White Mountain NF: Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison Loop

Ascend two White Mountain peaks on this 8.5-mile sneak route to the Appalachian Trail's best view in the state.
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Ascend two White Mountain peaks on this 8.5-mile sneak route to the Appalachian Trail's best view in the state.

The Appalachain Trail through the Presidentials is no-joke busy in the summer. Ditto the Appalachia parking lot, where this hike begins. But when the peak-bagger ant parade takes the Valley Way Trail to the top of Mt. Adams, take the Air Line Trail to avoid the crowds.

After crossing NH 2, fork right onto the Air Line Trail and begin a steady ascent through dense forest. Pass trail junctions for the Beechwood Trail (mile .6), and Scar Trail (mile .9), heading due south on the Air Line. Gain Durand Ridge at mile 2.2 and ascend into the alpine zone with the first glimpse of views that await you higher up. Continue straight at 2.9 miles, as the ridge drops sharply to your right. Cross the AT at mile 3.4 and haul yourself over fridge-size boulders to reach the Mt. Adams' 5,774-foot summit at mile 3.9.

Hike an airy mile to summit 5,367-foot Mt. Madison on the Madison Hut cut-off. Snap a few pictures of this White Mountain tableaux which includes Mt. Adams, Mt. Washington, and Wildcat Ski Area. Descend on the Watson Path for 1.5 miles, then connect with the throng post-summit peak baggers for the final two miles of Valley Way Trail back to the trailhead.

-Mapped by Benjamin Tupper

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 13.7

Waypoints

MAD001

Location: 44.37147, -71.289391

Parking pull-out and trailhead

MAD002

Location: 44.368626, -71.289946

Stay straight (south) at the junction with The Link Trail.

MAD003

Location: 44.363687, -71.291146

Keep straight (south) at the junction with the Beechwood Way Trail

MAD004

Location: 44.358497, -71.291822

Straight (again) at the intersection with the Scar Trail.

MAD005

Location: 44.341715, -71.2896

Gain Durand Ridge. Keep heading south.

MAD006

Location: 44.326369, -71.287623

Cross the AT, and scramble the last .5 mile, and 1,000 vertical feet to top out on Mt. Adams.

MAD007

Location: 44.320473, -71.29162

The 5,774-foot summit of Mt. Adams, second highest point in New Hampshire.

MAD008

Location: 44.326269, -71.287669

Bear right on the Madison Hut cut-off for a one-mile hike to the summit of Mt. Adams.

MAD009

Location: 44.328208, -71.283004

Stay right.

MAD010

Location: 44.328772, -71.27683

The 5,367-foot summit of Mt. Madison, with views out to Mt. Washington, Mt. Adams, and the Wildcat Ski Area.

MAD011

Location: 44.329821, -71.275729

Turn left onto the Watson Path Trail to descend.

MAD012

Location: 44.343768, -71.283721

Merge onto the Valley Way Trail and hike 2 miles back to the parking lot at Appalachia.

Foggy View from Mt. Adams

Location: 44.320901, -71.29097

Mt. Madison Summit

Location: 44.328289, -71.276121

View of Adams and Mt. Washington from Mt. Madison

Location: 44.329517, -71.277752

Mt. Adams

Location: 44.325588, -71.288652