Lake of the Clouds Hut is one of 8 High Huts located in the White Mountains of NH. It is perched in the col of Mount Washington (6288 feet) and Mount Monroe (5384 feet) at an elevation of just over 5000 feet. It has the distinction of being the busiest, highest and largest of the huts. It has 90 bunks which are separated into several bunk rooms, and can sleep another 6 in the basement, otherwise known as “The Dungeon”. A “croo” of 8 will cook, entertain, and educate you during your stay. The hut season at Lake of the Clouds is from June to mid-September and reservations are a must.
The location of Lake of the Clouds Hut originally housed a 6-person emergency shelter which was built after 2 AMC leaders perished in a mid-summer snowstorm on their way up Mount Washington in 1900. By 1915, the decision was made to construct a 36 bed hut due to the popularity of hikers using the emergency shelter for enjoyment purposes. Clarence E. Buzzell built the hut over the course of the summer of 1915 for the cost of just over $3500. Supplies were brought to the summit of Mount Washington via the Cog Railway, then packed to the building site. Lake of the Clouds Hut officially opened on August 7th, 1915 and was the third hut to open in the White Mountains
A Night to Remember
Spending the night at Lake of the Clouds Hut has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. The stars aligned, and a friend and I booked reservations for mid-September. The weather forecast looked fantastic and we were both looking forward to hiking and catching up!
Magda and I drove separate cars and met at the Mount Clinton Road parking lot off Route 302. We left my car here and drove to the Base Road Parking lot and Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead. Our plan was to hike to Lake of the Clouds Hut the first night, then traverse over Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower and Pierce on Day #2. This would would take us back to where my car was parked on Mount Clinton Road.
The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is the shortest and most direct route to Lake of the Clouds Hut (3.1 miles to hut). The first mile is fairly mellow but don’t let that fool you! After reaching Gem Pool, the uphill staircases and scrambles begin. Several outlooks, cascading brooks and waterfalls make this trail one of the most beautiful trails I have hiked in the White Mountains. We took frequent snack breaks and enjoyed talking with other hikers on the trail while taking plenty of pictures and just enjoying each others company.
We reached Lake of the Clouds Hut in the late afternoon and were assigned to our bunk room. The bunks are stacked 3-4 high and are a first come first serve. Wool blankets, mattress and a pillow are provided. Earplugs and a headlamp are a must! We laid out our sleeping bags, hung our backpacks and ditched the hiking boots. Dinner wouldn’t be served for a bit, so we explored outside and spent time relaxing in the large common room. A small library of books and games are kept at the hut and several guests were enjoying themselves reading and playing games.
After a short skit by the croo, dinner was served at 6pm. The croo prepares the meal and serves it up family style. Our meal that night was a delicious Mac&Cheese with a salad, veggie, fresh bread and a homemade brownie for dessert. Anyone with dietary restrictions were offered a gluten/dairy free alternative. The guests that night enjoyed dinner and a spectacular sunset. The sky was clear, the colors amazing and a crowd of hikers sat on rocks soaking in the beauty and watching the sunset.
Conversation, reading and games ensued after sunset. If you are looking to meet people and engage in interesting discussion, look no further. We met a woman who travelled the country solo in an RV and had just spent the summer traveling to Labrador, Nova Scotia and PEI. We had an animated conversation with a gentleman who was celebrating a landmark birthday and decided to hike a multi-day Presidential Traverse and stay at an AMC hut each night. We took the opportunity to just relax and enjoy spending time with new friends.
Quiet hours are 9:30pm-6:30am. There were no complaints as everyone was tired from a long day of hiking. The next morning, we were serenaded awake by the strumming of a guitar and a song. A first for me and it was by far my favorite experience of being woken up. There were a few moments before breakfast and I was able to head outside and perch on a rock to watch the first rays of sunlight hit the summit of Mount Washington. It was the perfect place to bask in natures beauty and silently express gratitude to the universe. Keeping with tradition, breakfast at the hut is served family-style as well. Coffee, tea, pancakes, bacon, eggs, coffee cake and oatmeal were served by the croo. Delicious and a great way to start the day.
Magda and I packed up and started on our traverse over Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower and Pierce via the Crawford Path and side trails to hit the summits. The weather gods were on our side. Views and conditions were spectacular. Our laugh out loud moment occurred as we were just about finished our traverse. I realized I had left my keys in Magdas car at her suggestion that I wouldn’t “lose them during our hike.” And we needed those keys to drive back to Magdas parked car at the Mount Clinton Road parking lot. Oops. We had a good laugh and were able to talk a nice couple into driving us to her car. Back at the car, we sat on the tailgate and reminisced about our hike and committed to a High Hut experience next year.
Staying at an AMC High Hut is an unforgettable experience. It is a great first overnight experience in the White Mountains or a great way to break up a multi-day hike. A hot supper and breakfast, a warm bed, running potable water, a bathroom, and the opportunity to meet amazing people is offered with every hut experience.
Have you stayed at one of the AMC High Huts? We would love to hear about your experience!