An engineering marvel when it was built in the late 1860s, New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Cog Railway was the first mountain-ascending train in the world. Today the same mechanization that ferried early tourists offers a unique alternative to driving or hiking to the wind-whipped summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The half-day journey is a great way to get a taste of both New England’s rich history and beautiful natural scenery.
The mountain-climbing cog railway journey up to the mountaintop is three hours round-trip and includes narration. At a slow speed of only six miles (9.5 kilometers) per hour, you chug past scenic White Mountain vistas and through dense forest. At the summit, you can experience lovely above-the-clouds views. Both traditional coal-fired steam engine and modern, eco-friendly biodiesel trains run the track. You may purchase tickets at the ticket office, but advance purchase is recommended and available online up to two hours prior to departure.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The train’s slow ascent provides ample photo opportunities and beautiful views that are particularly colorful in the fall season.
- Admission to the small museum inside the observatory is included with the train journey.
- All trains board 15 minutes before departure time on a first-come, first-seated basis.
- Only service animals are allowed on the train. Strollers, car seats, coolers, and alcohol are not permitted.
How to Get There
You can reach Mt. Washington by day trip from Boston, or from the neighboring states of Maine, New York, and Connecticut. It is 165 miles (266 kilometers) from Boston and 330 miles (531 kilometers) from New York City.
When to Get There
The train schedule runs seasonally from late April to November. Three-hour journeys include a one-hour stop at the summit, and depart every hour on the half hour regardless of weather. It is recommended to arrive 45 minutes prior to departure.
Though the Mt. Washington summit and the cog railway are the attraction’s main draw, the Marshfield Base Station is where the train ride departs from. The Marshfield Station is rich in history, as shown in its (free) railway museum and gift shop. It’s also where you can buy tickets or meet your tour guide.