Presidential Traverse Trail

HARD 59 reviews

Presidential Traverse Trail is a 23.9 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Randolph, New Hampshire that features a great forest setting. The trail is only recommended for very experienced adventurers and primarily used for hiking. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
23.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
9,865 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Point to Point

dogs on leash

hiking

forest

views

rocky

The Presidential Traverse is an excellent and well traveled hike of some of New England's highest peaks - almost all at maximum exposure. This trip is not for the faint of heart or meant to be attempted in just one day - but it can be done with the right preparation. An official Presidential Traverse begins at Madison to Adams to Jefferson to Washington and then on to Monroe to Eisenhower to Pierce and finally Jackson.

hiking
5 hours ago

I don't really even know where to start with this review - the Presidential Traverse is one of the most personally fulfilling, yet physically taxing, treks in New Hampshire, New England, and perhaps the country. Offering some of the most expansive views in the East, this trail saddles along some of the White Mountains' tallest peaks and consistently stays above tree-line. If you're considering doing this, you're in for an adventure - but some things to be aware of (in addition to what Dane wrote below):

1. Physical Demand. If you summit every mountain along the way, your trip will yield a total elevation gain of nearly 10,000 vertical feet. This is roughly 1/3 the height of Everest over the course of one-to-two days. Combined between these gains and the significant long-distance mileage, this traverse easily ranks as very strenuous and should not be attempted -- especially in one day -- unless you're in proper physical shape. It was a hell of a workout, but if I could do it again, I'd split it into two days. Bring tons of water, sport drinks, and high-calorie snacks and take frequent breaks.

2. Equipment, Attire, and Weather. You'll be above treeline for the grand majority of this trip. While this offers the chance to take-in some incredible views, it also exposes you to the elements -- often with no easy cover. The weather in the Whites is very unpredictable, and it's important to be prepared for anything, even in the summer. Bring rain attire, thermal layers, gloves, and sunscreen. If weather looks like it's going to turn sour, get under treeline or to shelter. Hiking poles and solid footware are highly recommended, as this trail is very rocky and it's easy to trip/fall.

3. Transportation. Read the review below. If you have multiple cars available, have one parked near AMC Highland Center @ Crawford Notch (end point -- Crawford Connector Trail has a parking lot and is a good option) and then have one bring you to Appalacia, where you can start (Valley Way Trail is my recommendation). If traveling solo, park at Crawford and have a service drive you to Appalacia so you end at your car. As Dane mentioned below, Bill is the man and couldn't have been more thankful for picking me up in the early hours of my day ($100+tip). I started at 2:15a and finished somewhere around 6p.

The trail is very well-traveled and marked. Make sure you have a map before starting, and have evac routes planned in case you need them. Enjoy the ride -- the day I went ended up being clear and, for the first time ever in the Whites, without wind or precipitation (despite how it looked early on). Can't recommend this trail enough.

hiking
12 days ago

* Full Trail Journal now up at packandpeak.com

Completed this on 7/7/18 . If you’re going solo I highly suggest scheduling a shuttle to pick you up at the Webster/Jackson trailhead and then dropping you at the Valley Way trailhead so you end at your car because you can’t guarantee when you’re going to finish and you don't want to hike 15 miles back to your car if you can't get a ride. Trail Angels is one of them but if they're booked, the AMC will give you some numbers for individuals that shuttle people. They gave me the number for a great guy named Bill and he met me a little before 3:00 am at Webster/Jackson and dropped me at the Valley Way trailhead at 3:25 am. I started solo at 3:35 am and joined a group of 3 about 2 miles up Valley Way trail - Todd, Garret, and Jeff. We finished at 7:30 pm for a total of about 16 hours including all our stops. We stuck together until the end, picking up a few others along the way. We hit 10 peaks - Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower, Pierce, Jackson and Webster. We stopped at all the huts to refill water, grab some snacks, and rest. Spent about half an hour to 45 minutes at Washington. A couple of us brought an extra shirt and pair of socks and changed at Mount Washington. We got lucky with clear skies and 60’s most of the day. Bring sunscreen, eat a lot of carbs and some sodium along the way, sunglasses, bring cash to buy snacks at the huts because you’ll need them, bring layers – we started in fleece and shell and rotated those layers throughout the day due to windchill. BRING GLOVES - We had 45 MPH winds at Madison and that will take the blood out of your fingers real quick. Pace yourself up Valley Way because you’re going to need everything your legs have to get up to Washington. Just ask the folks in line if you can just touch the rock pile at the summit of Washington if you don’t want to take a picture and wait in line. The descent down Webster Cliff and Webster Jackson trails have a lot of big rocks you’ll be crab walking down. The last few miles require a lot of focus to end this hike so pay attention to where your feet are landing. It’s a long, hard hike, but if you prepare right then it’s also an absolutely amazing and unforgettable experience.

Hoping to hit that Pemi Loop Next

FOLLOW ME @PackandPeak
Full Trail Journal now up at packandpeak.com

*One of the guys in our group had his boots completely fall apart up Valley Way and the only other option was a pair of Teva velcro strap water sandals. He strapped them on over some socks at Madison Hut and wore them the rest of the day. If you’ve hiked in New Hampshire you know this is no easy feat (bad pun intended). I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t stump a toe or get soaked through the mud. Jeff is a legend in my book. Text me for Bill’s number if you need a shuttle 3-two-1 7-nine-5 533-nine

hiking
13 days ago

My wife and 2 pre teens hiked from the AMC Highlands Center to Lakes with plans to continue to Madison the following day. The hike from the Highland Center to Pierce was very hot and humid before reaching the ridge (the temps were supposedly record highs in the Whites). Once on the ridge it cooled a bit, but there wasn’t much of a breeze until we reached the top of Eisenhower. All along the ridge the views were fantastic. We planned on going around Monroe (low on water), but when we arrived at the loop cut off we learned the trail skirting Monroe was closed for maintenance and we needed to take the loop trail. My wife and I shrugged our shoulders, but the kids were happy to bag another peak. The trail over Monroe was strenuous with a lot of bouldering, it was fun and we were happy we did it. We enjoyed our first stay at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut and met nice and interesting people. The next day we continued up in the clouds to Mount Washington with cooler temps in just under an hour and a half. At the summit, I checked the weather forecast for the rest of the day which called for probable severe thunderstorms, heavy rain and sustained 40 mile winds that afternoon on the northern ridge. We decided to continue and head directly for Madison without doing any of the other summits. When we started down Washington I noticed the winds had picked up significantly and decided to save the Northern Presidents for another day. We took the Shuttle down to Pinkham. Once there we had to find a ride to our car at Appalachia and I asked one of the AMC employees if they knew anyone who could give us a lift and they found us someone. All of us had a great time and plan to complete the Northern peaks by the end of the summer.

hiking
20 days ago

Did 1/2 a Presi today starting up Valley Way and ending at Washington. Took 7 hours 45 mins. We mistakenly did the Watson Path up Madison because we thought it would save time, but we learned it would have made more sense to continue up Valley Way and just backtrack to the summit. I was glad I had a small day pack, as I imagine a larger and heavier bag would have made it much more difficult. I brought 4L of water and refilled it at Madison hut, and that was enough for a warm summer day. Getting to Washington after all the tough miles before and seeing tourists with their coffee and blue jeans was a little disheartening, and we could hear the auto road for the last 3ish hours of the day. Despite this, the views were incredible and once we got into the alpine zone, the going got significantly easier (than when we were headed up Madison.

hiking
26 days ago

Did this last Friday! Was very difficult but well worth the struggle. Washington was the killer... spent a bit to much energy during the start which was around 450am (Madison, Adams & Jefferson). Eisenhower was the only other significant elevation after Washington.

backpacking
1 month ago

Amazing hike. Highly recommend you have trekking poles or you will be at a disadvantage. The poles are key. Also bring enough food for yourself, there’s huts along the way that you can fuel up at. Overall amazing experience.

hiking
1 month ago

I, unfortunately, could only manage to do half of this. I made the mistake of summiting Madison via the Watson Path to avoid the out-and-back via Valley Way. It was 1,000ft elevation of tough scramble in pea soup. Once the fog started burning off in the afternoon I was greeted with fantastic views of the range. Now that I'm more aware of the terrain, I will be back to hopefully 1-day this next year.

hiking
2 months ago

Has anyone used a GPS watch on the Traverse? Wonder what you used and how it went?
Would like to find a good watch / GPS system for this and other trails
Thanks, Ken

4 months ago

Solo single-day winter traverse

backpacking
5 months ago

Beast of a trail for backpacking, much more suited for ultralight backpacking or slack packing. Made it halfway to through but forced down after submitting Washington due to weather. Will definitely be going back to complete the rest of the traverse.

backpacking
9 months ago

We used this as a backpacking mileage test; full packs, and see how far you can get on mountain terrain in a day. Beautiful views, easy stepping ridge-line trails, and a way around the toughest peaks (the AT) in case the weather turns. There are shelters with water along the trail, but the weather is famously changeable and dangerous, and it's not easy getting off them after the weather turns-- the descent is often through a steep boulder field.

Plan your camp early, or at least don't plan to find a campsite at sundown. The sites which are out of the wind/weather are down steep and slick side trails, and it is often a long way to a flat area to pitch a tent. This is a beautiful place to hike, and also a place where one can end up soaked and exhausted in a tent which is tied to a tree so that it doesn't begin sliding down the mountain in the night.

10 months ago

Completed this trail yesterday 9/16/2017. We parked at the airline/Appalachia trailhead and started hiking at 330am... the trail was easy to follow and enjoyable. Got to the summit of Mt Madison around 630am just in time for an amazing sunrise. Refueled water at the Madison hut and pushed on wards bagging all of the peaks following... we reached our other car and the highland center at 730 pm having our travel time down to 16 hours! In no shape or form are we trail runners just went for it and got really lucky with warm temps and great views! Must do!

hiking
10 months ago

Just finished this hike. We took 2 days to finish. Gear included overnight camping equipment and 25 lbs of gear in case of stormy weather which was planned for due to hurricane Irma's moisture traveling NE. We started at Appalachia at 1900 and competed the first 4 miles in the dark. We took a break near the Madison hut off the main trail near the tree line. Once sunrise broke we hit Madison, Adam, Jefferson, Clay and then Washington. We were not running the trails and even then, the terrain and rocks that make up the trail will slow you down, since injuries are common due to unstable footing. We planned for about 1 MPH pace but underestimated the restrictive terrain.There wasn't any rooms available at the AMC Lakes in the Clouds so we planned to head down the mountain once at Washington. Had some trail magic and was offered a ride since the last van and cog train just departed. It was later than we planned on arriving. Stayed at the AMC center off HWY 16. Great opportunity to refit, eat, shower and get rest. Got up at 0600 ate and hitched a ride to the gate leading up to the top of Washington. Bought a ticket for a shuttle (31$) got to the top and continued on around 1030. Hit The rest of the presidentials and made it back the AMC Highland by 1600. Unless your a trail runner I wouldn't plan on doing this trail in one day unless you plan on running the whole thing. Great opportunity to train for something bigger like Rainer or Shasta due to the elevation gain and strenuous workout.

hiking
10 months ago

An amazing hike, one of my favorite weekends ever. We started at Madison and finished at Pierce, skipping Jackson. The hike took about 1.5 days for us, camping at the bottom of Jefferson. Highly recommend this hike, it is filled with amazing views. Loved the variations in trails, with Star Lake going up Adams being the most challenging, but certainly the most fun.

hiking
10 months ago

We started from Appalachia and ended at AMC Highland Center, stayed at Madison Spring Hut and Lakes of the Clouds Hut, bagged 9 peaks. On the way up to Mt Madison, we first took Valley Trail, then crossed over to Air Line Trail via Scar Trail. I have to say Scar Trail is my favorite trail.

10 months ago

Amazing and well traveled trail, not for novice hiker. Best to watch weather and dress in layers! Southern traverse is less rocky but overall a lot of granite! Views are worth it and a must do traverse for any experienced hiker!

hiking
10 months ago

Did this trail 08/20/17 in 12 hours. We were in the clouds with 40+ mph wind throughout the whole Northside, but the sky cleared up in the afternoon around Monroe. Amazing trail, but not for the faint of heart.

backpacking
11 months ago

what an amazing place to see, this should be on everyone's to do list for sure.. spent a few days backpacking this and the weather was amazing the view even better. stayed one night at the lake of the cloud hut, and the service and the meal you get there is something you will never forget. completely worth the hundred third dollars that is for sure. mt Washington was wild and the view were beautiful. thank you!!

hiking
11 months ago

Did the PT today; 9/10 summits (we skipped the very last one - Jackson). My GPS watch died with about 5.3km left, which is when I used All Trails app to record the final few KM's.....We started at 4:15am and finished at 2:50pm, with a 45 min. Stop at the super busy and crowded Mt Washington. Weather was perfect and we absolutely loved it! Definitely coming back next year and will include Jackson

hiking
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Went North to South this year instead of South to North. I highly recommend going South. I only went about 20 minutes faster heading South than heading North, but the pain level was about 40% less in the second half.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Amazing trail

hiking
Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hiked a Madison-Pierce traverse on 6/17 -- absolutely perfect weather, surprisingly warm above treeline. Summit views were stellar, particularly later in the day at Washington/Monroe/Eisenhower. Started a little late at just before 6 AM, and we got off the path at Crawford Notch 13 hours later. Great hike, intense workout, unlike anything else in NE.

hiking
Monday, September 19, 2016

My first hike. Went with wonderful supportive people which was essential because it was certainly not breezy. The views throughout were magical and I felt blessed the whole time. Started out as a group of 7 at the bottom of Mt. Madison at 4:15am. One of our hikers didn't feel well on the way, so we were moving slowish and reached the first summit around 9am, and the hut around 9:30am. So she decided to take the trail down the other side of the mountain, escorted by her brother at that point. 5 of us moved on to Adams, Jefferson, Clay, and finally reached the top of Mount Washington around 5:30 pm after hiking for 13.5 hours. Myself and one other newbie hiker finished our hike at that point. I texted my cousin ahead of time and asked him to get us. It turned out that they don't let any cars on the road to the top after 5pm, so they didn't let him in when he came at 5:08pm. Paid $50 a person for the ride from the top to the parking, but actually felt lucky to get that ride on time. Because no rides are offered after they close the observation deck around 6pm. The three hikers from our group finished the planned hike and climbed another 4mountains, getting to the car we parked the night before around midnight. They went on some tough hikes before, real champs. I think if it weren't for us newbies, they would have completed the hike 10-20% earlier because our pace was definitely slower.
I have nothing but positive feelings, and now plan on getting myself prepped for the full Pres. Traverse within he next year :) Btw though I am an active person, I've never considered myself an outdoors type of a girl. I am now hooked for life. The air, the views, the nature I've experienced during this hike are truly magical and I can't wait for my next exploration!

hiking
Sunday, September 11, 2016

Absolutely beautiful! Very easy to do over the course of 4 days if you stay in Madison, Lakes, and Mizpah along the way.

hiking
Saturday, September 10, 2016

Went South to North, which made the second half brutal. Started at midnight and didn't see another person until 7am on Mt.Washington. Only two other hikers on Washington, but started seeing people from the huts after 7. The weather was beautiful. Bring poles and boots because the rocks are ankle breakers when you are fatigued. 14 hrs total in time to catch the shuttle back to my truck!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Amazing.Took longer then expected but we saw sunset from Mount Washington summit , stayed at lake of the clouds and hiked remainder of trail next day.

hiking
13 hours ago

hiking
1 day ago

hiking
2 days ago

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