Mt Washington Auto Road and Snowcoach - The Perfect Match!
Updated: Oct 14, 2022
Take this historic scenic route up the Mt Washington Auto Road and breathe in the panoramic views.
It is an adventure for the whole family, kid friendly, and can be remembered through gorgeous photos, videos and an earned bumper sticker that says "This Car Climbed Mt. Washington" which you earn only if you drive yourself.
The Auto Road has been open since 1861 and starts just north of Pinkham Notch. It is a measly 7.6 miles of winding, narrow road all the way up to Mount Washington's Summit.
You can take your own car up there a jump on a guided tour and witness the beauty of the White Mountains while to traversing up this 4618 foot road.
For those of you that are shop-a-holics, I wrote a story about why a ride on the Mt Washington Auto Road Snowcoach beats North Conway outlet shopping! It's true, it does!
Mount Washington offers astounding panoramic views, insane weather and great history.
This gorgeous peak is surrounded by the lush Mount Washington National Forest and the Presidential Mountain Range giving you spectacular views from all sides.
The weather on the peak has continuously broken records and is famous for its' unpredictability and extreme temperature fluctuations. Mt Washington is known to have "the worst weather on earth".
Here I am at the top of Mount Washington's summit, trying to talk about the history of the Mount Washington Auto Road and how crazy Mount Washington's weather is (turn the sound up high)!
Whether you're on the Mount Washington Auto Road gazing at the Mount Washington Valley or are in North Conway taking in the gorgeous view of Mount Washington, it is truly a sight to behold from both spots!
I have been lucky enough to hike, drive my car, and enjoy the Snowcoach many times. The views from the Mt Washington Auto Road never get old!
The Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center is your best starting point. Located in Gorham, New Hampshire (a 42 minute drive from the Russ-Tee Bucket Ranch) the Outdoor Center sits right at the base of Mount Washington in the White Mountains and provides your family with many different adventures.
This is where you load into the Snowcoach to go up to the Mount Washington treeline. You can also head out onto their cross-country ski trails, snow tubing, snowshoeing, and take lessons at the ski school.
Taking advantage of the activities the outdoor Center provides is one of the best things to do in the White Mountains. They also have the Glenview Café where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and views at your leisure. It's a great way to warm up after running around on the mountaintop, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing.
During warmer weather you can enjoy all of the great Glen trails by biking, walking. Either way, you get to benefit from New England's fantastic natural landscape in any season - don't let this opportunity go to waste.
There are several ways of traveling up the summit of Mount Washington via the Auto Road.
Taking the Snowcoach is a fun way to enjoy the winter views without being a distracted driver. The Snowcoach is a 12 passenger van, although they typically only sit 7-9 people, mounted on for tank type tracks instead of wheels, which aid in rolling over the snow safely.
There are days when the views are crystal clear and beautiful, and days where winter is at its peak and you can witness the unpredictability and beauty of Mount Washington's wild weather and awe-inspiring snowstorms.
The coach begins at the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center and goes two thirds up the summit of Mount Washington, 4.5 miles, to a resting point where you are welcome to get out of the Snowcoach to take pictures and videos-all with the safety and warmth of the van only a few steps away.
Make sure you research the North Conway weather if you're making the trip in the Snowcoach!
I've ridden the Snowcoach twice, once it was 20 degrees and the wind gusts were 80 mph at the resting spot and the other time it was 40°, bright sunshine, and absolutely no wind! There's plenty of room in the coach to bring a backpack stuffed with hats, scarves, mittens, windbreakers, and even ski goggles if you think you might need them!
Mount Washington weather can be unpredictable and brutal at times and going up the mountainside can be deemed unsafe. You can check their operating status on Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center website
Check this out! You can bring or rent snowshoes, ride the Snowcoach to the tree line of Mount Washington and leave the tour at that point to snowshoe down the trails to the great Glen outdoor Center.
A second choice is to ride the Snowcoach about halfway down to where the snowshoe trails cross the Mt Washington Auto Road, you can choose to depart the Snowcoach there and snowshoe the rest of the way down!
Tickets are first come, first serve although you can call ahead to purchase or puts tickets on standby. Just make sure to check that they are open the day you want to go!
Snow coach rides are available seasonally, and professional tour guides provide you with the history of the Mt Washington Auto Road and the area, panoramic views and a great adventure.
Either way, if you're visiting New England during the winter the snow coach is definitely the best way to see the peak of Mount Washington.
Another way to benefit from New England's natural beauty is by taking a regular guided tour. They are available from May to late October and the guides that drive the snow coaches and winter are typically the ones you'll get in the summer on the vans. The guides I had on the tours were outstanding! I've lived up here for what seems like forever and I had never heard most of the facts, jokes, and insights they provided us with.
Besides the view and the drive to the top of the summit, you will learn about the history, urban legends of the White Mountains, and stories about the breathtaking Mount Washington, as well as ample scenic overlooks and beautiful views of the White Mountain National Forest surrounding you.
On a clear day you can see up to 130 miles away, including Maine, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Québec, and even the Atlantic Ocean itself. But those days are very rare. On most occasions you get to experience mount Washington's infamous wild weather firsthand.
There are a few buildings to explore at the summit. They include a cafeteria, an observatory, the Extreme Mount Washington Museum, the Tip Top House, and the Summit Stage Office.
A tour of the extreme Mount Washington Museum is included in your fee, you paid for it, make sure you use it! It is interactive and it will show you just how crazy it gets on the summit during the winter - without you having to experience it for yourself!
There are are three tour options available.
The first option is a two hour tour, which is an hour of driving and an hour on the summit. Tickets are first come first serve but you can reserve online if you wish.
From June until the end of August there is a three hour adventure tour, where you will t make stops on the route with options to walk, hike, or learn about the plants that grow on the mountainside. Of course, this tour has a stopping point at the summit as well.
Lastly, for a few days in June there is the Bicknell's thrush tour. It is an extremely rare bird that prefers to live in altitudes, usually above 3000 feet.
They only live in North America and it is the only bird whose reading is cornered into the Northeast. Taking this tour gives you an opportunity to see this rare bird up close.
If you do choose to drive your own vehicle and earn your bumper sticker, you have from early May until late October to take the track. You be able to say you have driven through four different climate zones to reach the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast.
It's also a little adventurous due to it being a narrow (and I do mean narrow!), winding road, with two way traffic and without a guardrail! I'll guarantee that your heart will be pounding and probably your hands clenched on the steering wheel in a death grip, but it is indeed well worth it.
There are a few other ways you can get up Mount Washington, you can hike or bike it, if you're up for the challenge, or you can take the Cog Railway.
The Cog has been running for 150 years and is the world's first mountain climbing cog railway. The Cog is a beautiful three-quarter hour ride up to the summit-this one is recommended that you book your tickets way ahead of time!
Come join us in North Conway, NH any time of year to enjoy the perks of New England natural beauty and adventure. You don't want to miss out!
Please contact Teena at Russ-Tee Bucket Ranch if you need any help planning your vacation in North Conway or finding a wonderful North Conway vacation rental to stay.