The Mt. Washington Auto Road is a private road that many call one of the scariest roads in the United States. Narrow, with many tight turns, one has to be fairly self-assured to drive a car up the road. While I was ready for such a challenge, Mother Nature (some may say Divine Intervention) did not all me to partake as weather forecasts called for severe storms in New Hampshire’s mountains. An outdoor adventure race up the auto road cancelled any driving plans for the following day as well, leaving us only the option of taking the cog railway up to the top of the mountain as hiking this one with Ben at this time seemed sort of unlikely.
The cog railway provides a different experience, and it is one that children will especially love. The incline railway climbs several steep grades and at times the passengers in one part of the train are about 20 feet higher than passengers in the other part of the train. Ben thoroughly enjoyed taking this ride up and down the mountain.
However, no part of the trip beats actually being on the summit of Mt. Washington where the conditions are usually anything but gentle. On the day of our trip to the summit, the temperature was hovering around 40 with winds gusting to 40+ mph forcing a windchill in the 20s. It was sort of nice having to wear a hoodie in July!
Standing around outside on the summit almost felt like we were in a different world than that one in which we had started our morning. A warm and sunny day gave way to a cloudy, windy and cold one. In fact, the weather in the winter on Mt. Washington can be so unpredictable, according to our guide on the train, that folks hoping to climb Mt. Everest use the mountain to train for the elements.
While on the summit, take time to visit the Tip Top House, an old hotel on Mt. Washington’s summit. Also the actual park office on the summit provides a place to grab lunch, a gift shop, a museum, and a post office to mail items from the top of New Hampshire.
You should also take time to view the Presidentials. My son found Mt. Adams to be quite interesting as its two peaks made this mountain perfect for a father-son combination.
My biggest regret about taking the cog rail to the top is that your time at the summit is limited to 90 minutes. However, I have a strong feeling I will be back this way one day to hike this mountain and others. When we were heading back to the train station, Ben asked if we could come back and hike Washington and the other Presidentials when he was older.
Sounds like a plan to me.
Here’s a cheap plug for Portsmouth. I was ready to move after being there for about an hour. The city has the charm of a downtown area, historic places to visit, and has a bit of a big city vibe to it. If you are a burger fan, check out Lexie’s Joint. It was amazing.
If you are history buff, swing by the John Paul Jones House. It was here that the father of the navy oversaw the building of ships in the Piscataqua River, a river that runs between Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire and has been a source of controversy over the years. If you are just looking for a place to hangout for a bit, enjoy the smell of the ocean, and just relax, hitting up Four Tree Island is relaxing.
Since we were in the area, we hit up Maine for a little bit as well, stopping at a Dairy Queen and Ft. McClary, which provides a good experience into old seacoast forts and allows for some great views as well.We capped our free day off near our hotel in Concord, visiting the Capitol and grabbing pizza at Vinnie’s Pizzaria. They claimed to be the best in New Hampshire. They convinced us.
It’s easy to go on vacation and really like a place. I’m pretty sure I went on vacation and fell in love with New Hampshire. It’s a state of amazing beauty with so much to offer. I daydream about it every day. I can’t wait to go back to it.