If you’re looking to hike where no explorer has gone before, the Tuckerman’s Ravine in NH isn’t for you. On the other hand, Mt. Washington is a major New Hampshire tourist destination. People flock to the summit of this huge mastiff to admire the views from the highest point in New England, visit the Mount Washington Observatory, and attend or participate in one of the mountain’s many signature events.
And there’s no shortage of routes to the top, with the Mount Washington Auto Road and the Cog Railway, which are popular options. For those inclined to bipedal transportation, the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail handily beats the Appalachian Trail and other routes in a popularity contest.
Put it all together and the Tuckerman’s Ravine in NH is similar to hiking Disneyland. Mt. Washington and the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail offer a truly unique New England hiking experience that should be conquered by anyone remotely interested in hiking.
The trail begins behind the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center just after the bathroom facilities, and shortly thereafter there’s a bridge crossing the Cutler River, followed by a river viewing spot at a 90-degree bend in the trail. Hikers need to keep an eye on where they’re going as there’s plenty of side trails to distract those prone to getting lost.
To stay on track, simply follow the wide, rocky road. The first 2.4 miles is a pedestrian, gradual climb that will barely burn the calories. Overall this stretch is great for tourists with children.
Those who stick to Tuckerman’s Ravine in NH will soon pass the Hermit Lake Shelters and reach the base of the ravine. There’s a modest waterfall there good for cooling off on hot days. From the base to the top of the headwall, the trail is narrow but well worn. The climb isn’t nearly as steep as one would think, because the switchbacks keep it relatively easy.
One thing to really be careful of when climbing Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail headwall is to not step too close to the down-mountain side of the trail. There are many rocks that can easily be knocked loose, endangering hikers below.
From a distance the Washington cone looks benign, but up close, this final-mile stretch of Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail is challenging and steep, seemingly climbing a foreign planet of alien rocks.
To conquer this section. continue past the Alpine Garden Trail on to the Tuckerman Junction, which intersects the Southside Trail, Tuckerman Crossover and Lawn Cutoff. While the Southside Trail connecting to the Crawford Path and the Appalachian Trail is a feasible route to the summit, the official Tuckerman’s Ravine in NH takes a 90-degree turn to the right at the junction.
The Lion Head trail soon rejoins Tuckerman for the final push to the auto road parking lot and staircase climb to the summit and visitor center. Take care in the last push from the Lion Head junction to stay on the trail, with markers and painted rocks.
Mount Washington isn’t home to the “world’s worst weather” for nothing, so always consult the weather report before attempting this hike and pack plenty of water, dry-wick and warm layers, and rain gear, even on good days.
In late spring and early fall make sure to first check the report on trail conditions in the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center as sections are often closed due to snow and ice. If you are a hiking enthusiast, it’s worth the trip to visit Tuckerman’s Ravine in NH.