted in
Featured, New Hampshire, New Hampshire Trail Reviews, Trail Reviews, Weekend Warriors
Related Posts
  1. Winter Hike East Osceola and Mt. Osceola
  2. Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Passaconaway Loop Hike
  3. Hiking With Dogs: Beginner Hikes in the White Mountains
  4. The Mt. Hancock Loop Trail Hike
  5. Conquer Mt. Washington with the AMC & EMS Winter Mountaineering Program
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.
17 responses to Hike Mt. Washington Via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail
  1. Bill Perkins says:

    Very thorough and detailed report! Thank you! Heading up there tomorrow..

  2. Lorne Grant says:

    I live in Saint John New Brunswick and will be heading down in 2 weeks to hike the mountain and see the sites in New Hampshire. This description was the best that I have read in detail , thanks

  3. Larry Bradley says:

    I did it on July 2. It is an exhausting climb to the top. Took almost exactly 4 hrs as predicted. Yes, I am older & slower, but do not underestimate this climb. Hard work. I was delighted to take the hiker shuttle bus back down. Great experience.

  4. Doreen says:

    I agree with Larry, even though I had trained for the climb, I found it difficult. Two years later, I can’t wait to try it again. Please note, however, if you don’t want to climb down, you can take the van shuttle. It cost $30.00 and takes about a half hour. By the way, this report was as accurate as it gets.

  5. Thank you so much for having this overview! I found it to be extremely helpful in planning my trip this coming Labor Day! Any comments on the weather at the top of the mountain during this time of year?

    • Daren Worcester says:

      Your welcome, Christi. Thanks for checking out the site. Good luck on the mountain. Weather advice? Be prepared for anything!

      • http://www./ says:

        gOSTEI DA NOVIDADE, E DA FORMA DE ESCLARECIMENTO AO CONSUMIDOR,QUE VÊ COMO UMA OPORTUNIDADE DE VIAJAR MAIS VEZES EM VÁRIOS MOMENTOS DE SUA VIDA QUE NÃO SÓ EM FÉRIAS PROGRAMADAS.

      • http://www./ says:

        Merci pour la mention.Je vous invite également à suivre la présentation de Cliff Dennett, lors de cette même conférence, qui a créé la société Soshi Games et qui est un expert reconnu dans la gamification en entreprise (il était auparavant en charge du laboratoire d’innovation pour les entreprises de Lego)

      • not living in some fool’s paradise, I was LATE…simple as that. I take full responsibility. I can’t blame it on anything. I guess that was my way of coping/healing…to create something to give myself a 2nd chance…even to save my mother’s life.Have a lovely day.—Verde

  6. Tyler Nekton says:

    Awesome job here. I love the humor and the detail really helped build confidence for this hike. I’m headed out this weekend and will repost upon my return. Thanks!

    • Daren Worcester says:

      Thanks Tyler. Good luck this weekend! Please share your photos with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

  7. Laura says:

    Please don’t judge me for this question… at any point in this hike did you find yourself dangerously skirting the edge of a very long drop? (I would love to hike up with some friends this summer but taking the auto road last summer was sheer terror & now I’m gun-shy).

    • Daren Worcester says:

      Laura, it’s steep but safe if you stay on the trail. Freelancing off trail can put you in serious danger of being near a cliff.

  8. Joseph Kuperberg says:

    Great write up, thanks! We have done 12 of the ADK 46 with more coming and plan to tackle Mt Washington this summer. We’ll let you know how we do.

  9. Gavin Evans says:

    We are planning on heading to the northeast of the USA for some good hikes next year. Mount Washington is definitely one that makes the list. I drove through the White Mountains while on a road trip through New England in 2008 but now it’s time to see these beautiful states from up above! Thanks for the great post; it is very informative and certainly makes us want to get over there that much sooner now.

  10. Andrés Böröndy says:

    I did it last year at the end of June, we doing it this coming Saturday with my granddaughter, and your description of the trail is as perfect as it can be. Will try to venture of to the Lion’s Head trail, but will take the decision when i’m on the trail. Hope the weather is friendly, because a wet trail will make it a little bit dangerous. If somebody is doing it alone, just keep following the arrows painted on the rock after the rest at the bottom of the Ravine, specially the section where the waterfall is.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*