Friday, August 9, 2019

How to summit Mt. Washington on the Jewell Trail

Taking a break to take pictures of amazing views

Map of the various trails to Mt. Washington 

Reading the reviews of hiking Mount Washington can be scary, especially if hiking with kids. There have been over 250 reported deaths on the mountain (mostly from falls and hyperthermia) and so we debated whether or not this trail would be good for our family.  But we did our research and talked to locals about the various ways to the summit and we decided to take the jewell trail because it was the 'easiest' of the hard climbs up the mountain.  Although it was a long hike up and some technical scrambling at some points past the tree line, we never felt that we were putting our children in immediate danger.  We also came prepared with winter gear for the top even though the temperature was hot at the base of the mountain in August.  

Rock hopping to start the Jewell trail on the way to the summit of Mt. Washington 

This was our first obstacle of the hike.  A creek that we had to rock hop over.  The water was not very high at this time, however, we always have extra hiking socks just in case of a misstep.  Wet socks can create friction and hot spots that can quickly turn into blisters.  We always carry Moleskin and Scissors with us to ensure if a hot spot develops we can treat it quickly.  Blisters can make a hike very painful and distracting.

near the bottom of the Jewell trail 

After the creek, it is a forest covered hike with a slow and steady ascent.  The trees are covered in a moss that in parts, hangs off of the branches (which the kids described as mysterious).  

We found a great spot in this wooded section for a rest and refuel.  Our kids tend to get "hangry" when they do not have consistent nourishment, so it is important to recognize this and stop.  Making the snacks easily accessible at the top of the pack reduces the stop time as well.  

Taking a break in the alpines

Here is a great pic of our girls, as we start to transition to the alpine vegetation.  Mostly coniferous trees and shrubs, which still provide some protection from the wind.  At this point we were starting to get some great views of what we had accomplished so far and starting to put on extra clothes with the temperature dropping.

Walking with winter clothes in August 

These two pictures shows that we are clear above the tree line and it was time to put on our winter gear.  A huge thank you to my husband (Philosopher) for being so organized and thorough in preparing the packs.  Although it might seem like overkill, winter hiking clothing is a must on many peaks.  Once above tree line, we were exposed to the elements.  The wind was down right cold.  Pants, long sleeves, winter coats, toques and gloves were all necessary.  Hypothermia is one of the top reasons for a hikers demise on this mountain but we were warm with our extra layers and felt confident moving forward.

The Cog train coming up the mountain

As we cleared the tree line, you could hear and a times get a great view of the train traveling up and down the Cog railway.  Passengers waved to us and the kids felt accomplished that they were hiking up the trail and not on the train (or by car on the road up to the summit).

Kids posing for a picture at the top of Mt. Washington 
We did it!  The view was spectacular.  Clouds rolled in and out so the view at time was obscured.  However, when the clouds opened up, the site was breathtaking.  The winter cloths were definitely needed.  The wind at the top was so strong, the kids were jumping and staying suspended for a second.

At the top there is a great chalet where hikers register so they can keep track of the hikers.  There is also a restaurant that serves a well deserved soup or chilly.  

In the chalet, there is also a lot of information about the mountain itself.  The computer shows, temperature, wind speeds, and other information about the weather hikers may need.

Our original plan was to take the train down, however, the train is not reliable, costly and may be full or as in our case had been broken down.  We could have chanced the wait until the last few runs of the day on the train to down the mountain, but we decided to hike down. tThe suggested root down was along the Cog railway which we took that day.  It was long, gruelling and hard on the knees and toes.  It got hot very quickly and the winter clothing was put away not far from the top.  In hindsight, taking the Jewel trail back down would have been the better choice.


Mt. Washington is very doable with kids, despite the many stories of danger reported in the media and on the Internet.  But you must be prepared with proper clothing and pick a trail that is best for the members of your family.  For us, the Jewell trail was the ideal way to experience this most amazing mountain range.  We never felt like we were putting our kids in danger, we had amazing views and we were rewarded with a warm bowl of chilly at the top.  

We plan to do this trail again soon.  Next time we plan to also bag Clay Mountain on the top of the ridge (less than a mile off course and an easy trail to the top) and we will take the Jewell trail back down.  

We also are planning to do the presidential mountain range and we have started doing our research on how best to approach this trip, the best places to sleep and any extra precautions needed to make this an enjoyable hike with the kids.

No comments:

Post a Comment