Mt. Washington – The Cog Railway and A Bucket List!

We receive hundreds of calls a year from potential guests asking what there is to do in the Bethlehem area so they can plan on how long to stay at our NH B&B.  So I’m determined to blog more and help guests experience all of the adventures within a short drive of Bear Mountain Lodge.  With so much to do, I thought I’d have a hard time picking my first experience to share but that only lasted a minute — of course I had to pick The Cog Railway since it’s our favorite as well as the top pick for guests in summer and foliage seasons.

My fascination with Mt. Washington started when I was a little kid in the mid-70s!   One summer our family decided to take the van up the Auto Road and I can say that we were totally unprepared for what we experienced.  Down below it may have been in the 80s, but at the summit it was in the 30s and windy.  By the time we came out of the observatory, it had started snowing and was a total whiteout.  I have distinct memories of everyone on the van holding hands making a chain of people as our guide got us back to the van for the nail biting ride back below the summit.  Back in 1998 just before Michael and I got married, we recreated that trip but drove Michael’s pickup up instead of taking the van.  It again was sunny at the bottom but windy up top.  That’s the way Mt. Washington rolls – she tricks you!  While he enjoyed it, he had to concentrate so hard on the road that he didn’t get to see it all.  So we figured someday we’d ride The Cog and he could relax and take it all in.

Mt. Washington Facts:  At 6,288 ft. Mt. Washington is the highest point in the Northeast and the observatory at the top is a cool place to learn about Mt. Washington’s incredible weather.  The highest recorded wind was 231 miles per hour recorded back in April 1934, which remains to this day the world record for land-based weather stations.   Knowing how crazy the weather can be up there, we always warn our guests to bring along a coat even when it’s in the 80s and 90s here just 20 minutes away.  That’s because the average temp on the summit is 26.5 degrees and the average windspeed is 35.3 mph.  Most guests realize we probably know what we’re talking about and bring a coat or sweatshirt.  Those who don’t often return with a warm new souvenir from the top!

So once we moved to Bethlehem and opened Bear Mountain Lodge, we of course had to ride The Cog.  After all, our great room looks directly at Mt. Washington and our guests have been enjoying the trip since the B&B opened back in 2005.  On our first trip up Michael basically rode the train standing the entire time … the photo above shows the observatory in the background as we’re approaching the summit!

If you’re still reading you probably wonder how this all relates to a bucket list … after living here for almost a decade, Michael’s Mom Tomi casually mentioned that riding The Cog Railway was on her bucket list.  We looked at each other and thought you’ve got to be kidding us, you never mentioned it and we live right here.  So last year we waited until we saw the weather was going to be perfect and had her drive over.  One of us typically has to “man the Lodge” so I volunteered to stay back and Michael and the kids took her to fulfill that bucket list item.  What a day they all had.

So if you want to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip up to the summit of Mt. Washington, my recommendation is to take The Cog.  The views are incredible, the history of the train is fascinating and on a clear day you can see all the way to New York and Maine!  And you’ll have the memories of the ride to share and last a lifetime.