Route 302, Sargent's Purchase, NH
Cafeteria, gift shop, museum, observatory
Adults: $4.00; Children ages 6-11: $2.00
Children ages 5 & under, NH residents age 65 & over: FREE
The Tip Top House opens weekends only Memorial Day weekend (May 24-26), then full-time from
June 20 through October 13, 2008. Hours are 10:00am to 4:00pm. It will not be open on days with
rain or high winds.
Food and Gift operations opens on May 17 from 10:00am to 5:00pm, weather permitting.
It closes for the season on Monday, October 19, 2008.
The Sherman Adams Visitor Center opens on May 17 from 8:00am to 6:00pm, weather permitting.
The Center closes for the season on October 26, 2008.
Note: Call ahead at 603-466-3347 for the latest summit conditions.
Check the Auto Road and Cog Railway websites for information on their operating schedules.
of Campsites: None
State Park, a 59-acre parcel perched on the summit of the Northeast's
highest peak, is surrounded by the extensive 750,000-acre White Mountain
National Forest. On a clear day views from the 6,288-foot summit extend
beyond New Hampshire as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Quebec,
Massachusetts, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean. A modern summit building
houses a cafeteria, restrooms, gift shops, the Mt. Washington Observatory
and its museum. The historic TipTop House is located adjacent to the
summit building and is open to visitors when staff is available.
The eight-mile long Mt. Washington Auto Road was completed in 1861 as
a carriage road to replace rugged hiking and bridle paths. Carriages
drawn by teams of eight horses carried visitors and their huge trunks
of clothing to the summit. Visitors today may drive their own cars to
the summit or ride in one of the many vans that provide guided tours
for visitors. The auto road, which is the site of annual foot, bicycle
and automobile races, begins in Gorham on Route 16 on the east side
of the mountain.
Washington Cog Railway, the first rack-and-pinion mountain-climbing
cog railway, made its initial run to the summit in 1869. The three-mile
route remains one of the steepest railway tracks in the world. The cog
railway base station is located off Route 302 near Bretton Woods on
the west flank of the mountain. Both the cog railway and auto road are
privately owned and operated.
the park in the summer it is important to remember that the weather
at the summit will be much colder and windier than at the base. Snow
can fall any month of the year. To make the most of a visit, even if
you are riding to the summit, bring extra clothing and sturdy footwear.
at least fifteen long, rough hiking trails up Mt. Washington. In addition,
it is traversed by the Appalachian Trail, the 2,000-mile footpath that
extends from Maine to Georgia. For those planning to hike remember the
weather changes suddenly in the mountains, and is usually much worse
at higher elevations. Be prepared! Hikers may wish to stop at the Appalachian
Mountain Club's (AMC) Pinkham Notch Camp or purchase an AMC White Mountain
Guide for trail information and a map before starting out. If planning
to hike from mid-October to late May be aware that there are no facilities
open and no shelter available on the summit.
Truly the most outstanding feature of Mt. Washington is its weather,
considered by many to be the "worst in the world". The highest
wind velocity ever measured on earth, 231 miles per hour, was clocked
on the summit on April 12, 1934. Wind exceeds hurricane force (75 mph)
over one hundred days a year. An average wind velocity of 35 mph, coupled
with an average temperature of 27.1 F (-2.7C) makes for extreme wind
the weather so severe? In addition to its lofty elevation, Mt. Washington
lies in the paths of both the major storm tracks and air mass routes
that affect the Northeast. The mountain's topography and high elevation
create an acceleration effect on the wind in much the same way a river's
velocity increases as it passes over a rapid. Because of the vantage
the summit affords of weather, it is an ideal location for the Mount
Washington Observatory., a private, nonprofit corporation that conducts
weather observations and scientific research. The observatory operates
a museum and gift shop for visitors and offers pre-scheduled tours of
the weather station. The observatory is staffed throughout the year
including winter when access to the summit is both limited and dangerous.
Ascending Mt. Washington or any of the high peaks of the White Mountains
travelers pass through several distinct ecological zones. At the base
is a forest of northern hardwoods, followed a bit higher by a forest
of spruce and fir. As more elevation is gained, trees become small and
stunted. These dwarf and gnarled trees of the sub-alpine zone are called
krummholtz. Tree line, the elevation above which trees do not grow,
is about 4,400 feet in the White Mountains, nearly 2,000 feet below
the summit of Mt. Washington. The area above tree line is called the
alpine zone. The short growing season, soil acidity and the destructive
effect of high winds on ice-covered foliage at the higher elevations
create an environment in which trees cannot survive. Although rain is
plentiful, the meager soil does not retain moisture, and nearly constant
winds cause plants to lose precious moisture to the atmosphere.
the plants of the sub-alpine and alpine zones have special adaptations
to cope with the extreme conditions. They grow close to the ground in
locations where they are sheltered from winter winds by snow banks;
many have evergreen leaves that eliminate the need for energy to re-foliate
each spring; and many have hard, waxy leaves that retard the loss of
moisture. Some of the plants are rare or endangered, including one on
Mt. Washington, Rabbis Cinquefoil, that is found nowhere else on earth.
plants of the alpine zone are extremely sensitive to trampling and very
slow to recover. It is important to stay on designated trails and camp
below tree line.
Darby Field, a British colonist from Exeter, made the first recorded
ascent of Mt. Washington in 1642. It has been related through the years
that Field's two Native American companions did not accompany him to
the summit because the Great Spirit was believed to dwell there. The
mountain's history has been colorful since that first ascent. In 1819
Ethan Allen Crawford and his father Abel, early settlers and innkeepers
of the Crawford Notch area, built the first trail to the summit. By
the mid-1800s tourism on the mountain flourished. Train service was
extended into the White Mountains, and a bridle path was opened to the
summit that made it accessible to the tourists who were flocking to
the area. The first hotel was built at the summit in 1852 to accommodate
the tourists arriving on foot and horseback. It was so successful its
first year of operation that a competing hotel, the Tip Top House was
built the following year.
It is hard
to imagine how difficult and time-consuming the building of the hotels
must have been. All the materials had to be hauled nine miles by horses
over rough trails. Plus, the workers had to climb each day from a camp
two miles down the mountain. Development at the summit flourished, and
included a three-story, ninety-one-room hotel, a daily newspaper, and
a weather observatory. The great fire of 1908 destroyed the "City
Among the Clouds" sparing only the Tip Top House. Shortly after
the summit hotel was rebuilt, the Tip Top House burned, and, too, was
rebuilt. The Tip Top House is believed to be the oldest mountain-top
hostelry still in existence in the world. Recently restored and furnished,
it is once again open for visitors as a state historic site. Volunteer
staffing provided by members of the Jackson Historical Society makes
it possible to have the Tip Top House open seasonally at least two days
This information was posted on July 10, 2008 and all information, services
and fees are subject to change.