Explore the most popular trail running trails in Mount Washington State Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

This review is specifically for the Caps Ridge - Castle - Link loop... It was a beautiful day, and all I can say was that this route is among the most dynamic, scenic, and downright enjoyable ventures I've had the pleasure to experience. Once you ascend past the timber line (very soon after the trailhead), the views of the valley are phenomenal. Once the views come, you're in for scrambling nearly the rest of the way to the summit. Once past the largest of the rocks and close to the summit, we were enveloped in fog. ... but the great thing about the fog is that you already know that soon starting the descent, you're in for some more stunning valley views - and that's exactly what we got with Castle Trail. The views from Castle are just as mesmerizing as those from the Caps Ridge ascent, and yet still decidedly their very own. Truly phenomenal.

In retrospect, The Link was likely my favorite part of the entire loop. Though it's a relatively brief stretch, it's a challenge to visually pick out where the trail actually is - so wherever your foot lands might as well be considered it! I'd recommend taking it slow and soaking in as much of the scenery as possible for two reasons: 1) the entirety of this section is what comes to mind if I had to imagine what an enchanted forest looks like, and 2) there are myriad unstable/slippery/otherwise dynamic surfaces upon which you'll tread, and there's no shortage of spots where a misstep is a risk that you can't afford to take.

This loop is not only an excellent physical challenge, but also an unforgettable experience (particularly so given the exceptional bang for your buck given the overall modest distance involved). We completed it in roughly 6 hours (which includes roughly 30 minutes spent enjoying the summit). I've been wanting to give this another go ever since this first time, and will do so again this year. There's a great many hikes yet on my list, but out of all those I've done up until now, this one holds a very special place for me.

Enjoy!

Not much to see until the end, but the view is very nice.

Fairly easy hike with some pretty cool views of Mt. Washington!

Not as tough as I thought it would be and the views are more amazing when you hike it rather then drive up it i feel because you have that sense of accomplishment to go along with it!

I just recently hiked this trail in the wintertime and there were (surprisingly) fair conditions at the summit. Washington is known for being home of the world's worst weather so it's extremely important that you constantly check the weather before attempting this climb in the winter. Also, proper gear is crucial!! Be sure to check out Eastern Mountain Sport's Mount Washington winter hiking gear list online so that you know what to bring. Extra layers are a must. Be safe out there!

I enjoy looping this with the Link Trail and Cas. Ridge Trail.

Absolutely fantastic trail!!!
Not for the faint of heart though.
Fairly easy till you break the tree line then it becomes difficult.

Great hike with our 5 and 7 year old troopers. Amazing views and technically challenging caps made for a not at all boring hike for the kids.

hiking
6 months ago

Loved it - the views above treeline are truly breath-taking. As others have commented, the trail is very exposed once you're out of the woods. There were gusts that made me extra cautious about foot placement and slipping. Had to turn back early (maybe 1/4 to 1/2 mile from summit of Clay) because I had a gear failure and didn't want to chance it. I can't wait to come back and finish the entire trail; maybe even summit Washington. note: Make sure you bring warm gear - once out of the woods it is cold and windy.

Love this trail! Really beautiful views from the hut to the summit! Was easier up than we anticipated, the way down we were pretty tired by the time we hit the gem pool. Highly recommend this hike for your first time up Washington.

Wow this hike really gives you your bang for your buck. 1 mile in and the views start coming and they dont end until your back at the 1 mile mark. Very cool day. 30 deg. 20 mile hr winds. hiker said with chill factor we were looking at 10-15 deg feel. But man it was raw nature at its best. No clouds and no bugs!

hiking
7 months ago

this trail is not for beginners. its extremely rocky the whole way up but the views are amazing! if you continue past the jewell trail a little over a mile you will reach the summit of mount washington.

Mount Jefferson via Cap's Ridge is a trail I have done twice. I like it better each time. I would not recommend it for beginners or first timers. It gets steep in places and there's a decent amount of rock scrambling involved. Make sure you get a good breakfast.

My girlfriend I took the plunge into hiking this past weekend. Neither of us had hiked before. We chose this trail as our first one. It was a beautiful warm Saturday and we went for it We hit the trail at noon after checking to be sure we could get the cog down. The majority of people told us to plan on 5 hours going up. Not knowing what to expect we planned on the 5 hours and the cog coming down, given the amount of daylight available. First part of the trail was easy and we were all alone which was nice. plenty of pretty places to stop along the river. I think we hit the gem pool in about an hour. The trail got real after the gem pool for sure, and things didn't change much for a long time. Steep, steady climbing all the way the lake in the clouds. We ran into a few people along the way. One thing for sure, everyone has their own idea of time and space on the trail. Some people would say we had 2 hours to go, others would say 45 minutes, and everything in between. one couple said we had 45 minutes to the top, then an hour after that a woman told us we had 2 more hours. None of this really mattered to us, people were super nice and we had our own pace going. From the gem pool to the hut was tough, but we had plenty of gas left. We turned the corner and headed for the summit. Beautiful scenery (I'm a landscape photographer) gave us both a fresh outlook heading towards the top. We stopped a few times along the way for photos. it was a perfect sunny fall day, with a light breeze. We kept a good pace going, nonetheless. I'm going to guess that maybe with about a half mile to go, we both hit a wall. I started to slow way down, and by the end I was probably making 5-6 steps before stopping briefly. It kicked my ass at the very end. Total time was 3:38 from the cog parking lot to the summit. What a perfect first time hiking, we are hooked.

A beautiful day and a bit steep in spots for myself and my son in law. I am 62 and we are both novice hikers, but definitely worth the effort once on top of the rocks. A great view of God's country. 3 1/2 hrs in and back including 30 min. on the top.

Had always wanted to hike Mount Washington and chose this trail as my first experience in mountain hiking.. . This trail was as much as a challenge as I expected and more.. Conditions were rainy and due to an early snow fall the streams that needed to be crossed were up a bit, this along with wet and windy weather made some of the rock climbing a bit more difficult. All in all a great experience and one i would highly recommend. Gained a greater respect for hiking and the people who enjoy it. Love the Outdoors !

The first mile of this trail was actually quite easy, until you reach the gem pool. As you turn the corner you now realize how steep and how hard this trail is. It's actually quite a steep ascent and it never seems to end. There is moderate rock scrambling in sections but not very difficult. Overall it was a great time very long and very tiring. A must have on the bucket list. You should take the Jewell trail down or the COG.

best I've done of 4000 footers so far. bouldering up in too third is amazing. false peaks provide almost constant unreal views.

We hiked this on the most beautiful day. The views were absolutely incredible! It was definitely a full workout but was totally worth it all! Can't wait to do it again!

cool trail. easy for first hour then some rock climbing.

hiking
8 months ago

Certainly an interesting trail. I found it very difficult but others may find it easy.

The difficulty does *not* come from steepness. But for half of the trail you are fully exposed, right next to the ledge. I am terrified of heights, don't have a good sense of balance, and broken knees. The trail was out of my league and I could not enjoy it. Because I am slow, it took us 9h in total.

The bottom part is beautiful and had all five star features: rushing creeks, raspberries, rest spots with a view, and changing flora.

Breaking through the timberline was breath taking, because you can see straight down to the cog rail station and six rows of mountains on the west of Mt. Washington.

Above the trees the path crosses through low shrubs in a washed out trail. Be prepared to scramble up some steps if you have short legs.

For the rest of the trail you are fully exposed, it is very difficult to stay on trail here, despite the many cairns. Look for worn rocks and small pebbles. If you are stuck surrounded by holes, you are probably off trail.

After the last switchback the rock trail continues straight towards the rails of the cog railway. More rocks to balance over when it goes down steep right next to you. It is no problem if you don't mind heights, there is plenty of space. If heights are a problem for you, you may want to call it a day here.

If you continue you onto the gulf side trail between Mt Clay and Mt Washington, the trail gets easy with grassy patches. You can now enjoy the view both towards east and west.

The trail is then following the rails. The pieces of coal you find on the trail are a sign of what happens when you meet the steam train in this section. Don't be ashamed to because I am terrified of heights and do not have a good sense for balance cover and crouch.

We turned around at this point, realizing that we won't make it for the last train down, and all hikers reported blizzard-like weather on the summit.

Last thing:at the bottom of the trail you have to cross a small stream (small at least in summer). There are stones, logs, and hiking poles help.

Parking fee for hikers was 5 USD per person.

Hiked up via Caps>Link>Castle, and down Caps. Near the summit, Caps is steep and pretty rocky.

Very fun trail and amazing views. Gets pretty darn steep and can be quite slippery. Summit climb gets pretty rocky and fun. Incredible change in climates from base to summit. Goes from rain forest to tundra

Tough in the beginning, but scramble eases. Super fun!

This hike is actually 5 mikes, not 4.6. It literally says at the trailhead "Mt Jefferson 2.5 miles" but probably the worst thing you could do going into this hike is be deceived by the Milage as others have pointed out. The only reason I make a point of even pointing out the discrepancy in mileage is because the last .4 is a steep summit push with many false summits and before that are about 5 even steeper rock clusters you literally have to climb like bouldering. Relentless rocky terrain is an understatement and it is super unforgiving on the knees. This is coming from an experience hiker, not a casual one. Don't underestimate the whites. Just know going into it that it's definitely NOT an easy hike because it's short in Milage. Feels like 10. Watched many ppl turn back because they thought it was going to be a short hike. Started around 1 and ended at 8. But spent plenty of time at the summit. As long as you respect the presidential range, the rocky terrain and strong winds/ erratic weather of an alpine environment and the fact that it's the third highest point in the north east crammed into 5 miles then you're ready. That being said bring lots of water and snacks, while trying not to over pack cuz weight and be safe! Also there's more fun hikes in the area that feel about the same length tho they're longer but you get to walk along alpine ridges which is awesome. This ones just sort of an up and back. Enjoy ;)

A great trail with gorgeous views! Definitely a challenge (my sister didn't love it as much as I did) because some parts require scrambling up sheer rock. You'll need to to use both hands to climb certain parts. I recommend strong knees for this trail. It follows the river all the way up to the Lake of the Clouds hut where you can use the bathroom and refill water before continuing to the summit.

A very steep, yet short in length, hike. Lots of rock scrambling. Took me and my mom six hours. Four to summit and two hours back.

I did this guided hike late in the winter. The views were almost nonexistent, except for a brief instant the clouds broke and we could see the summit as we were just entering the alpine zone. It's a completely different world when the wind gets howling and the visibility is about 10 yards. It has the feel of a much larger mountain due to the notoriously bad weather in the Whites. Crampons were a must, along with trekking poles. We had ice axes but did not need them on this particular day.

We had perfect weather when we hiked, I would not have wanted to do this trail in wet conditions due to the rock scrambling. We had children in our group aged 7 to 11 and it took about 6 hrs round trip. Hard work, fantastic views galore.

Got on the trail around 7:30. A little wet and slippery but not too bad. Easy start with a steep incline in the middle. Once you get past the Lakes in the Clouds hut it becomes just a fun trek to the summit over rock rubble. Got to the top in 2.5 hours. Cold and windy at the top, glad I brought a sweatshirt. Great views along the way and at the summit.

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