Mt. Washington is one of the most heavily visited areas in the Northeast, and also one of the most fragile. Please take the time to understand the special camping regulations in this area. Not only will it make your stay more pleasant, it will help preserve the area for future visitors. In the Cutler River Drainage, you may only camp in one of two places: Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin (open Dec 1 – March 31). All other camping is prohibited.
Alpine Zone (Above Treeline)
Though camping is allowed in most of the alpine zone if on greater than two feet of snow, there is no camping allowed in the alpine zone of the Cutler River Drainage including in the ravines, the Alpine Garden, and the summit cone. Even above treeline and on snow, camping is prohibited in the Cutler River Drainage year-round. Yes, this means you may not camp in a snowcave at the top of the Lip or bivy in Odell Gully.
- Camping in the parking lot of Pinkham is prohibited, as is camping on the National Forest within ¼ mile of Rt. 16 from Gorham to Glen.
- Campfires are prohibited in all areas of the Cutler River Drainage.
- Violating the Cutler River Drainage Forest Protection restrictions is punishable by fine pursuant to 16 USC 551. The area is patrolled frequently.
Hermit Lake Shelters
There are 8 lean-to style shelters and 3 tent platforms administered by the AMC under a special use permit with the U.S. Forest Service. A fee of $15 per person per night is charged. Reservations are not accepted; if you plan to stay in a shelter or on a tent platform, purchase a ticket from the front desk of the AMC visitor center before you head up to Hermit Lake. If you come from a place other than Pinkham Notch, you can purchase a ticket from the caretaker. The shelters are open year round and are available on a first come, first served basis. The caretaker frequently works a split shift, working in the morning and evening with the daytime free. If he or she is not there when you arrive, find a shelter or tent platform, settle in, and the caretaker will find you when he or she returns.
The shelter site has a hand-pump well for potable water, as well as a running stream where water can be obtained in the event the well is not functioning properly. Please disinfect stream water before drinking, and do not wash dishes or yourself in the stream. The shelter site also has bathroom facilities. In the winter and spring there are 4 outhouses, while summer and fall visitors have access to flushing toilets. Weather information is posted daily by the caretaker throughout the year. Avalanche and other safety information is posted during the winter and spring months. The caretakers also operate a small store that is open only when they are at their cabin (usually evenings and mornings only, but sometimes open all day.) Please note there is no heated indoor space at Hermit Lake Shelters. Plan appropriately and bring extra dry layers to stay warm!
While the facilities at Hermit Lake can accommodate up to 100 people, reservation are not accepted and it is common for the spaces to fill early on busy weekends. When the shelters are full, there are no other camping options in the area. If you arrive at Hermit Lake without a ticket and the shelters are full, you will have to go back down to Pinkham Notch and find another legal camping option, such as the USFS campground at Barnes Field. During busy times, advanced trip planning will be critical. Pets are not permitted overnight at the shelters. For more information contact AMC at (603) 466-2721 or the USFS Androscoggin Ranger Station at (603) 466-2713.
This cabin is administered by the Harvard Mountaineering Club under a special use permit with the US Forest Service. The cabin is open from December 1 to March 31 only. The cost is $10 per person per night for a tent site and $15 per person per night inside the cabin. The cabin caretaker collects the fee. Similar to Hermit Lake, the caretaker may not be in when you arrive. He or she will return in the evening to do check ins and collect fees. Visitors intending on staying at the Harvard Cabin should register by signing into the logbook in the basement level of the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. This allows other users and the caretaker to know how many people to expect. Sign-up is on a first come, first served basis, and capacity is limited to 15 inside and 12 tents outside. Pets are not permitted inside the cabin.
Barnes Field is a year-round USFS campground located off NH Route 16 a few miles south of Gorham NH (7 miles north of Pinkham). Amenities in the winter are few, bring your own water and wood for a campfire. There is an outhouse open all year.