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Great Hikes: A Presidential Traverse

Mount Madison (foreground), Adams and Jefferson
Mount Madison (foreground), Adams and Jefferson

One of the great hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is called a Presidential Traverse. It’s so-called because hikers climb all of the mountains in the  Presidential Range of the White Mountains in one continuous hike that’s nearly 23 miles long with close to 9,000 feet of elevation gain.

Presidential Traverse

Presidential Traverses are usually hiked from north to south, climbing the following sequence of peaks, in order to get the greatest elevation gains over with early on, with hikers starting before dawn and often hiking into the night.

  1. Mt Madison – 5367 feet
  2. Mt Adams – 5774 feet
  3. Mt Jefferson – 5712 feet
  4. Mt Clay – 5533 feet
  5. Mt Washington – 6288 feet
  6. Mt Monroe – 5384 feet
  7. Mt Franklin – 5001 feet
  8. Mt Eisenhower – 4780 feet
  9. Mt Pierce – 4310 feet
  10. Mt Jackson – 4052 feet

While most presidential traverses are done in 3 season conditions during the course of a very long day,  it’s also possible to do a traverse over the course of 2 or 3 days. This can be desirable, particularly in winter, when it’s harder to resupply water because you have to melt snow, and none of the huts along the route are open for shelter.

Regardless of the season, a Presidential Traverse is not a hike to take on lightly. Beside being physically strenuous, bad weather, including snow, lightning, hail, and whiteout conditions are a constant threat and one of the main reasons for bailing out part way through. This hike is also almost entirely above treeline (resembling a moonscape), so good compass and map skills are a must.

Mt Washington and the Southern Presidentials (right)
Mt Washington and the Southern Presidentials (right)

Hikers normally climb the first peak of the traverse, Mt Madison, via the Valley Way Trail, which is the ‘easiest’ ascent up to the Northern Presidential Ridge, often stopping at the Madison AMC hut to get fresh water and to check the morning weather forecast. This stretch is the toughest continuous climb of the day, gaining over 4,000 feet in 3.8 miles.

After climbing Madison, hikers head south along the Gulfside Trail to Adams and Jefferson. These peaks border a deep valley called The Great Gulf which is bounded by Mounts Clay and Washington to the west and south. After summitting Jefferson, hikers cross a grassy area on Jefferson’s southern shoulder called Monticello Lawn, where there is an enormous temptation to lie on one’s back in the grass and watch the clouds fly by.

Mt Washington, Tarns, and Lake of the Clouds Hut
Mt Washington, Tarns, and Lake of the Clouds Hut

Passing Clay (and the popular Jewell Trail bail out route), climbers scale the Mt Washington, the highest peak in the White Mountains which has a world-wide reputation for appallingly bad weather. This is caused in large part by the jet stream, which drops out of the atmosphere onto the top of the mountain, resulting in high winds and cloud, year-round.

Mt Washington has a snack bar at the summit which is open in spring, summer and fall, making it possible to grab a bite to eat and refill one’s water containers. There’s also an auto road and train that runs to the top, making it a busy tourist attraction (and place to avoid), most of the year. Still this can be a good place to bail or resupply if you have friends willing to make the very expensive journey to the top.

Mount Monroe
Mount Monroe

After Washington, there is very little ascent left to the trip, but the views along the southern Presidential range are too good to pass up. Leaving Washington, hikers descend by the Crawford Path, the oldest continuously maintained footpath in the United States, passing through a large boulder field to the Lake of the Clouds Hut, where water is also available.

Mount Monroe is just past the hut, with great views into deep Oakes Gulf and the Dry River Wilderness along its eastern flank. Once past Monroe, the miles fly by past Mount Franklin, Eisenhower, Pierce and Jackson. Having good weather or pouncing on it when it arrives is obviously the key to a successful traverse and spectacular views.

Southern Presidentials
Southern Presidentials

A Presidential Traverse is one of the great hikes in the White Mountains, but there are many more as well, which I’ll cover in future posts.

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122 comments

  1. Ahh, this was the one I was attempting when I met you at The Perch back in June 2011. No shame in admitting I failed to make it to my car at Crawford Notch due to dehydration, and I was forced to bail on the Ammo Trail and hitch a ride back. But for the first two days, the views were incredible! (I stopped caring so much about the scenery once the dehydration started taking its toll)

    In hindsight, I clearly underestimated just how strenuous of a hike it was. I’ve since gone over this many times in my head, practiced on other hikes what I messed up on during this hike, and I am really looking forward to giving this another go a few months from now.

    • No shame in “failure.” I do it all the time. If you can learn from your mistakes and not kill yourself or others in the process, it does make you a better hiker!

  2. Terrific post. Wonderful pictures. I’ve done the traverse several times but never in one day.

    • I probably should have mentioned that the entire route is on the Appalachian Trail. As you can imagine this route makes a tremendous section hike! Doesn’t matter if you do it in one day or many. There’s good camping on the north face of Adams and Jefferson and below Mt Pierce which argues for stretching it out if the weather cooperates.

      • Think I will attempt a two day before I try a one day. No need to dissappoint myself and I’m totally unfamiliar with the Presis. Seems like most people underestimate them, especially in winter.

        Phil what would you recommend for camping/shelters for a southbound two day? Preferably a not so busy one.

      • Crag Camp or The Perch on Mt Adams/Jefferson and
        Naumann Camp Site at Mitzvah Hut below Mt Pierce
        My advice is to do it on weekdays.

      • Thanks for your great post. A question: you note that ‘good map and compass skills are a must’; however, in my experience the AT is very well marked. Is that not the case here? (I have reasonably good map and compass skills, but a well-marked trail is also appreciated.)

      • The AT is not well marked in New Hampshire, particularly above treeline. Its a common complaint by Thru-hikers who are forced to buy maps or write down the trail names when traversing the state. (Too bad – you’re supposed to be expert hikers…:-)

  3. I love Mitzvah Hut. Mazel tov!

    I think the Randolph shelters, Crag Camp & Perch, come too early on this walk for an overnight stay. Lakes of the Cloud can be good, though, if you don’t mind the huts..

    • It depends on your pace. Provided one had decent weather, one can start up Valley Way at a more reasonable hour and climb Madison, Adams, and Jefferson before looping back to the Perch or Crag Camp. That’s still a good day and costs about $85 less t0 spend the night than at Lakes. If you get an early start the next day, you can pretty much blow through the rest of the hike or amble down to Mitzvah.

  4. This is a great hike — hiking from Crag Camp, Grey Knob, or the Perch to Naumann is good solid day. Start early, and you’ll likely have the trails to yourself until you hit Washington. Of course, it’s easy to get distracted people-watching on the summit of Washington…

  5. My Presi Traverse wiil include the Mt. Webster and the Webster Cliff Trail.

  6. Great post and great pictures!

    I’m hoping to do a Presi Traverse this summer. Any suggestions on training for it? Gear/supplies for it? I’ve done a bunch of shorter hikes in the WM so I’m familiar with the terrain, but the distance–particularly the distance above treeline–is new for me.

    • Good rain gear & Sun hat, sun block, polarized glasses, and SPF 50 shirt if you get a sunny day.

      I’ve never had anything to train for before so this Traverse is really motivating me. I’m doing lots of mountain biking and lighter weight 130-150 lb high rep leg presses mixing in calf presses and jumping lots of rope. Also doing a 21 mile one day Wapack Trail trip to test my legs out on higher mileage days.

      Also looks like you can go really lightweight on food and lighter than normal on water mixing in stops at the huts.

      • Would highly recommend squats with a barbell and hill sprints to get legs and conditioning…leg presses I would ditch…

    • The best way to prepare is to get above treeline experience by doing a lot of smaller above treeline hikes with people who know the ropes. Climb Mt Washington, Monroe, Madison, Adams and Jefferson, Franconia Ridge, and the Bonds. Know you’re presi escape routes and don’t assume that you’re going to have good weather or finish. Gear-wise, a wind shirt is good if you don’t already have one.

      The joy of training for the hike is almost as good as the experience itself!

  7. I like what I see here. It has to be done. Long day indeed. Two good days would make it more enjoyable.

    • I was figuring 2 days too. There are some fantastic camp sites on the north side of Adams and Jefferson that we should stop at and we can hike in the ravines after we summit. The northern presidentials are really grand – but there’s a lot more a few days on.

  8. Hi Phil,

    I was looking at doing this hike north to south in a few weeks as a 3 day two night trip. I was originally thinking of camping the first night at Perch and the second night at Nauman. But these are designated tent platform sites. I would like to hammock camp on this trip. Do you think that would be feasible? Might you be able to suggest 2 stopping points/areas on the hike that would make sense for hammock camping?

    Any info appreciated ;)

    • That’s where the water is. There’s no reason why you can’t hammock at those 2 locations. Other than those, you need to drop a lot of elevation. WMNF rules are no camping above treeline (even in a hammock) and at least 200 feet off trails and away from water. Look at your map, but be prepared to look for a long time. There aren’t very many good spots to stealth on steep slopes, hammock or not..

      • thank you very much for such a quick reply. If I can hammock at those spots, great!!! I guess my only concern was finding trees, etc to hang at Perch and Nauman. I wasn’t sure how the sites are set up, if I would be hanging over a platform – which I don’t mind…or if I would just need to go off to the side a bit and if there would an opportunity to do that.

        I just don’t want to get somewhere after a long day and realize I have “problems.”

  9. The main problem you will have is on weekends, as these sites are all first come first serve. You might also consider the Valley Way tent site on Madison, The Log Cabin (area) on Adams, and hiking out at Pierce instead of camping if Nauman is full. Given that you have a hammock though, I’m sure the caretakers will be flexible.

    • thanks – I plan on camping at these sites on a Thursday and Friday night – so hopefully I will be ok.

      Thanks again ;)

      • Neil, how did those sites work out for you? I am planning a similar trip and I’m considering going the hammock route.

        Thanks,

      • unfortunately, when i went i had to change plans due to very bad weather – i wound up doing some day hikes instead (franconia ridge loop and zealand falls/hale loop) I later went back and did monroe and washington via ammanoosuc ravine trail and jewell trail as a loop – i plan on trying the traverse as a 2 or 3 day deal sometime this year – sorry i could not help more

  10. AT does not coincide exactly as shown. Valley Way is not on the AT, nor is the route from Jackson to Crawford Notch. The route from Jackson is over MT. Webster and Webster Cliff, both with impressive views.

    • What makes you think I disagree? The AT also doesn’t climb Eisenhower, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Pierce or Jackson. Hard to believe that anyone would bypass thise summits but thru-hikers do it all the time.

  11. I did the traverse in a leisurely 4 days last summer while traveling with 4 kids ranging in age from 9 to 12. It was absolutely majestic and unforgettable. (Though the hike from Lakes to Madison kicked my butt.) Can’t say I have it in me to try the presi traverse in one day (yet) but am hoping to do the Franconia loop in one day later this summer. Working my way up!

    • Im planning a trip on the AT with my 15 year old son next early summer. We are from Florida. We have done short hikes in North Carolina (1/2 day trips), but we are wanting to do a one week trip. I’ve never been to the White Mountains and was thinking this would be a perfect one week trip.
      Any suggestions?

    • Looking to hike with my wife and 9yr old boy from Mt. Washington, down to The Lake of the Clouds (break) and then take the Crawford Path down over to Mizpah Hut (I believe 4.8mi). Stay at Mizpah overnight and then descend from 4000′ the rest of the C.P. down to the center. (Maybe another 3-4mi). Thoughts?

      • Limmer- did you do this hike? If so how did it go?

      • Not as of yet, but would be looking to do it in July. Headed up to Maine by way of the Whites this week for a golf tourney, so it throws the schedule off some. Good luck if you go and let me know how you make out.

      • Hi Kyle- thanks for the reply. I am doing the Presidential solo next week over the course of a few days. Taking Crawford to Mizpah, then LOTC, then Madison. Hut to hut is for me as I am no longer interested in the one day traverse attempts. I cannot wait and will let you know how it is. I am going to write down some time estimates and such to track them and get back to this thread. Weather is already looking ehhh but I am prepared for the worst right down to a hat and gloves. Cant wait to get out there!

      • Great stuff, Meg.
        Let me know how the stretch from Crawford > Mizpah goes (if you’re starting at Lake of the Clouds) and also, if you’re heading over the peaks, or around them. Good luck – stay safe & dry.

      • I will be doing it in reverse actually on the way up but will certainly let you know

      • Hi, Meg,
        I plan on doing the same hike–Crawford Path to Mitzpah to LOTC–but then to Washington summit. I am wondering how Crawford Path was between Mitzpah and LOTC–what was the difficulty? If it wasn’t too strenous, I may do the 7 miles of Crawford Path to LOTC in one day.
        Thanks so much

  12. is it really true that most traverses are done in a day? i would have guested based on the 23 miles and difficulty of terrain along with the access to camping/huts a one day traverse was the exception not the rule.

    • Depends on who you are. Most locals hike it in a day durng June/July when there is a ton of daylight. Most non-locals stay at the AMC huts along the way ($95 night – sleep with 36 other snoring people in a room – can’t get a refund if the weather is bad). As for camping – there is none allowed above treeline, which is why people stay at the huts.

  13. thanks for your reply. i did meet a couple of 23 milers on jefferson during my attempt. they had started at midnight!

    i am one of those non locals,,,, stayed at crag camp a couple of nights waiting on weather but unfortunately did not do more than madison adams and jefferson.

    i had forgotten there are no tent platroms above treeline. this is a great discussion group. thansk again. ,.tim

    • If you know about Crag Camp you must be ok. :-)
      Most of the people who stay in the AMC huts would turn their noses up at an RMC hut like Crag Camp where you have to fetch your own water, use an outhouse, or cook your own food, even if the views of King Ravine are priceless, it only costs $13/night, and you can bring a dog. The problem with Crag camp is that it’s only about 5 miles into a full traverse – same with the camp sites at Mitzpah hut. Rather than camp, you might as well walk the whole thing in a day, provided you get the weather.

  14. I just got back to Texas from a trip up there and had planned a Presi Traverse, however, the weather didn’t allow that. I day hiked Franconia Ridge, which was awesome. The difficulty of the Falling Waters trail took me a bit by surprise. It didn’t kick my butt… but it sure laid some footprints on my quads! I’d heard New England trails are rocky, but to describe them as just “rocky” is like saying Elvis could sing a little bit. I hope to get back up there in a year or two and do the traverse–and I will have my legs in better shape to handle the “rocky” trails.

    • I’m planning a traverse for the end of the month. I’m thinking of a three day trip. Drive up from Mass. on day 1 and then hike to Madison hut bagging Madison and Adams along the way. Day two is the trick. I’m thinking of hiking thru to Mizpah and bagging all the summits along the way. Do you have a rough estimate of distance? Also, any suggestions for best options on trail choices? Day three I would hike out, possibly doing Webster, etc.

  15. Me and a buddy are sort of planning this trip in early oct this year. We’ve done a lot of hiking around Illinois and Midwest but nothing to the length of this. We got an idea of training and gear but wondering best approach as we will be driving and at 23 unable to rent a car when we get there. What would be best approach as to park/ start? What is the general weather like obv colder then summer months but is it too late in the season to hike it? Just looking for general info as to start, camp preferably with our own tents as not trying to spend 100’s of dollars in a hut. Planning on starting early Friday morn finish up Sunday morning

    • If you’ve never hiked here or this distance, I wouldn’t advise you to try in October. Stay lower down or hook up with someone who knows the area very well and what the weather forecasts mean. If you don’t have a car up here, you’re going to have a lot of problems getting around. I’ve been snowed on in mid-Septermber.

  16. What would be a good 2/3 day hike then were not worried about physical obstacles but I don’t want to risk getting snowed in on our first hike

  17. Get Matt Heids, Best Backpacks in New England book. Pick one of his hikes that you feel matches your stamina and ability. They have all the info you need and he has many excellent backpacking loop hikes listed which will be good for people without a car.

  18. Just finished the full Traverse – south to north – all 10 summits – took our time and stayed at Mizpah, Lakes and Madison huts – Tue -Thur nights. We were lucky with great weather and great fellow hikers – though thankfully few. Started at AMC’s Highland Center and came out on the AirLine Trail at Applacia where we had left a car. Great trip!

  19. Great stuff! Really great conversation. Me and a buddy did Mt Washington in about 5 hours on Tuckerman this past summer. We’re both in pretty decent shape (marathoners). We’d like to do a one day traverse next August. Are we realistically looking at a 1 MPH pace or can we push it and get out of there in sunlight?

    • We start well before dawn, but you are welcome to try :-)

    • I’ve done the one day traverse twice. Once I climbed all of the peaks along the way, once I used the foul weather routes to circumvent many of the peaks between Madison and Washington – that is a very difficult stretch because of scree.

      Your call, I don’t believe that there is a “right” or “official” way to do this. Either way, it is very difficult and awesome. Once I had great weather, once I was socked in the whole way. So it goes.

      I run a lot, but I’m not a marathoner. I think the best way to get ready for this (as others have mentioned), is to do some “peak bagging” in preparation; go climb a bunch of 4,000 footers.

      The two times that I have done it, I’ve started between 4:30-5am at Appalachia and I’ve been out at Crawford by 6 or 7 or before dark. Do it in the summer when you’ve got lots of light and can travel light (but safely). Hike for 50 minutes, take a 10 minute break and get moving; I’ve found that stopping = tightening up and that’s bad. Take a little longer break with the tourists on Mt Washington, but don’t let yourself tighten up.

  20. Would any issues occur if three (physically fit, can handle this hike) 17-year olds did the traverse? We plan on going in July, starting at Appalachia and hiking up to Madison via Valley Way, Airline, or Valley Way/Watson. We would then hit Adams and then stay at The Perch for the night. We would get an early start the next day and hit all the summits, possibly including Jackson and Webster if the time is available, finally returning to the Highland Center where we would have left our car. By problems I mean would there be an issue with camping at the Perch without an adult?

  21. Hopefully this article isn’t so far past that you don’t see this:

    I was thinking of doing just Madison, Adams, & Jefferson over the course of two easy slow days this summer. Last summer I did the Franconia Ridge loop & enjoyed it, though I think 10 miles/day in that terrain would be as much as I’d do without stressing about time & such (I’m a slow mover, who enjoys breaks & pictures.. With an overly cautious approach to being done well before dark!). I figured a stop at the Perch or Crag Camp would almost be a halfway point.

    What type of map/guide book would you recommend for that area? I was able to cheat on Franconia because of so much online information, but this “loop” doesn’t have as much info (and I’d really like to just have something to use for future hikes)

    • You should be able to get by with a good map and the Mt Washington highpeaks forecast for the northern presidentials. Sounds like you are the cautious sort already, which will serve you well up here. If you want to stay at an RMC shelter, I’d recommend going on a weekday if you can. Less crowded.

    • The must have is:

      Find the waterproof / tearproof maps.

  22. Great bit of information on the Prezi Traverse. I did it last year and although there were gobs of people around Mt. Washington, everyone was in good cheer and it was easy to go into my own world.

    For those considering, I would recommend catching an AMC shuttle from Highland Center to Appalachia, go up valley way to Madison cross over to Adams then work your way down to The Perch for the night (one of the best places to stay in the Northern whites!). Day 2 – go over Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Eisenhower, and Pierce, stay at Nauman Campsite for the night. Day 3 – an easy exit over Jackson and Webster, hit 302 and hitch or walk back to Highland Center. Of course this could all be done in 1, 2, or 3 days, but do yourself a favor and take a full 3 days just so you can soak up what the Whites have to offer.

    For Maps – don’t laugh but the wilderness visitor guide maps for Crawford Notch and Mount Washington are the best. A bit touristy but really do have great detail on the trails. You will need to get something to fill the gap of Adams and Madison.

    Happy Trails!

  23. Excellent post about this hike! I’ve done the southern portions and the summit many times but never the northern stretch. We’re planning a 2 day traverse next weekend, staying at LOTC but are struggling deciding N->S or S->N. Any thoughts? In people’s experience, how is the northern stretch compared to “book time?”

    • Go N->S for sure. I just finished this on June 20-21, 2014, and ending with Adams and Madison would be just brutal to yourself. Knock the North out first. Day 1 from the Appalachia Trailhead to LOTC Hut was 12.5 hour of hard boulder hiking. From LOTC Hut on day 2 to Webster took 9.5 hours, and was much more pleasant.

      • Thanks, Mark! Any chance you know your time to the Jewell Trail from Appalachia Trailhead?

      • We didn’t hit the Jewell Trail, here’s our path and times.

        12.5 hours day one, 9.5 hours days two.

        Day One: -Appalachia trailhead – Valley Way – Watson Path – (Mt Madison summit) – Gulfside Trail – Air Line – (Mt Adams summit) – Lowe’s Path – Gulfside Trail – Mt Jefferson Loop Trail – (Mt Jefferson summit) – Mt Jefferson Loop Trail – Gulfside Trail – Mt Clay Loop – (Mt Clay summit) – Mt Clay Loop – Gulfside Trail – Trinity Heights Connector – (Mt Washington summit) – Crawford Path – (Lakes of the Clouds Hut)

        Day Two: Lake of Clouds Hut – Crawford Path – Mt Monroe Loop – (Mt Monroe summit) – Mt Monroe Loop – Crawford Path – Mt Eisenhower Loop – (Mt Eisenhower summit) – Mt Eisenhower Loop – Crawford Path – (Mt Pierce summit) – Webster Cliff Trail – (Mt Jackson summit) – Webster Jackson trail – Crawford Depot.

  24. So, I hate to ask multiple questions on here, but it seems to have the best information…

    I was thinking of doing to days, but feel I could probably do a Madison/Adams/Jefferson trip in a day, parking at Appalachia & getting picked up at Jefferson Notch… My questions are How tough would this be compared to a Franconia Ridge loop? And I see that Jefferson Notch Road is closed during winter, but how is it during summer months? Passable by regular cars, or is 4×4 needed?

    • The jefferson notch road (see Caps Ridge Trailhead) is passable by regular passenger cars.

      Which hike is more difficult? Get yourself the White Moutain Guide or a map and add up the mileage and elevation gain to compare them. I think they’re roughtly equivalent, but I recommend you go through this excercise to understand what you’re taking on. The WMG also has very accurate time estimates.

  25. Thanks. I’ve looked at mileage & altitude gains, but was thinking more about the difficult of the terrain. From the different reports I’ve seen, the trail is pretty brutal. I was just wondering how harder than Franconia Ridge.

    • Hey Mike – Philip’s info was incredibly helpful to me on a recent traverse. While I’m not too familiar with Franconia Ridge, I will say this… your ability to move/descend on the large rocks (where there’s no “trail” so to speak… just broken boulders) will have a massive impact on your time/difficulty. I’m a solid hiker but was not prepared for how much the peak descents would impact the “book time” of roughly 4:30 from Madison Hut to LOTC Hut…. after summitting each peak along the way we had gotten far from our intended timeframe, although we had left plenty of time to spare. I descended using poles thinking it was helping me. A week later I returned to the same section, ditched the poles on all the descents and with just one hike from a week before was drastically faster… long story long, the terrain is difficult to keep pace on without practice… you can see the hikers who have experience… they walk on the stuff like it’s flat… also, pack weight really plays in when you’re stepping ONLY on sharp edges for 3 hours… Have fun! Just leave yourself time so you can adjust!

  26. Do you need a sleeping bag in summer if in a tent

  27. Appreciate it Dave! Have my pack ready to go, hoping to catch a nice day between next Saturday-Wednesday!

  28. I’m off for my third attempt at this traverse. I’m an experienced ultralight hiker and have been fouled by the weather on two prior attempts. The first (June 2013) was a massive thunderstorm as I was approaching Mt Washington. Got the ‘base camp’ team to come up and get me. The second, after reading the weather report, set out knowing I’d be hiking the ‘morning’ in the drizzle, only to find out, late, that it was blowing snot on the ridge, made it all the way to Madison Hut. Hopefully, three times is the charm. I’ve done all the peaks before as stand alone or overnights, but, this is on my bucket list. Wish me luck, and good weather on Saturday.

  29. I plan on doing the Presidential Traverse on Saturday September 13th. I have all the right gear and experience but, because our resupply stop at the Mt Washington cafeteria doesn’t open until 10:00am and I don’t want to arrive too early, I am looking for hiking time estimates from the Appalchia Trailhead to Mt. Washington so that I can plan for a reasonable start time. 3:00am, 4:00am, or other? What say ye?

    • Don – strongly suggest you get yourself a White Mountain Guide or sign up for the online version at outdoors.org. It has all the trail segment times in it and even teaches you the formula for figuring it out.

      • Thanks Phil, I have the most recent map.and an old copy of the Presidential Range Guidebook (I think it’s out of print) but was not aware of any trail segment time charts. I’ll look into it. Right now I’m estimating about 8 hours and planning on leaving around 4:00am(about 1 mph from the trailhead to Madison and about 1/2 mph from Madison to Washington plus stoppage time) but I will confirm using the tools you suggested.

        Happy Trails!

      • that’s “…and about 2 mph from Madison to Washington..” (weather permitting)

        PS I’m asking because some in the group are suggesting 2:00am which, while appropriately cautious, may be a bit earlier than necessary.

  30. Just did this on Saturday! Spectacular day for foliage and temps.

  31. Hello Everyone, I`m taking my wife and 8 year old daughter on an overnight next week. They are not ready for a full or half traverse but I`d like to take our time going up Webster Cliff trail, camp at a nice spot on top of Webster Cliff I found a few trips ago (legal spot btw) .We would then have a fairly easy hike over to Mizpah the following day and out Crawford Path to Rt 302 . A road walk of a mile or so back to Willey House parking area or we could just go down Webster Jackson trail. I know the initial hike up to the ridge of Mt. Webster and the cliffs will be tough but it is only 2.7 miles and just wanted your feedback if this would be a doable hike for my wife and daughter. My daughter will only be carrying her sleeping bag and water. She loves the views and being high up/scrambling and feel she might be bored by a easy hike to Sawyer Pond which might be my 2nd option.

    Kevin

    • Hey Kevin- I have done many hikes with my now 7 and 9 year old daughters. They did the Ammonusic and Mt. Wash summit at ages 5 and 7 and did Mt Madison/Adams this year. They do LOVE the scrambling, but the long steep parts that aren’t actually rocks tend to drive them crazy and make them more tired than they’d like to be. I try to make sure the trail is as interesting as possible AND has scrambles, and that would concern me with Webster Cliff… sure she can do it — you’ll want to leave 2-3 times the amount of time you expect though – but once she’s bored you’re in for a long hike. My other concern on the steeper spots (and that includes the slog down Crawford Path) is that the kids do really dangerous things on the descents when they get tired and cranky… lots of ankle twists, hands on pack straps – lots of close calls that can be avoided with a more gradual descent.

      Some recommendations based on what our girls have liked (although overnight can be tricky on some):

      Sawyer Pond is beautiful, not a hard hike, but interesting with its streams and the final destination pond, plus camping is a cakewalk there and you can carry a lot more in.

      Zealand: Easy hike, but lots to look at, and once you reach the hut you can tackle some tougher stuff and descend back to the hut to sleep. EASY out on day two.

      Edmands Path to Eisenhower or anywhere: The kids LOVED the giant cairn atop Eisenhower, and Edmands is a really unique and cool trail. It’s steep enough to be a REAL challenge for kids, but graded so well that they don’t get beat up. If it becomes too much, the little col where Edmands breaks out above trees has ample views, a little swamp/pond, etc… and plenty of little places to scramble to, picnic, whatever. Again, descent, while plenty long, is easier on their legs.

      Mt Chocorua via Champney Falls Trail on the Kanc… Lots of nice changes throughout the day of hiking. Couple hours in, awesome waterfalls with rock stairs going up the flanks. A bit of boring switchbacky stuff after that, but then levels out into scrub and finally gorgeous views and scrambles to the summit. Descend same way or mix it up by going down the slightly longer Piper Trail.

      Camping might mess up some of these — but my gut feeling is, the UP on Webster Cliff trail is not interesting enough to offset how hard it will be on her, and the down is boring as anything, followed by a long walk down the highway that will likely feel deadly with all the 18 wheelers and cars from Mass going 70mph down that hill… :)

      Whatever you choose, please come back and share the experience! Would love to know how it works out for you!

      Dave

      • Dave, thanks for the feedback. I loved the hike up Webster but you are right, the hike to Mizpah and down Crawford was uneventful and a tough descent. That was actually my first trip . Honestly being fairly inexperienced myself, having only gone on 6 or 7 backpacking trips with my friends in the Pemi and Southern Presidentials, I`m worried about bears at Sawyer Pond. I`ve read they are aggressive there with coming into camp due to being so close to the pond and because it is a designated site.Also, being so close to hibernating time coming up. I feel safer bringing them out on an overnight making camp up higher as close to treeline as legally can get. It does sound like a nice easy intro backpack to take them on though. We also love the Kanc, which trail do you recommend if we were to use the kanc trailheads rather than off of rt 302?

        Also, you intrigued me with the Chocura hike. My little one wants to experience being in the tent and not in a cabin or shelter, are there any decent stealth camping spots on Chocura besides the cabin and tent platform sites? What about water? I`ll have to break out my books and take a look. Thanks again

        Kevin

      • Helpful information, thanks! My daughter will be seven this summer and after reading your comments, I am now considering the Edmands Path to Eisenhower or the Ammonusic trail to Washington. Have you hiked the Falling Waters Trail to Lafayette with your daughters? I’ve not been to NH, the only New England peak I’ve hiked is Katahdin (which, I loved). Thanks from Michigan.

  32. Dave, also…I know Edmands Path is only 2.9 miles from the trailhead to the Summit of Eisenhower but if we wanted to just tent camp just for the experience and extend the day is there any legal spots to tent camp /stealth camp either before hitting treeline and or maybe hitting the summit then going down a mile or so on the Crawford Path before Pierce. I seem to remember some possible legal spots but not sure?

    Kevin

  33. Phil. Great post. Question for you. I’m travelling over from South Africa in July this year. I’m considering doing the AMC hut-to-hut route (having done something similar in Switzerland). I can only afford two nights in the mountain… which huts should I hike between?

    I’m also super worried about the weather. Is July going to play in my favour?

  34. Hi Phil! I love your site – so much good info. I’m planning a traverse for July and I was wondering what the reservation situation is for the tentsites/shelters like Valley Way, The Perch, or Naumann. I know the Huts book up way ahead of time, but I want to be able to base the trip around weather, instead of rolling the dice and hoping for the best. Thanks!

  35. Phil, thanks for being so diligent over the past couple of years – wish I had found this last July when my small group attempted the Presidential Traverse for the first time. I think the most valuable lesson we learned was how quickly the tent sites fill up. We had to bail very early on last year due to weather and some backtracking we did when the Perch was overflowing with hikers.

    This year, we’re going mid-week (again in July), and looking at hammocks (which I’ve gathered from previous responses aren’t a bad idea). We’d like to do 2 days, 1 night, and although I’m still behind our original plan to overnight at the Perch, my group is looking for input on whether it would be better to try and hustle it out to the Nauman site. We were also toying with the idea of going South to North…are there any particular benefits or disadvantages of either campsite, or to going “backwards” we should be aware of?

    Many Thanks,
    Lisa

    • You’ll have a hard time finding decent hammock pitches on those big peaks without descending. They’re just too steep and you’re likely to do grievous damage to the high elevation understory (definitely not LNT) too. Do the hike in one day and you can avoid all of these problems or stay in the huts. People hike north to south because its faster and easier. You get the big elevation gain out of the way when you’re fresh, at the beginning.

  36. Have done the traverse 7 times. I think I’m too old to do it again. It is quite a trip and you’ll be sore for days after. I only did it on or around the summer solstice. You need as much daylight as possible and great weather conditions on your side.

  37. How long a hike is it from the Madison Spring Hut to Mt. Jefferson?

  38. At campsites such as The Perch and Nauman, how early is it recommended to get there? Obviously you want to enjoy the hike, but want to keep timing in mind to ensure you get a spot.

    Also, my two friends and I are considering hammocking, can you set up your hammock at those sites pretty easily? Would it be more availability at the sites if hammocking vs. using a tent?

    Finally – can you camp outside or near the huts?

    • Earlier than everyone else…hard to predict when that is.

      Not really. They both have platforms, so the trees are cut back. It would really depending on the site. You’ll have much better lick if you drop about 1000 feet of elevation and camp off trail, deep in the woods.

      You can’t camp outside the huts. Most are above treeline and it’s illegal to camp there.

      Read the WMNF Backcountry Camping Rules

  39. Doing the Traverse from North to South this coming Sunday and Monday. Weather looks pretty good outside of the potential of some “light” upslope rain showers. Leaving Appalachia @ 5AM and hope to be at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut by 5PM. Book time seems to be around 8:30 (4:10 / 4:20) for this trip. Hoping my calculation of just under a mile an hour is valid, but if not, we’ve built in an extra hour so we shouldn’t miss the meal @ 6PM!

    Until this year, I’d never hiked a single mountain, but in the past six weeks have gotten bitten by the bug. In the last month, I’ve been up the super steep Mount Willey Range Trail, have done the Lafayette Loop (8.5 hours) as well as the Osceolas, including the Chimney and have climbed Mt. Tecumseh. @ 55 years old, I’m sore the night I get home, but am fine by the next morning.

    In the past 18 months, I’ve lost 100 pounds via the gym and diet. I’ve spent the nearly every day of the last year on the treadmill @ 15% / 4MPH for an hour each morning. Super hopeful this as well as the limited hiking experiences over the past few months (started out on Mt. Monadnock back in April) will have me ready for this trip with my son. This trip has been planned for over a year as a celebration of my planned weight loss and success I’ve had keeping it off.

    • How narrow is the trail? I have a fear for falling off the MTN. Not of heights as much= just falling off the MTN.

      Congrats on the weight loss

      • Its about 23 miles wide if you hike it sideways so you should be all good

      • Thanks Christina. No worries at all about falling off any of the mountains – at least taking the route we took. Essentially Valley Way up and Crawford Path down.

        Are there some spots that you may find a bit challenging? Perhaps, but as for falling off a mountain? No. I don’t think there is any cause for concern. But I can tell you that Madison & Adams were really difficult for me due to the “trails” up to both summits are huge boulders. I’d not encountered that type of terrain for the distances involved. I’ve since gotten in a lot of practice over at Mount Monadnock that’s helped.

        While there are some boulder fields you’ll need to deal with further down the line so to speak, I didn’t find the rest of the traverse to be that difficult at all. I’d suggest going north to south if you are planning on hiking the complete traverse – hit Madison & Adams right out of the chute when your energy level is at its peak.

        I’m headed back up that way tomorrow. We missed Jackson on our trip, so I’m going to hit that and revisit Pierce and Eisenhower. Would be a waste of a trip just to visit Jackson, after all…. Parking at Edmans trail head and hoofing it back to the Webster-Jackson trail to do the hike south back up to Eisenhower and down Edmans.

        Hope this helps.

        Warren

    • Warren, that’s a wonderful story and should be an inspiration to many people reading this and thinking about the can I possibilities. Congrats on such a huge accomplishment! Any updates to share?
      Monadnock is a wonderful training spot for getting acclimated to rocks and elevation. It’s sort of a mini version of what you can expect in the Whites. Some of the lesser used trails are very nice and can add some nice mileage. Another good training hike for distance is the Wapack Traverse which goes over Pack Monadnock. 22 miles with not allot of elevation. You’ll need to spot a car and possibly stash some water at the approximate midpoint which is around the Windblown XC ski center in New Ipswich. If you don’t want to stash water I would advise to carry at the very least 3.0 liters of water/electrolytes.

      Hiking is indeed “a bug”. I started in 2011 when I met the current love of my life and another inspiration for me. I was 54YO at the time. She was and still is an AMC hike leader and had completed the 48 long ago. We started slow, Mount Wachusett, then Monadnock. I passed the test and finally off to the Whites we went . My first hike was Lincoln + Lafayette on a glorious June day. Hook, line and sinker….”the bug” was set. Next day Flume and Liberty. Another bluebird day. OMG this is amazing. Wow am I sore! Who cares the monster is awakening.

      Now 59 I’ll complete my 48 this year (7 shy as I type this). I will turn the table and now be the inspiration to you and hopefully a few others of us oldies. I’m a self admitted glutten for punishment and had read about this hike called the “Pemi Loop” in a day. 32 miles with over 9,000 feet of gain. Hmmmm, game on I want to try that. Trained hard all spring hiking almost every weekend I could. Multiple hikes in the Whites to get legs ready for the rocks and elevation but I needed something big which brought me to this blog. A single day Presi Traverse was gonna be it. Longest most difficult hike I’d ever attempted. My hike leader significant other hadn’t even done it and was not joining me (next year!). I would do it solo and was going to cover 12 peaks going south to north with Webster the first peak after starting on the Webster Cliff Trail off Route 302 @ 6:00am. Perfect weather and 14 hours later, 8:00pm sharp, I was standing in the Appalachia parking lot very tired and sweaty but just ecstatic. Hiker high. 24 miles, 9,300 feet of elevation. Mount Adams and Madison at the end were very very tough and it felt like Watson Path off the back side of Madison would never end. Didn’t know it at the time but North to South would have been better (easier) I think.

      So I really hope your still hiking and bagging those peaks. I love your story and I think it shows also how such a wonderful hobby like hiking can become an additional motivator to lose weight and get into shape. The Whites are very very tough but those views you get on a clear bluebird day make it soooo worth it IMO. Can’t put a price on that.

      Jeff in MA

      Oh yes, completed the Pemi Loop also. 32.5 miles including West Bond spur. Just shy of 14 hours. Went clockwise. South Twin climb was just brutal with 16 miles on the legs already. I’ll do it again next year with my sweetie who I’ve now inspired to give it a go in one day. She’ll be 58 and I could be 60 depending on time of year.

  40. Anyone with intel on whether Gray Knob or Crag Camp fill up on mid-weeks in late July?

  41. I did similar hike after staying overnight at Hermit Lakes Shelter and then summitting Mt. Washington next morning. We hiked to Lakes of the Clouds, took short break and stayed at Mizpah for the night. There are some nice legal stealth spots before you get to Mizpah if your feeling adventurous. All in all it was a great trip and wasn’t terribly hard. Depending on your child and wife, they should have no problems with it.

  42. Cool TR! I already have Pierce and Eisenhower crossed off my NH4K list. So I was wondering, how long (mileage and elevation gain) would this hike be if I started at Madison, and finished on Monroe, going down the Ammo.

  43. Great site! Trying to plan at trip this summer and take four days with my family to hike the PT. Once I get looking into it, I know I will my questions if someone can provide a few words of wisdom. We are coming from Colorado and look forward to the eastern mountains!!!

  44. Philip, thanks for your email reply. The the brevity perfectly framed our goal: “leave earlier”. We have decided to forego Franconia and make this hike a two-day memory. I greatly appreciate all the past comments as it’s helped my research of trail expectations. Where the water is. Where the huts are. Where to pitch tent.

    We will be going north to south. If anyone has any further recommendations on where to camp below the tree line I welcome them. We will depart for Madison no later than 7 am.

  45. Just got back from the Presies and thought a few comments might be appropriate for hikers going to the Whites from other parts of the country as the hiking in the Whites is different than the vast majority of trails in most of the country. I think AMC hikers tend to not be aware of that as guidebooks and writeups rarely mention it (or mention in the preface and never again).

    First, weather forecast. Mt. Washington station wiffed on 2 out of 3 days on our hike, actually for the better. However, based on severe thunderstorm warnings around 2:00 pm and high winds, a number of hikers bailed at Lakes rather than get hit on the long, open ridge traverses miles from any escape route. Thunderstorms don’t blow in as much as build on top of you. We had no storms but straight winds 25-50 mph. Makes it a bit difficult when you’re stepping from rock to rock and will slow your pace. Lots of rain in summer so lots of water on trails and pools that can’t be avoided. Waterproof footwear is helpful.

    For hikers used to fairly smooth trails where one can set a regular pace, the Whites can be quite a surprise. 99% of the Presie Range route is stepping from rock to rock. Sometimes on the ridge the rocks may be flat for a couple hundred yards in order to keep you from stepping on the fragile tundra vegetation. There is actual flat dirt for about 200 yards near LOCH – the only place on the trail that as I recall.

    The rocks are in all shapes and sizes – some are steady, some are not. The AMC “croos” over the ages have built rock stairs in places. Moving big, heavy rocks with steel rods is not an easy task, so the height of the steps vary. At times I thought I was hiking on the Inca Trail where the steps were built for llamas – like stepping up two steps at a time on the stairs. If you can find boulder fields on which to practice it will sharpen your skills for the Presie Range.

    Watch not only where you step, but where you plant your hiking poles. A few people would come into the hut every day with a broken pole. One guy in our group broke a pole, but not in a crack between rocks! His pole was stuck in mud between rocks, he twisted the pole to pull it out and broke the bottom shaft.

    As mentioned prior, there are places so steep that poles get in the way. Using a pack that allows you to stow poles on the fly is helpful (Osprey makes a few).

    The huts sell the essentials, so if you forget or break something (or just don’t want to carry a ton of hiker food) you can re-supply. In fact, short of a pack and boots, you could outfit for a hike at a hut. Highlands Lodge and Joe Dodge Lodge can supply everything as they are LL Bean mini-shops. All huts and lodges have ear plugs for free (new in plastic, not used!).

    Forget using the AMC Shuttles. They run at weird times due to all the stops and make a full loop of the Pressies, so you can sit on the bus for an hour or more before getting to your car. For not much more money, book one of the private vans at a time convenient for you.

    Cell phone coverage can be had on Mt. Washington, weather permitting. Madison hut can usually get a signal. However, there is no cell phone charging available at the huts. Better to turn your phone off and save the battery. The two AMC lodges have wifi so calls are possible there.

    If you have hut reservations and the weather changes your plans, the AMC can switch your reservations from the hut to either of the lodges (if beds are available).

    One thing to be aware of at the huts, the staff will cram hikers into empty beds regardless of gender (there are cancellations most days so they try to fill all the bunks). In bad weather, they will allow AT hikers to sleep in the dining room. You may have to negotiate a bit with staff for a satisfactory situation. At Lakes, the women in our group had a room with empty bed. The staff put a man of questionable mental capacity (he looked like Willie Nelson, but without the personality) in their room. We had enough guys to fill a room, so we swapped a bunk and had the strange man in our room. He spent a lot of time checking out our gear and asking how much it costs. Needless to say one of our group stayed with our gear after that.

    Also be aware that in summer there will be a number of summer camp groups on the trail with up to 30 people. Being mostly teenagers, they can be a bit loud in the hut. For the most part the kids have good manners and are funny. How well they behave depends on how good the counselors are. One night AMC staff had to warn a counselor to get their kids under control an hour after lights-out. I was a counselor at a camp in Maine – no easy task with a bunch of teens! Be sure to use ear plugs….

    For your early risers, the staff have will have hot water for tea, but no coffee until near table setting time. If I’d known that in advance I would have brought some Starbucks Via packets (with a lot more caffeine!). Hot soup, coffee and tea are available the rest of the day. Nice to have when you come in from a cold wind!

    My apologies if this was too off-topic and should be placed elsewhere.

    Hike On!
    James

  46. Hi Phil, did the Presi a couple years ago from north to south on July 4th weekend. You’re right about starting before daybreak, but we did finish in one day before it got dark. Fog and clouded in until we were on the downside of Jefferson. Then a beautiful day the rest of the way. Once you complete Monroe and Madison you are on the ridge it gets easier. Noce article.

    • Ive been across over multiple days. We hit bad weather and had to tent- could not see from cairn to cairn.
      I’m curious as to your hiking speed one a 1 day? N-S, that first bit near Madison is tough.

      • Hi Brenda,

        I think you are talking about Watson’s Path. My girlfriend and I did climbed it
        last year and we are doing it again this year, but yes it sure was a challenge. I don’t think that most people who hike the Traverse take that path. It has the steepest elevation gain of the whole trip – 2200 feet in (1.7) miles.

  47. Hello, me and 19 of my fellow friends are planning on hiking the presidential traverse and ending at the bottom of my Washington at pinkams botch parking lot in July from a Friday morning and looking to be our destination midday on Sunday ( 2 and 1/2 days of hiking). None of us have ever done this hike before and we are looking for info on where we should start along the traverse and what parking area would be good to park half of our vehicles at?
    Also is camping anywhere allowed and do we have to get a fire permit to make a fire each night for the weekend?

    Thank you in advance for any guidance!

  48. This is amazing, Philip! The stunning views are worth the tough hike for sure. I just wanna know how long does it usually take to finish the whole hike? (Presidential Traverses – from north to south)

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