Hiking NH – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

Hiking NH - My Mt Washington Westside Loop

I’m a weekend hiker and casual outdoorsman. I spent 6 weeks working on the Maine Escape part Duex project outside Fryeburg, ME and wanted to end it on a “high note”, by hiking Mt Washington. This is my Mt Washington westside loop.

LOCATION – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

My Mt Washington Westside Loop begins and ends at the Mt Washington Cog Railway, Marshfield Base Station.

The Marshfield Base Station is at the end of Base Station Road, 6 mi. off of US-302 in Bretton Woods, NH in the heart of White Mountains National Forrest. The parking area I used is marked Hiker Parking on the right just as you enter the Mt. Washington Cog Rail parking lot. Not to be confused with the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead Parking, which is on the right 0.3 miles before the station entrance. I chose my route because it had access to the Marshfield Base Station. For detailed directions visit thecog.com.

STATS – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

  • Level: Difficult
  • Distance: 8.8 mi.
  • Elev. Gain: 3,588 ft.
  • Est. Time: 7.5 hrs.
  • Type: Loop

My Mt Washington Westside Loop uses the following trails to get you from the Marshfield Base Station to the summit of Mt Washington and back down to the Marshfield Base Station without back tracking.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail (from Marshfield Base Station)

  • Distance: 2.5 mi.
  • Elev. Gain: 2,500 ft.
  • Est. Time: 2 hrs.

Crawford Path (segment)

  • Distance: 1.5 mi.
  • Elev. Gain: 1,100 ft.
  • Est. Time: 1.5 hrs.

Trinity Heights Connector

  • Distance: 0.5 mi.
  • Elev. Gain: 250 ft.
  • Est. Time: 0.5 hrs.

Gulfside Trail (segment)

  • Distance: 1.4 mi.
  • Elev. Gain: 650 ft
  • Est. Time: 1.5 hrs.

Jewell Trail (to Marshfield Base Station)

  • Distance: 2.9 mi.
  • Elev. Gain: 2,700 ft.
  • Est. Time: 2 hrs.

TERRAIN – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

From the gravel parking follow the paved access road up to the Marshfield Base Station (Elev. 2,700 ft.). The station opens seasonally at 8:00 am and is a great place to buy a map and get the summit weather report. It is worth noting that Mt Washington summit (Elev. 6,288 ft.) has the worst weather in the world (no exaggeration) and sunny and warm conditions at the base don’t mean it’s the same at the summit. Check the weather report before you set out and plan to add layers of clothes as you ascend. Behind the station on the right is a gravel road leading up and through a series of cabins on a hill. Follow this road and the signs for the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail lead you to the trailhead.

PROMINENT GEOLOGY – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

ECOLOGY – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

Ascending the 3,675 ft. to the summit of Mt Washington takes you through following 4 ecological zones:

PROMINENT FOLIAGE – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

PROMINENT FAUNA – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

PROMINENT WILDLIFE – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

SPECIAL NOTE – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

More than a fair share of hikers have died from exposure in the Presidential Range and Mt. Washington has the dubious title of the most dangerous small mountain in the world. Be prepared and train for your hike. Visit hikesafe.com for more information on how to plan for an extreme weather hike. Insect borne illnesses warnings are abundant with Lyme disease being the most serious threat to hikers. Read up on how to protect yourself from this by reading the New Hampshire Tick-borne Disease Bulletin.

IMAGE GALLERY – My Mt Washington Westside Loop

I camped overnight at Dry River Campground in Crawford Notch State Park and, after a hearty dinner, turned in early to get a good night sleep.

Crawford Notch

Arriving at Dry River Campground

Sleeping in the truck

Bed fits perfectly

Room with a view

Getting dinner going

Everything's better with butter

Rice Pilaf

Getting lots of carbs ready

Just Netflix'in and Chill'in


I got up at first light to have a light breakfast and got to the Cog Railway entrance around 7:30 am. I paid $5 to park in the Hiker Parking lot and made my way to the Ammonoosuc Trailhead.

Mt Washington Hotel


Heading up the Base Station Road

Cog Rail Station


I started my ascent at the Ammonoosuc Trailhead around 7:40 am. It was a fairly easy trek, and great warm up, to the Gem Pool. After that, the trail got steeper and the weather got wetter as I hiked into the clouds.

Start of the hike 7:40 am

Where are here?

Little damp and cool to start off

Well worn path

The Ammonoosuc River

Not flat by any means

Lots of rocks

Lots of logs

Roots get slippery when wet

RIP Herbert Judson Young


Not many on the trail this morning

The babbling brook keeps me company

The trail is well marked

Howdy y'all


Mighty fine bridgework

Gem Pool

Bit early for a swim

The underbrush is thick with fallen trees

Getting hot & humid

The trail has gotten steeper

Looking for a hand to get over this rock

WOW - Migmatite

The texture is amazing

The path the rock and the river are becoming one

Just below the clouds

Thanks for the ladder

Which way to go?

Pano and finally another hiker

Enter the mist

The rocks are amazing

Look at this folding

It's worth protecting

Time to leave the river behind

This waterfall is fed from the mist

Balsam fir

Let the rock piles begin


Connecting with Crawford Path


I got to the top of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail around 8:40 am and connected with the Crawford Path. This historical path is the oldest hiking trail in the United States and part of the Appalachion Trail.

At Lakes of the Clouds AMC Hut

The mist is getting thicker

Well worn indeed

Time to put on some layers

Checking the summit weather conditions

I won't even breath on it

But what does it do?

One of the Lakes of the Clouds

Not going to Tuckermans

1.4 mi. to the summit

Some more hikers emerge from the mist

The path is getting rockier

Such amazing clusters

Robbins' cinquefoil only found here

Living in the extreme

Lichen everywhere

No where to see and only up to go



What is?

The air is getting pretty thin

Another sign post

Crossing Davis Path

Only 0.6 mi. to summit

Westside Trail skips the summit

Visibility is about 50 ft.

The wind is picking up

Almost there

Last chance to go around if the weather decided to worsen

Sun's trying to poke through


Who built this wall?

The road to the top

Radio tower coming into view

What a spooky sight

Panorama of the radio tower

Crawford Path top marker


I reached the summit around 9:50 am and, after a customary photo, made my way to the Sherman Adams Building to warm up, grab a bite, and use the facilities. The museum and gift shop are also worth noting and visiting.

Rest room please

Summit 9:40 am

Thank goodness for the map

A little history

Mt Washington Observation Deck

Nothing to see here


At 10:50 am I layered up and began my descent down Trinity Height Connector. While this was the shortest segment of my hike, the visibility was the worst on the hike (about 10 ft.) and I had to carefully pick my way down the loose and slippery rocks.

Starting my descent 10:50 am

Visibility down to 30 ft.

Wind chill 43° F

Loose and slippery going

Visibility down to 20 ft.


It took me about 20 min. to reach the Gulfside Trail and the going got easier as the trail crossed the Cog Rail tracks and skirted the ridgeline.

Gulfside Trail connection

Thank you summit

Crossing the cog rail tracks

Don't know how you'd get a motor vehicle through here

0.5 mi. to the Jewell Trail

Rt 16 is on the Eastside of the mountain

Lot of signage here

Connecting to the Westside Trail crossover

Must have to sure up these signs every year

The path is marked by absence of lichen

So much lichen

The whipping winds are dewing my hat

Thank goodness it's above freezing

Had to take my glasses off because of the misting

Good to know the Jewell Trail is on the left

AT means this is part of the Appalachian Trail


Hiking another 30 min. brought me to the top of Jewell Trail and the last leg of my loop.

Start of the Jewell Trail

3.7 mi. back to Marshfield Base Station

Up and over

Pegmatite I believe

Welcome to the Sub-alpine zone

Starting to see below the clouds

The path is closing in

Marshfield Base Station in view

Panorama of the cloud line

Warming up now

Absolutely breathtaking

No eat!


What are this?

Getting out of the Alpine zone

Trees are getting taller

Old man's beard

The moss though

Humidity is rising

Can't see the forest through the trees

What are this?


Sun's coming out

Layers are coming off

What are this?

The path has gotten easier

Sphagnum moss

Clay Brook

Now that's a bridge

Base Road Parking Connector

Caught up to some friends who took Westside Trail around the summit

Eclipse today

Nice bit of planking that

Quite down trodden

Almost back

At the lower Ammonoosuc River

I hear the Cog Train

A bit wobbly


Thank you!

Jewell Trailhead


Around 12:50 pm I reached Marshfield Base Station and wrapped up this most excellent hike where I started at the Mt Washington Hotel Scenic Overlook.

Back where I started

Summit still in the clouds

So many steps

Mt Washington Hotel History


VIDEOS -My Mt Washington Westside Loop

While a picture speaks a thousand words, it could not express the brilliant solitude of hiking through the clouds; BUT this video can.

Here’s a fly-through of my 5 hr. hike in 3 min. Thanks, Google Earth.

Thank You

Thanks for checking out My Mt Washington Westside Loop. It was a bucket list hike for me and I’m glad the weather cooperated (as best it did) so I could make the summit. If you’re looking for a truly varied and unique hike in New Hampshire, I suggest you try it. A little planning will go a long way to making the most of this hike. Remember to plan for some extreme weather. Enjoy the journey!



Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.

– John Muir

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