Presidential Range

Location: White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
Distance: 16.3 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 6,600 feet overall
Date: August 20, 2010

Mounts Jefferson, Adams, and Madison from below Mount Washington

In August 2010 I did a 17-mile loop hike across the northern end of New Hampshire's Presidential Range. I began my hike at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center around 7:00 am after spending the previous night at the Dolly Copp Campground. I followed the Appalachian Trail from the visitor center (elevation 2,022 ft) for 1.6 miles until I crossed the Mount Washington Auto Road at an elevation of 2,700 ft.  From here the AT descended over 1.9 miles to an elevation of under 2,300 ft in the Great Gulf Wilderness.

Mount Washington from below Mount Madison

After crossing the West Branch Peabody River I followed the AT for 0.6 mi until it turned up the side of Mount Madison. Over the next 2.0 mi the AT gains 2,360 ft until it reaches the Osgood Junction. Just below the Osgood Junction the trail rises into the treeless alpine tundra where it remains for most of remaining part of the hike. From here you can take the 0.8 mi mostly flat trail below the summit of Mount Madison to the AMC Madison Spring Hut. But I continued on  the AT over the summit of Mount Madison. The summit route is 1.1 mi long and rises to 5,366 ft before descending to the hut. I think I reached the hut around 9:30 or 10 am where they had just set out fresh snacks for sale (I think they were brownies).

After refilling my water I followed the AT for 0.3 mi and then turned onto the trail to the summit of Mount Adams. The trail to the summit is 0.6 mi and 600 ft of elevation gain and then 0.3 mi and 300 ft of loss. Going around the summit on the AT would be 0.6 mi and 300 ft of gain. The summit of Mount Adams is at 5,799 ft, and the AT goes between it and Mount Sam Adams (5,355 ft), a minor summit.

Mount Madison from below Mount Adams.

When the trail from Mount Adams rejoins the AT the trail loses 600 ft over 1.2 miles. Here you can again choose to go around Mount Jefferson on the AT for 0.7 mi as it gains about 400 ft, but I continued over the summit. The trail up is 0.3 mi and gains 800 ft before descending 0.3 mi and 400 ft. Mount Jefferson's elevation is 5,716 ft.

Mount Washington and Mount Clay from below Mount Jefferson

From below Mount Jefferson it is 1.9 mi to the summit of Mount Washington. Mount Clay (5,533 ft) is a minor summit between Mt Jefferson and Mt Washington, and you can choose to go around (0.9 mi) or over (1.2 mi). Going over requires about an addition 100 ft of elevation gain and loss. If you wanted to avoided going up Mount Washington you can go around, which is an extra 0.2 mi, but saves 600 ft of elevation gain and loss.

The view northeast from the Lion Head 

After eating a late lunch and refilling my water on Mount Washington (6,288 ft), I began hiking down the Lions Head trail above Tuckerman Ravine. This trail is 1.9 mi from the summit to near Hermit Lake about 200 ft below treeline. It is another 1.8 miles down the trail to Crystal Cascade and the another 0.2 miles to the trailhead.

Crystal Cascade

A traverse of the entire Presidential Range is a 24-mile hike (one way) with about 10,000 feet of overall elevation gain. I had hoped to do this hike, but it requires transportation between the two trailheads or hiking the entire thing twice. It can also be done in as long as three days by staying at the two huts along the route.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


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