Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hiking Mt. Washington is feasible and enjoyable with kids

With some planning, Mt. Washington is a spectacular hike with amazing views all the way to the top

Research is Key

There are several different trail heads for Mount Washington. Two of which sound dangerous even for an avid hiker. Our research discovered that several hikers have meet their demise on these trails (click here for a list of reported fatalities on Mt. Washington). 

Truth be told, we were thinking of backing out of doing this peak with the kids because of all of negative reviews were finding.  

But we continuing doing our research and we discovered the Jewell Trail. No deaths, no cliffs, no slides and no negative reviews gave us hope that it might be achievable. So we continued our journey to New Hampshire and to our reserved campsite at the  Moose Hillock Camping Resort.

Pool at Moose Hillock Camping Resort in New Hampshire 
While in the Green Mountain area, we talked to local outdoor folks in outdoor shops and we continued to research the Jewell Trail (Local hiking stores are great places to stop and gain knowledge of the trails). It was described as a steady accent but definitely kid friendly.  We were told to be prepared for different types of weather because the peak can be very cold even on warm summer days at the foot of the mountain (Local hiking stores are great places to stop and gain knowledge of the trails). 

Start early

Parking becomes an issue for hiking Mt. Washington so you want to arrive early to avoid parking too further away (It sounds silly, but there is no greater pain than having to walk long distances to your car once you finally finish a mountain).  

The Cog rail station at the bottom of Mt. Washington. Also the start of the Jewell Trail
The Jewell Trail to the summit is longer than other trails and so you want to give the family plenty of time to complete the trail and to be able to stop at the top long enough for your family photos and to enjoy a warm bowl of chilly from the restaurant (The kids thought this trail was especially cool because they could eat at the restaurant at the summit rather than the usual pre-packed lunches we bring for our trips).

A view of the restaurant on top of the Mt. Washington

Bring Money

Bring money in case you plan on taking the train down or buying something at restaurant or gift shop. The train is expensive and no guarantee you will be able to get on the train for the ride down.  

Be prepared to hike both the accent and descent. Unless you buy a two way ticket and forgo one way you are not guaranteed a spot down.  If the train is full two way riders have preference.

The Cog rail on the way to the summit 

Know your route

Although it may be suggested by the staff at the top to hike down along side the Cog rail way, we strongly recommend not doing this for several reasons. First, the trail is a constant downhill hike on loose and unstable rock, which is really hard on the knees (for the parents) and toes (for everyone). Second, is that the trail is completely exposed throughout with no tree cover at all. There is no place to take a break as its strictly a way to get down the mountain in a shorter time. Third, the trail is actually very noisy with the trains passing by either going up or down the track. 

Hiking on the soft sand and rocks on the Cog trail 

We recommend taking the Jewell Trail back down. Although you end of repeating your the same tracks as the way up, the decent allows for tree coverage and places to break along the way and it avoids the stumbles in the loose rocks. 

Bring proper clothing 

Rain/winter clothing is a necessity. Weather on this mountain is unpredictable most of the time. A clear dry sunny day at the bottom of the mountain can be a dark, wet and cold once you get above the tree line. 

Hypothermia is one of the main killers on this mountain regardless of the trail head you choose. 

Layers are extremely important. Starting with your base layer. A quick dry t-shirt should be worn so that it dries quickly (on this climb, your shirt will either get wet from perspiration or precipitation or both!) We also recommend bringing a second shirt with you in case so you can change into a dry shirt when you stop for breaks so you don't get too cold while stopping.

Also good to pack a long sleeve quick dry shirt for when the temperature starts to drop but still not cold enough to put on the winter jacket.  If you like to hike in shorts, then this would also be a good time to put on light breathable pants.  

As you continue to climb and get above the tree line, you will want a warm winter coat (A good winter hiking coat that is light but warm). There are many types of winter coats designed for hiking in colder climates, but generally you will want a coat that is water resistant and with down defender technology (click here for an example our favourite hiking coat that we recently bought for the will see the kids wearing them in the 2019 trips). Hats and gloves that are water proof are also essential. 

Kids with their winter clothes above the tree line on the way to Mt. Washington

For all of this layering, we suggest that you pack your clothes in a dry bag rather than a plastic bag so your clothes stay dry while in your pack even if it rains or you sweat into your pack.  Putting on wet clothing will not keep you warm. 

Always have at least one pair of extra socks. Wet socks can create hot spots and blisters.  Also if your feet are wet they can get very cold.  But don't just bring any pair from your sock drawer.  Best to wear socks that are specifically designed for the outdoors.  
Be prepared to have a plan B

If the forecast is not good for the day of your hike, be prepared to hike another day. We stayed a couple of days at the campsite, knowing that we would want to hike on the best day possible in terms of the weather.  It would not make for a pleasant hike to force the issue on a bad weather day. It could really turn kids off of hiking if the weather is too hot or cold or wet the entire time.  Bad weather can also make the trail above the tree line more dangerous, especially on days of high winds, rain, snow or poor visibility. So you need to plan according to the weather!


Mt Washington with kids is both doable and enjoyable.  Taking the  Jewell Trail is an excellent way to reach the peak with keeping safety in mind.  It is a steady incline with only a few scrambles that are achievable for even younger children yet challenging enough for the teens.  As long as you have enough food and water and your winter hiking clothes, don't count this hike out of reach!

The peak on Mt. Washington 

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