Great Hikes: A Huntington Ravine Trail Loop

Huntington Ravine Trail Loop

The Huntington Ravine Trail is one of the hardest hikes in the White Mountains. Located on Mt Washington, it climbs 1400 feet in 0.9 miles up the headwall of Huntington Ravine, a deep glacial valley on the east side of Mt Washington. The trail is quite strenuous and requires good rock scrambling skills to climb through a boulder field and then up a near-vertical rock face. This trail is not suitable for dogs and should not be attempted after rain or when the trail is wet. I’d also strongly recommend against trying to climb down the Huntington Ravine Trail because there is a very real risk of serious injury. The trail is only blazed for people climbing up the trail and you won’t be able to see the safe route and handholds if you try to downclimb it.

Once you climb the headwall section of the Huntington Ravine Trail, there are a number of other trails you can link up with including the Nelson Crag Trail, if you want to climb to the summit of Mt Washington, or the Alpine Garden Trail, which travels to Tuckerman Ravine below the summit cone of Washington. This is a very pretty route and one that’s guaranteed to be less crowded on busy weekends. Upon reaching Tuckerman Ravine, you can walk around the top rim of the Ravine and climb to Boot Spur Mountain, which forms its south side, before dropping down to the ravine floor and hiking back to the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center and parking lot.

Difficulty Level

Very Strenuous

Distance and Elevation Gain

9.6 miles, 4000 ft (elevation gain)

Estimated Duration

8 hours

Season

June (snow permitting) – September

Water

I would advise carrying at least 3 liters of water for this route, as water sources are scarce until you descend to the base of Tuckerman Ravine.

Parking

Trailhead: AMC Pinkham Notch Visitors Center, Rt 16.

Huntington Ravine Trail Loop

Trails Followed:

  • Tuckerman Ravine Trail: 1.3 miles, 1000 ft (elevation gain)
  • Huntington Ravine Trail: 2.1 miles, 2450 ft
  • Alpine Garden Trail: 0.9 miles, 50 ft
  • Tuckerman Ravine Trail: 0.2, 250 ft
  • Lawn Cutoff: 0.4 miles, 100 ft
  • Davis Path: 0.6 miles, 100 ft
  • Boot Spur Trail: 1.1 miles, 0 ft (descending)
  • Boot Spur Link: 0.6 miles, 50 ft
  • Tuckerman Ravine Trail; 2.4 miles, 0 ft

On the Trail

Tuckerman Ravine Trail

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail leaves from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, bearing left past the Avalanche Information sign. This sign is used during the winter and spring months to warn skiers and climbers of avalanche danger in the snowpack, which has usually melted off by June. Spring conditions can be particularly dangerous on both the Huntington Ravine and Tuckerman Ravine Trails if snow is still present because voids can form under the snow and trap people who fall in, resulting in hypothermia and death.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail leaves from the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center
The Tuckerman Ravine Trail leaves from the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is really a wide gravel road that climbs somewhat relentlessly to the Huntington Ravine Trail Junction. This first section not technically challenging, but it is consistently uphill.

Huntington Ravine Trail

Turn right onto the Huntington Ravine Trail and hike along a rocky trail crossing several small streams. When you arrive at the Avalanche First Aid Cache, you’ll be close to the headwall and the steepest part of the ascent. The first aid cache is primarily used in winter for ice climbing rescues.

The lower boulder scramble begins shortly after you pass the Avalanche First Aid Cache
The lower boulder scramble begins shortly after you pass the Avalanche First Aid Cache

The bottom of the climb is a long scramble up, over, and in between car-sized boulders. The path is blazed, but you’ll need to climb through the maze of rocks carefully. The next section of the climb swings to the right and ascends through a section of vegetation. This portion of the path is clear and much easier to follow. It passes by a stream flowing down the ravine where water can be acquired, although filtering is highly recommended.

This section of the trail is nearly vertical and can intimidating
This section of the trail is nearly vertical and can be quite intimidating

The third section of the trail is the most difficult. It begins with a steep ascent up a well-worn rock face where it may be difficult to get foot and handholds. If this section of the trail is wet, I’d seriously consider turning around and hiking down, as it may be unsafe to continue.

The cairn marking the top of the Huntington Ravine Trail
The cairn marking the top of the Huntington Ravine Trail

The final section of the climb is challenging but the handholds are fairly straightforward as long as you follow the blazes to the cairn at the top of the trail.

Alpine Garden Trail

The Alpine Garden Trail is a gorgeous above-treeline trail that runs across Mt Washington’s east lawn. It’s marked by rock cairns. It’s particularly beautiful in June when wildflowers cover the mountainside.

The Alpine Garden Trail travels across Mt Washington’s eastern lawn
The Alpine Garden Trail travels across Mt Washington’s eastern lawn

A stream crosses the trail near the half-way point, but hikers are advised to not drink from it, because it can be contaminated by visitors at the mountain summit. Not knowing this, I did filter water at this stream and consume it, but in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t (I didn’t get sick, but I wouldn’t do it again).

The Alpine Garden Trail crosses the Lion Head Trail and continues a short distance through scrub to the Tuckerman Ravine trail.

The large cairn at Tuckerman Junction is a crossroads for many trails
The large cairn at Tuckerman Junction is a crossroads for many trails

Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Turn right onto the Tuckerman Ravine Trail for a short distance (250 feet of elevation gain) to Tuckerman Junction, a large rock cairn that is a major trail crossroads that climb Mt Washington, head south towards Mt Isolation, or continue to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

The Lawn Cutoff Trail heads south across the Mt Washington lawn.
The Lawn Cutoff Trail heads south across the Mt Washington lawn.

Lawn Cutoff

Turn left onto the Lawn Cutoff Trail which runs south along the top of the Tuckerman Ravine Headwall and Mt Washington south lawn. The trail is marked by cairns. This trail is often quite windy, so you’ll want to hold onto your hat!

Turn left onto the Davis Path
Turn left onto the Davis Path

Davis Path

Turn left again onto the Davis Path and follow it a short distance to the top of Boott Spur Mountain, which is unsigned. The trail gets very rocky once again and continues that way onto the Boott Spur Trail

Boott Spur Trail

Follow the cairns on the Boott Spur Trail as they descend over the summit and head east. Take your time on the descent, to take in the views, and pick your way carefully down the rocky trail. The Boott Spur Trail is one of my favorite trails in the White because its quite picturesque and seldom crowded.

The Boott Spur Trail runs down the south wall of Tuckerman Ravine
The Boott Spur Trail runs down the south wall of Tuckerman Ravine

The Boott Spur Link Trail is a very steep trail that drops 850 feet in 0.6 miles down to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine. The first half of the trail has fantastic views into Tuckerman Ravine. This section of the trail descends a steep mix of open ledge and gravel, so don’t be afraid of sliding down some of the harder sections on your butt.

Boott Spur Link Trail

The top of the Boot Spur Link Trail has a fine view of Tuckerman Ravine
The top of the Boot Spur Link Trail has a fine view of Tuckerman Ravine

Once you drop below the treeline, the trail narrows and is choked with boulders. Careful deliberate downclimbing is required but the level of effort required is more moderate because you’re descending.

The Boot Spur Link Trail narrows below treeline and becomes a rocky scramble
The Boot Spur Link Trail narrows below treeline and becomes a rocky scramble

When you get to the bottom of the trail, continue straight, over a bridge, to join the Tuckerman Ravine Trail.

Tuckerman Ravine Trail

The Avalanche Ranger’s Hut at the base of Tuckerman Ravine – Hojo’s

If you’d like to take a rest, you can also turn left and continue to the large porch area next to the Avalanche Rangers Hut at the bottom of Tuckerman Ravine, which is known as “HoJo’s”, after the Howard Johnson’s, restaurant and hotel chain.  If you’re in need of water, there is a hand-operated pump just up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Hojo’s that you can refill your bottles from.

Otherwise, turn right onto the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and begin the walk back to the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center where you began the hike. It can be a slog at the end of a long, inspiring day above treeline. But it’s worth it!

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

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About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. In addition, Philip volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.

9 comments

  1. Nice hike Phil. It never occurred to me to go out Boot Spur instead of Lion’s Head.

  2. Does the Boot Spur trail link up with the Applichian Trail at any point?

  3. I hiked down this trail as a teen in the 1960’s. you and guide books are correct
    Only hike up it

    • There are warning signs at the top and bottom of this trail…one of the few places where they are posted in the Whites, yet some people still hike down the thing.

      • You should know some people are quite capable of descending Huntington Ravine trail in a non-crazy and responsible manner… I routinely “run” down that trail to access some of the amazing rock climbing that is in that ravine after parking a car above Alpine Gardens… just sayin’ not everyone you see running down that trail are “crazy”… that said I totally get your warning to the “masses” as this trail sees more needless “rescues” than almost any other as people get in over their heads… I just dislike the generalization that everyone hiking down HRT is “irresponsible”… every rescue ever on that trail is from people going up… not down

      • Let it be understood that David Lottman is one of the most experienced mountain guides and climbing instructors in the White Mountains. When you have his experience, you’d probably be capable of hiking down the Huntington Ravine Trail without requiring a rescue.

  4. I like the reference to Hojo’s. My father got me to climb to Tuck’s at age 5 (1960) by saying we were going to Hojo’s – me thinking of the Wednesday Fish Fry special. Apparently in the 1950s, someone ran a snack bar with hot dogs and hamburgers there leading to the name. I also have a picture of my mother in tears on the front steps having carried her skis up.

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