Each year, during Laconia Bike Week, the Mount Washington Auto Road opens for motorcycles only for two full days. This year those dates are June 11 and June 14. For $17 (plus $9 for adult passengers or $7 for kids) motorcyclists can experience a thrilling ascent and descent of the mountain following the narrow, winding, mostly-paved road to the summit. Once you reach the top, there’s not much on the East coast that can compare with the views. The Conway area has lots of great places to eat, Laconia Bike Week is a short ride away, and route 16 North from the mountain is an epic ride in its own right.
The road itself starts out a little bumpy, but smooths out quickly. It’s steep, tight, and winding for most of it’s 7.6 miles. There are no center lines for much of the way, so make sure to stay on your side…especially around corners. When you break through the tree line, riding even at the relatively low, speed limit takes on a surreal perspective…like you’re riding (or flying) through the clouds. It can be intimidating, especially for novice riders. There’s also a large segment of dirt road that can be tricky during the descent, so take your time. There are lots of places with no shoulders or run-offs and that first step can be a doozy!
Weather can be unpredictable on top of the mountain. It’s best to be prepared for cold-weather riding, even if it’s 70-80 degrees at the base. On the last trip, it was 82 at the base gate and around 42 at the summit. We could see our breath! Thankfully, the wind speed was low this trip, but if the wind picks up it can get downright frigid. There is a visitor center with food and drinks up top, so you can go inside to warm up and refuel.
Finally, parking at the summit is also tricky for motorcycles. All of the lots are covered with loose stone. It can be tricky to navigate and trouble if you’re trying to brake quickly. Most bikes can use their kickstands to park, but it’s better to use a parking pad if you have one. Do yourself another favor and make sure you park in an uphill direction, so you can back your bike up without a Herculean effort. With loose footing, quite a few heavy bikes get dropped doing it the other way.
Even with a few challenges, “Ride to the Sky” is an annual favorite and worth the trip.