Happy Spring! It’s that time of year for planning spring, summer and fall travels so we decided to write about state parks for our April and May articles.
In the United States there are almost 2,000 state parks and nearly 7,000 state units, which include state parks, state recreation areas, state natural areas, state forests and so on. Compare those numbers to our 63 national parks! Many state parks offer a lot for a small fee and some without crowds. And did you know that some states do not charge an entry fee whatsoever?
Maybe you want to visit a park that will wow you with waterfalls or rock formations or canyons, where you can go horse back riding, where you can view petroglyphs or wildlife, where you can go boating, swimming, hiking or rock climbing, or where you can find solitude or simply relax. The list goes on!
This article focuses on one particular state park, but watch for our list of 10 recommended parks next month. This state park is perched on the summit of Mount Washington shown in the background of the Omni Mount Washington Resort. It’s shrouded in clouds much of the time.
Mount Washington State Park is located in the White Mountains of Northern New Hampshire and is the highest peak in the Northeast at 6288’. On a clear day summit views extend beyond New Hampshire as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, the Atlantic Ocean & Quebec.
However, there aren’t many clear days. In fact, Mount Washington is home of the world’s worst weather (as far as wind, clouds, wet and cold extremes go). It’s an interesting park that’s rich in history! But, first you have to get there, and there are a few options from which to choose.
Driving the 7.6 mile Auto Road takes an average of 30 minutes to make the ascent and 30-45 minutes to descend. It's something you will surely remember. But if driving it is not for you, consider a 2-hour guided tour.
Another option to reach the summit is to take the cog railway ~ the track is 3 miles long. It was the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world. It’s also the second steepest with an average grade of 25% and some sections approaching nearly 38%. Below it heads back down the mountain.
As you can imagine, there have been many locomotives over the years. The Algonquin is still operational and powered by biodiesel.
In the winter you can catch a ride on the Snowcoach driven by 4 tracks rather than 4 wheels. And if you are really adventurous, you may want to hike to the summit and back, or hike up then take the hiker shuttle down. Whichever way you choose to make the trip, be careful. Although the skies in our photos don’t look threatening they can rapidly change. One reason is due to the fact that Mount Washington sits at the intersection of several major storm tracks.
Below are some scenery photos as we headed up the mountain.
We even eventually drove into the clouds.
There is a visitor center at the summit with a museum, gift shop, cafeteria, observation area and Mount Washington Observatory. This building was designed to withstand 300 mph winds; other structures are chained to the mountain. Notice how clear these photos are, but the clouds were constantly changing.
The small sign says: "From 1932 to 1937 the Mt. Washington Observatory was operated in the summit stage office then occupying this site. In a great storm April 12, 1934 the crew’s instruments measured a wind velocity of 231 mph." That record was broken in 1996 at Barrow Island off the coast of Australia when a tropical cyclone created a gust of 254 mph.
Notice the ice. The record low is -47 degrees and the record high is only 72 degrees! We waited four days in a nearby campground for the winds to die down from 95 mph to 25 mph. before visiting on Sept. 24th. Of course, we explored the general area while waiting on the wind! So be prepared you may not be able to visit on a specific day as the auto road closes according to the weather and road conditions.
We hope you enjoyed our Mount Washington experience! Does it sound like a park that would interest you? If so, the clearest skies are generally in the summer and fall. Remember to take advantage of state parks and other state units. There’s one awaiting your visit ~ maybe it’s even calling your name.