Summer Vacation Day 5: Mount Washington Auto Road

With the house on wheels settled in New Hampshire it was time to do a bit of sightseeing. If you want to catch up on previous days of our vacation, you can find them below:

If you haven’t climbed Mount Washington in a car, I recommend doing it at least once (unless you have a fear of heights).  Mount Washington is one of the highest peaks on the eastern seaboard.  At 6,288 feet, it also boasts “the worst weather in the world”.  After two trips to the top I can attest that the weather is pretty bad up there.  That’s actually part of what makes it fun for me.  The first time my wife and I drove to the summit (I don’t even recall whether we were married it was so long ago) it was a pleasant October day at the base of the mountain.  At the summit, it was well below freezing and the mountain was covered with snow.

With a family of four the fee to drive to the top of the mountain was $76.  That’s not cheap but I still think it’s worth the experience.  Our kids were relatively underwhelmed for the first few moments.  While the road was narrow and uphill we were still surrounded by trees.  Once we poked our head through the tree line there were some “ooh” and “ah” moments.  As we got about halfway up and the road turned to gravel the level of excitement had ramped up.  Side note: not sure I’d recommend taking a 3/4 ton pickup truck to the summit.  The tires didn’t love the wet section of dirt and gravel (mostly dirt) and the Mount Washington Auto Road is better experienced in a, ahem, narrower vehicle.  Here’s a slightly messy time-lapse video of our drive to the summit:

The guide at the bottom of the mountain told us visibility at the summit was 100 feet.  As we approached the 5,000 foot mark, I was pretty sure he was wrong.  I could see the end of the hood of the truck and a bit of pavement in front of me, but I’d guess the visibility was at most 50 feet on the curvy drive to the summit.  The truck legitimately thought we had blocked the front-facing camera.

At the summit, we could barely make out the parking signs.

There was a light rain during our drive to the summit which continued as we stepped out of the vehicle.  As we made the short climb to the summit via stairs, the rain didn’t pickup in intensity, but the wind sure did.  By the time we found ourselves at the summit we found ourselves being pelted with rain as the clouds swept by.  What was a pleasant 75 degree day at the base of the mountain was now a 45 degree day with 30-50 mph winds.  Normally I would expect our kids to be complaining but they leaned into the experience.

By the time we made our way to the warm interior of the small outpost at the summit we were soaked and laughing uncontrollably.  We had brought our dog with us and while she enjoyed exploring the rocks she was shivering from the wet and cold.  I took my jacket off and wrapped it around her while the kids explored the shop and museum.

The first couple miles of the ride down were equally dicey with the lack of visibility.  But, amongst the screeches from my wife and kids on the ride down we did have a few moments of fun.  Cooling down our brakes periodically on the ride also meant the kids had some picture-taking opportunities.

The Final Two Pennies

Mount Washington Auto Road is a “check the box” activity for families.  As we descended through the clouds to the valley below our kids marveled at what they had just experienced.  It’s not overly kitschy, and I wouldn’t recommend a guided tour. But, I would recommend a day on the mountain.  Depending on how bad your weather is, I would budget three hours for the activity.  And, dress warmly!  You have no idea what sort of weather you’ll find at the top of Mount Washington.

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4 Comments

  1. Now the question is, did you/where did you put the “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker they give you?

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