Opened in 1861, the Mt. Washington Auto Road is an unmatched driving experience you will always remember. The Mount Washington Auto Road is a 7.6 mi (12.2 km) toll road that extends from New Hampshire Route 16 in Pinkham Notch to the summit of Mount Washington in the White Mountains of the U.S. state of New Hampshire.
The road climbs 4,618 ft (1,408 m) from an altitude of 1,527 ft (465 m) at the bottom to 6,145 ft (1,873 m) at the top, an average gradient of 11.6%. There are guides who will drive your vehicle down for you if you are too scared to do it yourself. With the ever-changing weather conditions on New England’s highest peak, no two trips are the same. Bluebird skies and stunning vistas may greet you one day. The next day you could have the adventure of a lifetime in the 6,288-foot peak’s strong winds, remarkable fog and rapidly moving clouds.
The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. There are many times that the weather isn't very friendly on Mt. Washington so be sure to bring warm, dry clothes, forget the umbrella unless you want the occasional strong blowing winds to tear it apart for you. The road was completed and opened to the public in 1861. With an average grade of 12%, a single mile of hard-packed gravel road around mid mountain, and above-treeline views beginning around 4,200 feet, this is truly one of the most spectacular drives in the Northeast!
A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions. If you are planning on driving the Mt. Washington Auto Road, you should prepare yourself for the weather and the drive. The weather on Mount Washington changes constantly and is very different from the base of the mountain. The temperature difference is amazing and you will want to prepare for that. On the drive up the Auto Road you will usually find some snow on the mountain until the end of June. If that wasn't enough, the 2nd highest windspeed on earth was recorded on top of Mount Washington at 231 Mph on April 12, 1934.
This road is usually open in summers. Opening day of the Mt. Washington Auto Road varies from year to year due to the amount of snow that falls on the mountain. Each spring, crews work tirelessly to remove the ice and snow. The drive up the Auto Road can make one feel a bit anxious as you peer over the edge of the road and see a thousand foot drop. As the driver, you probably shouldn't be looking over the edge and trying to drive at the same time. If there are no cars around you, stop and look, otherwise, there are several pull offs where you can stop and take in the scenery. The history of the road has been one of steady growth: 3,100 private cars in 1935, 6,600 in 1955 and 12,800 in the Road’s 100th anniversary year, 1961. In recent years, more than 45,000 vehicles have driven the auto road each year.
The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. Afternoon closing times indicate the time that the last car will be allowed to go through the Toll House and drive to the summit. All vehicles must leave the summit 45 minutes after closing time. The road surface is tar, exception of 1 mile of the auto road which is gravel, which some call the scariest part of the Mt. Washington Auto Rd (originally called Mount Washington Carriage Road). Bicycles are not allowed, except on the day of bike race. Safety considerations dictate that some vehicles cannot be permitted on the Auto Road: (http://mtwashingtonautoroad.com/drive-yourself/vehicle-limits/).