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Backpacker Magazine – November 2010

Best Hikes Ever: Presidential Traverse, NH

Tag a team of the East's most challenging peaks in the White Mountains.

by: Kelly Bastone

Mt. Washington dominates at mile 6 on the Crawford Path. (Tim Seaver)
Mt. Washington dominates at mile 6 on the Crawford Path. (Tim Seaver)

The East’s most dramatic trek tops eight peaks exceeding 4,000 feet (including 6,288-foot Mt. Washington). Each summit is a life-lister unto itself, but link them up and you’ll complete the biggest adventure east of the Rockies. That’s assuming you avoid getting stalled by a whiteout or turned back by storms: Unpredictable weather above treeline makes this a serious undertaking any time of year, and in winter, winds exceed 100 mph every four days. Yet some of our writers have tackled New England’s gnarliest peaks in its least-forgiving season, and they say the rewards are equal to the challenge. “It’s downright Himalayan in winter, and its cozy hut system is the best in the States,” says Northwest Editor Michael Lanza (“The Presidentials,” February 1996), who has hiked both. Whichever season you attempt this legendary 23-mile route, study up on the bailout points before striking out.

Do it
Although some tackle it in a day, most sane hikers take two to three days. Climb 3,500 feet over 3.8 miles on the Valley Way Trail to 5,366-foot Mt. Madison. Then hike south on the Gulfside Trail and Crawford Path, tagging Adams, Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower, and Pierce. Jackson and Webster aren’t considered part of the traverse (Jackson isn’t named for the president, and Webster doesn’t exceed 4,000 feet), but you may as well tack them on. From Jackson’s summit, you can look back, and yes, gloat over your route before descending to the Crawford trailhead.

Drop a shuttle car at the AMC’s Highland Center (on US 302). From Randolph, drive 1.5 miles west on NH 2 to the Valley Way parking area.

AMC’s Presidential Range Map andWhite Mountain Guide ($10 and $25,

(603) 466-2721;

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Reader Rating: -


Star Star Star Star Star
Jan 19, 2013

Best hike ever! My husband and I spent the summer of 2011 hiking all NH 48 peaks and did the Presi as a day hike. Took us a little under 14 hours but so amazing! Pemi loop is another epic trip to do, especially the "Bonds" section of it.

Aug 25, 2011

I'm planning on doing this in Sept. and can't wait! Backpacking, no huts!

Shawn D.
Dec 14, 2010

My son and I did this traverse July, 2010.
It is absolutely amazing. You can leave your car at AMC Highland Ctr. Spend the night in the main lodge, or Shapleigh bunkhouse. After a great buffet breakfast, take a morning shuttle to the Valley Way Trail head, and start your adventure. Spend nite one at the beautiful Madison Hut. Wake, eat and hike to Lakes of the Clouds Hut for nite 2. Return to your car at Highland Ctr. on day 3. You can pack very light because of the hut stays and meals provided. I wish I could upload some pix for this one. It is truly a wonderful 3 day trek.
Do it!!

Nov 15, 2010

It's a wonderful hike. I haven't done it in a couple of years, but it's one of my favorites.


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