Mt. Washington claims to be home to the world’s worst weather and as longtime New Hampshire weather watchers we believe it. Perhaps one of the most interesting byproducts of the extreme weather is how long it takes every Spring to open up the Auto Road which winds to the top.
Tens of thousands of visitors travel to the top of Mt. Washington each year either by auto, van, railroad or for the hardiest, by foot. But those who drive to the top seldom think about the work involved in getting the road open after the long and usually extreme winter. It’s no small task to clear this 7+ mile roadway.
There are sections of the road which can have snow drifts up to 25 feet. Crews use plows, front end loaders and snowcats to clear the snow. Additionally, there are over 100 culverts that are ice filled and need to opened to allow the spring run off to flow without damaging the road. Road crews use a special steam drill to work through the ice in each culvert.
Often sections of the road are opened only to be covered again by several feet of snow from a Spring snowstorm. Talk about frustration!
Usually the Auto Road is open to treeline elevation (4,200’) in the early part of May, although weather conditions still make a drive up hit or miss. You can check the status of road conditions at the Auto Road website. The upper part of the road is opened on Memorial Day. The peak is actually a State Park and there is a weather observatory open to the public.
Climbing to the top of Mt. Washington by any means can be a real treat. On a clear day you can see all the way to New York state or to the ocean along the Maine coast. It’s certainly one of New Hampshire’s great natural attractions. A visit to the Auto Road is an easy day trip from the Inn On Golden Pond. We highly recommend including it in your plans.