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Over the holiday weekend, I had the chance to visit one of New Hampshire’s most famous landmarks: the Mount Washington Auto Road. Being from New Hampshire originally, it’s sort of a shame it took me 27 years to finally do it, but it was well worth the (sometimes hair-raising) drive to the top. Next time you find yourself in New Hampshire, make sure to take time to drive the Mount Washington Auto Road — here are five reasons you won’t regret it!
1. The History of the Mount Washington Auto Road
If you’re a history buff, or just like learning fun (read: random) facts, Mount Washington and the Mount Washington Auto Road have a bunch in store for you. According to the Mount Washington Observatory website:
For nearly sixty-two years, Mount Washington, New Hampshire held the world record for the fastest wind gust ever recorded on the surface of the Earth: 231 miles per hour, recorded April 12, 1934 by Mount Washington Observatory staff. The…record was toppled in 1996 when an unmanned instrument station in Barrow Island, Australia recorded a new record of 253 miles per hour during Typhoon Olivia. Though the Observatory record fell, it’s a very human story, and it still stands as the highest surface wind speed ever observed by man.
The day we visited, it was windy, but certainly not that windy! Make sure to check the temperature before you drive to the top–the base and summit temperatures are often polar (no pun intended) opposites! The Mount Washington Auto Road is also the site of one of the oldest auto race in the world — first run in 1904! My favorite historical fact; however, the the “other” way to get to the top of the mountain.
2. The Mount Washington Cog Railway
So it’s not driving, but it’s still a great piece of history. Constructed in 1868, the Mount Washington Cog Railway was the first (and therefore is the oldest) cog railway in the world. Whisking you to the top of the mountain in just over an hour, the train provides you with great views and a look back in time.
A word of advice: the train is WAY more expensive than driving. A 3-hour round trip on the train sets you back $69 per adult and $39 for those ages 4-12. Conversely, driving to the top is $29 for the driver and then $9 for every other passenger. For four people, driving saves you over $200! Plus, if you drive (or hike), you can “moon the cog,” not that I’m endorsing that 😉
3. The views on the Mount Washington Auto Road are breathtaking
Literally. There was some awe-inspiring views on the way to the top, when I could peek out from behind my hands. The road is extremely narrow, so when you look out your car window, you’re treated to some beautiful views, but also a shear drop of hundreds of feet. Not the time to be nervous driver!
Sadly, by the time we made it to the top, the clouds had rolled in, which meant that the views were hidden. It’s said on a good day, you can see Montreal, Boston, and the Atlantic Ocean. We spent a good hour at the top of the mountain, hoping the view would clear up, but no such luck.
4. Meet a full-time resident!
Yes, you read that right, Mount Washington has a full-time, year-round resident. His name is Marty, and if you happen to be in the right spot at the right time, you may just get a chance to meet him!
Yep, it’s a cat! Mount Washington has a long history of feline residents, and Marty is the latest in a long line of weathercats.
5. Mail a postcard from the highest point in New England
At the top of the Mount Washington Auto Road, you’ll find the highest post office in New England, representing zip code 03589. From there, you can send your loved ones a post card, proving to them you made the trek up (and hopefully down!) the mountain! It’s a cheap, fun thing to do, although I’m not sure Dan got a chance to do it when he zipped through Coös County!
Mount Washington Auto Road Conclusion
If you find yourself in New Hampshire and fancy a mini-roadtrip, take the time to drive the Mount Washington Auto Road. It a great way to spend the day surrounded by history and nature. Plus you’ll get one of those legendary “This car climbed Mount Washington” bumper stickers!