Tuckerman Ravine, Mt Washington

• 4-star hike
• 8 mile part-loop • Hard difficulty
• Elevation gain 4,150 feet (2,020 - 6,288ft)
• White Mountains • Mt Washington State Park
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Looking down Tuckerman Ravine.

Do you like challenging hikes to the highest peaks? Do you like tall waterfalls and spectacular ravines? Do you like hiking over rocks? Lots of rocks? Well, we’ve got the trail for you. And even more rocks, too.

Not only the highest mountain in the Northeastern states, but also the most prominent peak East of the Mississippi River, at 6,288 feet of elevation Mount Washington is likely to be equally high on your list of notable hiking destinations.

Possibly the most popular hiking route to the summit is on the East flank - primarily the 3.9 mile Tuckerman Ravine trail. We chose this approach, combined with an equidistant and parallel side-trip to the rocky Lion Head prominence to add more scenic variety.

Rocks everywhere.

The trail begins at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, appointed with restrooms, store and even overnight lodgings, in addition to a large parking lot. Start out by sharing the trail with folk strolling up to the Crystal Cascades waterfall, then continue up the valley alongside and across the Cutler River. The gradually ascending route becomes more rocky, and you’ll be picking your footholds from here to the summit as you step from one rock to the next, all the way to the summit.

Our chosen route via Lion Head requires a right turn off the main trail after just over two miles. This route involves an early steep climb involving some large boulders and a shallow but long chimney. Thankfully there are footholds carved into rock to make the route easier to tackle, and well-built wooden steps up the only sheer granite incline.

Lion Head affords some great views over Tuckerman Ravine and towards Pinkham Notch that you wouldn’t see from the other trail. This route does however expose you to more weather than you will find in the sheltered ravine. If you’re trying to choose between the two, know that both routes are similar in length and involve about the same amount of rock scrambling.

Final ascent through the clouds.

Tuckerman Ravine is a large U-shaped bowl with steep, looming rock faces. Tall waterfalls flow from the ravine in several slender ribbons to the valley floor below. The trail carefully traverses up the North side of the bowl across irregular rocky steps, occasionally and dramatically close to the edge, but thankfully without any particularly challenging sections.

You’ll want to carefully prepare for changing weather on Mount Washington, a place famous for erratic and extreme weather. Temperatures will drop as you climb, and thick cloud can make navigation difficult. Thankfully the final boulder-strewn ascent is well marked by cairns and yellow blazes - just stay within sight of these and you’ll be fine. If you suddenly can’t see them, then you’re likely off trail and will need to retrace some steps.

Ghost train.

The summit is something of a culture shock after a long hike through nature. You’ll find yourself surrounded by the bustle of visitors from the Western side of the mountain, who either drive up the auto road or take the popular cog railway to the top. Hey, at least you can take advantage of a hot chocolate from the mountaintop cafĂ© before embarking on the return leg of your journey back to the trailhead.

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