Explore the most popular backpacking trails near Randolph with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

We did this trail North to South with three nights used camping outdoors below the treeline. If you're coming down from Canada, or from far away, starting at the North and using the free camping site not too far from Mt Madison is a good option. You will suffer the first day regardless getting up past the treeline into the mountain range but it will be worth it.

Q: Which mountains should I do?
A: Is it extremely cloudy? Then you should just stay to the path. If not then Mt Madison has the best overall view of the North to South range and you can even see Mt Washington on a good day. Mt Adams is a pile of rocks (I would skip), Mt Jefferson is a yes on a clear day, Mt Clay is a nice windy spot to relax before you climb up Mt Washington, anything past Mt Washington is really dependent on how quickly you need to get back to a shuttle/car (Eisenhower has a pile of rocks on top... up to you).

You cannot reserve a shuttle seat the day of. You must book in advance or wait around in line to be sure to get a spot. Do not rely on taxi services as they are far and few.

Gearwise you should expect wind, rain and sun with the change dependent on the time of the year you go. If you are hiking in the summer expect a neckburn if you don't wear sunscreen or a hat during the peak sun hours. There are streams that I would risk not filtering before drinking but there are larger stretches after Mt Washington that have still water that need more than just tablets to make it consumable. Hiking poles are not needed but shoes with proper ankle support are. You will be on very rocky terrain once you're above the treeline and you could easily roll or strain something without proper footwear.

Please double layer socks in your shoes. Blisters out here will suck. Thin layer first then a thick wool sock so that you don't have as much friction with your shoes leading to blisters.

The cabins take credit cards. If you want to stay in them go for it but you aren't exactly roughing it. Sometimes if you arrive there off usually eating times they'll have free food to eat or coffee to drink. They also will let you fill up on water there.

Parking is 5USD a day at the centre (South). I would recommend dropping people off at the North trailhead, driving to the centre/parking and then taking the shuttle to regroup. This will allow you to come out of the trail right beside the parking lot on your last day.

Our group of 4, Nav, Jimmy, Ragz, and me (Rich) had a blast. 2 day trip, 20 mi. The Appalacia lot start at 4.30 am to beat the afternoon rain paid off. Madison by 8am, Leftover pancakes at Madison hut and a bathroom! Adams by 9.30, Lunch at 10.45, Jefferson by 12.30, Washington by 2pm, and at the LOC hut by 3 as it started to rain.
I do not prefer poles ever. My partners do, but there is rocks, boulders, and more rocks so use rubber tips on your poles. There is a lot of hand over hand climbing over boulders where you will have to tuck away your poles.
Adams was the toughest climb. And we made good speed on the Gulfside trail near the cog.
LoC hut is fabulous, great food and comfort, and i bought my new favorite t-shirt. I used mycoal x-large hand warmers to dry out my boots overnight. Coffee and breakfast is ready at 7, i wish it was earlier. They have a new septic system this year that filters human waste very well, so the water you drink today is someone's pee from yesterday! no joke. The hutsmen and hutswomen are super, tip them a $10 or even more. They like $20, as you will find out from Jack and Rose.
Monroe, Eisenhower and Peirce is a walk in the park compared to day1, lots of downhill, back to the Highland Center. Enjoy a beer and dinner when you get there. I will do the Presi again someday.
-Rich

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.

* 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 if you need the number for a shuttle 3-two-1 7-nine-5 533-nine

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.

Our goal was to knock off Mt. Madison & Mt. Adams in the same day view a loop. This loop accomplished that goal, however, I would not recommend this particular loop. We summited Mt. Madison first via the Howker Ridge Trail. A few miles into the trail we encounter, moose poo all along the trail for the next mile or so (enough to fill a few wheel barrows). From the start of the trailhead, we hiked for 2 hours (2.8 miles) before we got our first view, then it's back into the trees for another .6 miles. From here on, it's beautiful hiking above treeline up Mt. Madison, then down to Madison Spring Hut for a short break, then on to Mt. Adams. Including the short break it took about 5 hours to reach Mt. Adams. Now the decent ... we took the Great Gully Trail down into the ravine. This trail does not start out too bad, but quickly becomes steep and dangerous. There are dozens of scrambles down this very steep ravine, that I would not recommend except for the highly adventurous hiker. After about a mile of these super steep scrambles, the trail connects to a much more moderate trail for 3+ more miles back to the trailhead. If we were to do this loop again, I think we would have skipped the Great Gully Trail and take a shorter, easier Airline Trail to complete the loop.

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.

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
2 months 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.

Jefferson was one of my most trying hikes to dates! I’ve been hiking since I was in high school and I have bad knees from playing volleyball. I try to do a couple of difficult hikes a summer but Jefferson was the harshest on my joints. But boy was the view worth it, you can see the tops of every mountain and Washington is right in front of you. Warning, there’s numerous false peaks and there were a ton of bugs on the trail during the time I went, which was in the late Spring.

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.

This was an out and back for me, using the valley to ascend to the Madison Spring Hut. From there, the ascent to Madison is only a half mile, to Adams, a mile. The Osgood trail to Madison is well marked and a bit of a scramble here and there, but easily done (I saw a family there, and a couple dogs). For Adams, I took the Star Lake Trail, which is much more challenging, and involves some real rock work. Whatever way you choose, the views from either summit are well worth the effort.
The Valley Way itself isn't a trail with a lot of scenery, though near the beginning, there is a parallel trail called the Fallsway. You can probably guess why (it's not because of any falling danger!) It is rated here as hard, and in the White Mountain Guide as strenuous, but I think that is more for the length and continual elevation gain. I completed the Valley Way ascent in about 4 hours (taking lots of time for pics and a break), and had a great few hours on the summits and hanging around the Hut. The AMC folks were just preparing for their opening in two days, so I couldn't get a souvenir, but I did chat for a while with the folks there. I highly recommend this trail as an easier alternative to the more scenic Air Line.

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

Solo single-day winter traverse

Awesome, butt-kicking hike. Cold weekday morning in October (10/16/17) meant that I did not see another human the entire 7 hours up or down! Perfect! Started to get very icy on the constant boulder scramble 2 miles from the summit. Glad I brought my mini spikes, layers and shell.
The descent is rough on the knees.
Hiking poles a must. Thick layers of freshly fallen leaves last two descending miles hide many foot and ankle hazards.
What a great hike!
I will return.

backpacking
6 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
10 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.

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
11 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.

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
11 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.

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
Monday, August 21, 2017

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
Monday, July 31, 2017

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
Saturday, July 29, 2017

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, February 20, 2017

Winter summit. Snowshoes are a must after all this snow we received, over 10 feet in some places. The summit was whiteout with strong winds from the south west. Cairns and signs are covered by snow pack. please be observant in alpine, low visibility and hidden cairns can lead to loss of trail. Stayed a crag, gray knob was full.

hiking
Saturday, December 17, 2016

Deep snow, snow shoes and spikes are a must, stayed at gray knob, arrived at the quay at 9pm with moonlight guiding me, windchill was -15, cold night, used all layers to keep warm. Windchill reached -40 at alpine with 50mph winds. Safe travels.

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