It's the highest mountain in northeastern North America: 6,288-foot Mount Washington. Native Americans called it "Agiocochook" and didn't climb it, believing that its summit was the home of the Great Spirit. Giovanni da Verrazano was the first European to see it, from the waters off New Hampshire's seacoast, in 1524. Darby Field was the first European settler to climb it, in 1642.
Today its summit, a State Park, is visited by over a quarter of a million people from all over the world each year. From there, on a clear day, it's often possible to see into five states - New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York - even into Canada.
Early settlers Abel Crawford and his son, Ethan Allen Crawford, built the first footpath to the summit in 1819; today it is the oldest continuously maintained footpath in the US. Ethan Allen Crawford later improved the path, making it a bridle path for horses, and completing the work in 1840.
In 1861, when the Mount Washington Auto Road opened as a carriage road, it was considered the nation's first man-made tourist attractions.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world's first rack and pinion railroad, was completed eight years later. When the railway's builder, Sylvester Marsh, first petitioned the New Hampshire Legislature for the right to build the railway, they were so skeptical of the project's feasibility that they granted him the right to build "the railway to the moon."
Mount Washington is justly famed for its weather extremes. The highest surface wind spreed ever observed by man - 231 miles per hour, was recorded there on April 12, 1934 by the Mount Washington Observatory. Founded in 1932, the non-profit Mount Washington Observatory continues its weather monitoring and research to this day.
Be sure to visit the Mount Washington Museum, a human and natural history museum located on the summit and operated by the Mount Washington Observatory. You can also learn about the mountain at the Observatory's Weather Discovery Center in North Conway or online at www.mountwashington.org.
The highest ever recorded on the summit was 72°F, the lowest, a frigid -47°F--and that's without factoring in the wind chill! Summer visitors find the summit a welcome retreat from the warmer temperatures below; in July the temperature averages 49°F. In fall a trip up the mountain offers spectacular views of the foliage. Whenever you visit the summit, be sure to bring extra clothing - and your binoculars and camera, too.