Summer Vacation Day 6: Cog Railway To The Peak Of Mount Washington

If you’re just joining us, I’ve been publishing quick daily updates from our camping trip.  It appears I’m still alive on day 7, so we’ve got a day 6 update.  If you want to read about previous updates, I’ve included the links below:

There are two primary ways to get up to the summit of Mount Washington.  Okay, I guess three if you count hiking.  But, since there’s zero chance I’m doing that, we’ll focus on the two primary ways I’m likely to make it to the summit. 😉

The other way is the Cog Railway.  When my wife and I visited the Mount Washington Hotel 20 years ago I can recall seeing the Cog Railway chugging up the side of the mountain and wondering how the heck that actually worked.  Yesterday, we found out.

Tickets for “The Cog” aren’t cheap, but I think it’s a reasonable price for the activity.  We paid $74.50 for an adult ticket and $46 for a child ticket but the prices do vary a bit.  You can find all the ticket info on their website.  If I’m being completely honest, I got way behind planning this trip, so I didn’t search around for any discounts.

Most of the original steam engines that served the railway have since been taken out of service though there are two left.  Each trip up the mountain consumes 1,000 gallons of water and one ton of coal.  Pretty incredible!  There’s also a fleet of newer biodiesel engines that can take you to the top.

Given the incredible angle the train operates on (up to 37.5% grade at times) I was curious how it actually worked.  Turns out the “cog” is a gear that looks like a gigantic version of something you might find in a watch or clock.

The trip up the mountain takes about 45 minutes.  Passengers are allowed to get up and walk around to take pictures, which made the journey much more interesting.

The guides, who also serve as brake men and women, do a great job of explaining what you can see out the windows as well as the history of The Cog.  They pointed out numerous mountains, the snow cap that usually makes it to early July because of the temperatures, and the lakes in Maine that are only about 20 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Once you reach the summit you’ll have about an hour to explore.  Because we had ventured up to the summit by car the day before, we had plenty of time.  You might be a bit rushed if you only had an hour.  I definitely recommend starting with a picture at the actual summit, since that line can get long.  If you make a bee line there after you get off the train you should be in good shape.

Our second trip to the summit had significantly better weather, though you’ll need to calibrate what better weather actually means in this situation.  Where day one was mid-40s, rain and fog, day two was perfectly clear…..and 32 degrees with winds approaching 40mph with gusts well over 50mph.

Inside you’ll find snacks and souvenirs (we had a surprisingly good bowl of chili) as well as a post office if you want to mail something from the peak of Mount Washington.  Don’t overlook the small museum located downstairs inside the summit building.  It’s short but worth the quick trip downstairs.  You’ll find a couple of other good picture spots, such as Adirondack chairs overlooking the railway.

The Final Two Pennies

The ride to the bottom is roughly the same 45 minutes as the ride up.  It’s not quite as exciting since you have to stay in your seat.  Our brakeman did a good job keeping us entertained.  $70-ish per person isn’t a cheap day, but you’ll get 3 hours that will keep you occupied.  Our teen and tween both raved about the experience, though the ride to the bottom might be a bit boring for younger kids.  If I had to pick only one way to get to the top of Mount Washington, I’d lean towards The Cog because of the unique nature of the experience.  But, if you have time I would certainly consider both!

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for bringing back some great memories- I was last there about 50 years with my folks. No excuse as I live just north of Boston! Happy you all enjoyed

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