What is the Presidential Traverse?

The Presidential Traverse is a 19 mile section of New Hampshire’s White Mountains that consists of 7 peaks: Mount Madison, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Mount Monroe, Mount Eisenhower and Mount Pierce. It is the highest elevation ridge in the state. There is also what some consider the “full” presidential traverse (23 miles) which adds an additional 4 peaks: Mount Webster, Mount Jackson, Mount Clay and Mount Franklin within this list. The official list however is the first list of 7 peaks.

The traverse is beautiful, strenuous, and sometimes quite dangerous. With between 9,000 and 11,000 feet of elevation gain stretched over 19-23 miles, many choose to break the hike into two days, but it is certainly doable as a strenuous day hike or run.

Presidentials on the NH 48 list:

 

Mountain Elevation (feet) Difficulty
Mount Washington 6,288 Difficult
Mount Adams 5,744 Difficult
Mount Jefferson 5,712 Difficult
Mount Monroe 5,384 Difficult
Mount Madison 5,367 Intermediate
Mount Eisenhower 4,780 Difficult
Mount Pierce 4,310 Intermediate
*Mount Webster 3,911 Difficult
Mount Jackson 4,052 Difficult
*Mount Clay 5,553 Difficult
*Mount Franklin 5,001 Difficult

*Not an official 4,000 footer

Day Hiking the Presidential Range

The traverse is considered an extremely difficult day hike, and should only be attempted by individuals that have substantial experience with hiking and are well prepared for rapid weather changes. With this being said, it is one of the most rewarding and beautiful day hikes in the entire country, and is completely doable for those who do have experience with longer hikes.

How Long Does it Take to Hike the Presidentials?

This obviously varies widely depending on your level of endurance, and whether you are stopping at each peak, camping, or running the whole thing. Book time varies based on your path, so take a look at the table below. The record run time somewhere right around 4 and a half hours.

Routes

Route Distance Elevation Gain Book Time
Madison to Pierce 19.8 8,500 14H 10 Min
Madison to Jackson 21.7 8,800 15H 15 Min
Madison to Webster, Webster-Jackson 23.0 9,050 16H 0 Min
Madison to Webster, Webster Cliff 23.8 9,050 16H 20 Min
Cog From Mount Washington Summit

Unfortunately, the summit of Washington can be extremely busy during peak season

Rock from Mount Washington

Overnight Options for Traverse

Many choose to spend 2 or 3 days to take it slow, enjoy each peak, and witness gorgeous sunrises, and sunsets. Their are quite a few options for camping.

Camping Options:

There are three AMC Huts along the traverse. The Madison Spring Hut, Lakes of the Clouds Hut, and the Mizpah Spring Hut. You can read about the AMC Huts, Shuttle Routes and rates at Outdoors.com. Please keep in mind the huts usually close in October.

Traverse Huts

AMC Hut Map

In addition to the AMC Huts, you have the option of camping in legal camping areas. You can’t camp anywhere in the Alpine Zone, within 250 feet of the Appalachian Trail, or within a .25 mile radius of any of the AMC. Unfortunately this means you likely will have to tent or hammock a bit off your path, and likely quite a bit down in elevation if you plan on an overnight without utilizing an AMC hut. There are few areas with well established tent sites that you can find via some research or a good trail map.

Winter Hiking the Presidential Traverse

Winter hiking is beautiful, but this hike deserves some respect. The weather can take some nasty turns, so you need to be fully prepared in the winter. Your pace is likely to be significantly slower, so prepare for a much longer day, or plan on some overnight hiking if you have quality overnight winter gear. As I’m sure you have heard, Washington has some of the harshest weather on the planet, and in the winter, this can mean death if you are not prepared.

Water and Food

I’d highly recommend going light on the water to save some pounds. You can fill up at each of the Huts, and the summit of Washington, so really you should safely plan water for about half the trip due to the 4 pretty quick filling stations. You can also purchase snacks/baked goods at the huts, and full meals at the summit of Washington.

Presidential Range

A Cautionary Note

The mountains of the traverse should not be taken lightly. These are deadly trails, with drastic weather changes. The weather should be monitored closely on every trip, and you should always be prepared for the unexpected. Winter hiking is only recommended for experienced hikers with the proper equipment.

The Shuttle

It can be difficult to plan out the car situation, fortunately we have an awesome shuttle system. Here is a link to the shuttle schedule: http://www.outdoors.org/lodging-camping/lodging-shuttle.cfm

Route Planning

Need help with planning your route? Fill out the NH Guided Hiking form and we can help!

Have something else to add?

Let me know, I’m sure I missed a lot, and I’m always open to making this post more robust. Please send a message via Contact form.