The Cog Railway chugs along above treeline. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
The Cog Railway chugs along above treeline. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns

The owners of the Mount Washington’s Cog Railway unveiled plans this week to build a “high-end” 35-room hotel two-thirds of the way up the mountain’s slopes and about one mile below the summit.

According to the Railway, the hotel would be privately funded and built entirely on Railway-owned land. The building would be a maximum 99 feet wide, sitting in the Railway’s narrow corridor. One potential plan involves it sitting overtop of the tracks, with an archway for trains to pass underneath. Under the proposal, the company would also build a sewer line down the mountain to a septic system at the Cog Railway’s base. It would also create 20 new jobs and utilize local contractors for the construction.

Hotels are not a new phenomenon on Mount Washington. The facility would be the successor to the Summit House Hotel, which was owned by the Railway for the majority of it’s existence. In 1852 it began welcoming guests to it’s 91 rooms, directly on the summit in the location where the Sherman Adams Building stands today. It was sold to the state in 1951 and subsequently torn down. Today, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut, between Mount Washington and Mount Monroe, is the only public boarding facility near the summit.

The Cog Railway tracks climbing toward the summit. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
The Cog Railway tracks climbing toward the summit. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns

During a busy summer day, more than 5,000 people make their way to the top of Mount Washington, either by the Cog Railway, by the auto road, or by hiking. Railway owners believe more would like the opportunity to spend the night.

However, by noon Friday, only four hours after its creation, a petition to fight the plan had already gathered more than 350 signatures. It called for greater consideration of the fragile alpine environment and raised issues related to increasing the number of people on the already crowded summit, as well as the dangers associated with such a volatile mountain.

“We need to keep our mountains sacred and building a hotel at the summit is just going to increase vandalism, trash, and significantly increase the environmental impact on our beloved white mountains,” said one signee. “These mountains do NOT need to be commercialized for profit!!!! The mountains have suffered major environmental impact by people not understanding (or caring) about the LNT rules.”

“I am signing because I love the natural beauty of the White Mountains. Washington is the biggest and proudest of the Presidential mountains, and it would break my heart to see the natural beauty compromised for a hotel. There just so happens to already be a hotel at the base of the mountain,” wrote another.

The Coos County Planning Board will hear the proposal on December 8.

What are your thoughts on building a hotel on Mount Washington? Leave a comment!

Ryan Wichelns

Ryan was goEast's only editor from its launch in 2016 until 2023. Now, he's the founding editor of Trails Magazine, the only print publication for backpackers and people who sleep in the dirt. When he's not wordsmithing, he's skiing, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, and more in Colorado's San Juan Mountains and beyond.

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