Snowshoeing the Raymond Path on Mt Washington’s Eastern Flank
The Raymond Path runs along the eastern flank of Mt Washington linking the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, the Huntington Ravine Trail, and the Old Jackson Rd. It’s a very pretty trail with a few challenging water crossings, but easily missed, since it’s surrounded by so many famous and challenging landmarks and trails.
Hiking on the Raymond Path makes a great loop hike or snowshoe in winter, particularly on days when the winds or cold on the summit of Mt Washington are too extreme. Starting at Pinkham Lodge, the loop involves hiking the:
- Tuckerman Ravine Trail for 2.1 miles with 1650 ft of elevation gain
- Raymond Path Trail for 2.4 miles with 50 ft of elevation gain
- Old Jackson Trail for 1.7 miles with 50 ft of elevation gain.
On this route, you get the serious climbing out-of-the-way up front, and it’s more or less down hill from there.
My friend Rick and I hiked and snowshoed this loop on a very cold winter morning, when the temperature on the summit of Mt Washington was forecast to be 15 below zero, with a negative 50 degree windchill, and winds between 50-70 mph, with gusts up to 80 mph. In other words, not a good day for a summit attempt.
We met at the ready room in Pinkham Lodge, a basement room where hikers and skiers assemble at the beginning of trips up to Mt Washington or its adjacent ravines: Tuckerman Ravine, Huntington Ravine, and the Gulf of Slides. The last time I’d hiked with Rick has been in 2010 on a winter ascent of Mt Flume, so we did some catching up.
We started our hike wearing microspikes and headed up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, passing the avalanche forecast kiosk which said that the days avalanche risk was low in all the ravines. I hadn’t hiked up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail in some time and I’d forgotten how downright steep it is, even lower down the mountain. The trail was packed out with a shallow dusting of snow. The air was cold and very dry, but we were soon sweating as we climbed uphill. We layered off, then back on again when we got close to the Lion’s Head winter trail junction and the wind picked up.
When we arrived at the start of the Raymond Path, a short distance further along, we ran into two hikers coming down from Washington after turning around because of the weather. They were wearing full mountaineering regalia including plastic boots, full crampons, balaclavas, heavy mitts, but had decided that it was simply too cold to attempt the summit and were hiking out. It pays to be conservative on Mt Washington in winter.
Rick and I put on our snowshoes and headed down the Raymond Path, which looked unbroken. Lucky for us, there was an inch or two of powder over a heavy crust which could hold us, so we made good time. That is until we reached the first of several hazardous water crossings. We bushwhacked around for a while trying to find a good crossing point, but gave up and took the winter bypass down the fire road that leads to Harvard (Mountaineering Club) Cabin at the base of Huntington Ravine.
Harvard Cabin is a primitive cabin, only open in winter, that provides basic lodging and nearby campsites. The last time I’d been there was in 2008, but this was Rick’s first visit, so we checked it out. The cabin is open between December 1st and April 1st each year of operation and is maintained by a caretaker who is present most nights. Cost is $15/person/night to stay inside, with max occupancy of 16. Campsites accommodating up to 10 campers are available nearby for $10/person/night. For more information.
We followed the fire road past the cabin for a short distance, before hiking down the Huntington Ravine Trail to get back on the Raymond Path on the other side of the stream crossings. From that point on, we snowshoed northeast along the trail, again on hard crust with some powdery spots. The trail sidehills, which was a bit uncomfortable wearing snowshoes, but the forest is beautiful to walk through, with open glades and impressive, though obstructed views of Tuckerman Ravine and the Wildcat Range through the trees.
We made good time and came to the Old Jackson Road which we followed back to Pinkham Lodge. It’s not really a road anymore and we had to break out parts of it on the way out, but it’s an interesting route in winter because it crosses so many backcountry ski trails worth exploring at some later day.
Though seldom hiked, the Raymond Path makes a very attractive snowshoe loop. It took us a casual 4 hours to hike and snowshoe the 6.2 mile route, an adventure well worth the journey.