Backpacking The Presidential Range

Backpacking The Presidential Range

Planning to hike The Presidential Range in NH? Well, you totally should! The Presidential Traverse is one of the most epic hikes!

Backpacking the Presidential Range, NH

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Backpacking The Presidential Range

The Presidental Range

The Presidential Range is in the White Mountains of NH and it is a beauty of a hike! You are hiking above treeline for most of the hike, getting some of the best views in the Eastern U.S.

The Presidential Range/Traverse is a 20-mile hike with over 8,200 feet of elevation gain in the New Hampshire’s White Mountains which consists of 7 peaks: Mount Madison, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Mount Monroe, Mount Eisenhower, and Mount Pierce. It is the highest elevation ridge in the state. It can also be made into a 23 miles hike adding 4 additional peaks: Mount Webster, Mount Jackson, Mount Clay, and Mount Franklin. It is also part of the Appalachian Trail!

Traversing the entire length of the Presidential Range, you will summit at least seven 4,000-footers including New Hampshire’s five tallest peaks. 

Some people do this in a day, others take 2-3 days to hike. It all depends on your abilities and your goals. For us, we did it in 2 days, well, technically 3 days, but it was 1 full day and 2 half days.

There are AMC huts to stop along the way, where you can pay to sleep and/or grab a bite to eat, but also camp spots along route too.

Mount Washington is the tallest mountain in the Northeast and is famous for having the worst weather in the world. Mount Washington has the second-fastest wind speed ever recorded on Earth, and the fastest wind speed ever recorded by a human at 231 mph (372 kph).  So be prepared, the weather can change at any given time!

The Presidential Range is stunning, strenuous, and can be dangerous at times. One of the most epic hikes!

Parking:

Parking is $5 a day and there is a shuttle service as this is a point-to-point hike. We went with friends and had two cars, so we met and parked one car at the Crawford Connector Trailhead, and drove together to the Appalachia Parking lot and parked the second vehicle, and then proceeded to hike from there!

Parking: Crawford Connector Trailhead, Bretton Woods, NH 03575

Parking: Appalachia Parking Lot – Presidential Rail Trail Parking, Presidential Hwy, Randolph, NH 03593

The Peaks:

Mount Madison 5,367′
Mount Adams 5,774′
Mount Jefferson 5,712′
Mount Washington 6,288′
Mount Monroe 5,384′
Mount Eisenhower 4,780′
Mount Pierce 4,310′
Mount Webster 3,911′
Mount Jackson, 4,052′
Mount Clay 5,553′
Mount Franklin 5,001′

Camping:

Above treeline, camping is not permitted.

You have three ways to camp or lodge without making a major descent below treeline: tentsites, self-service shelters and cabins, and full-service cabins. Right now with COVID Restrictions, the huts recommend reservations.

Tent SitesMileage
Valley way Tentsite (Free)3.1
RMC The Perch Tent Platforms ($)7.0
Ammo (near Lake of the Clouds) Tentsite (Free)12.0
AMC Nauman Tent Platforms ($)17.75
Huts & CabinsMileage
AMC Madison Hut ($)3.8
RMC Gray Knob Cabin ($)5.75
RMC Crag Camp Cabin ($)6.0
RMC The Perch Lean-to ($)7.0
AMC Lake of the Clouds Hut ($)11.4
AMC Mizpah Spring Hut ($)17.75

Itinerary

Day 1: 1/2 Day (Afternoon Hike)
3.1 Miles to Valley Way Campsite
Day 2: Full Day
9 Miles Valley Way Tentsite to AMMO (Right be below Lake of the Clouds)
Day 3: 1/2 Day (Morning Hike)
7.6 Miles from Lake of the Clouds to

Water

Natural water sources are abundant in the White Mountains, and you can also resupply water at the AMC Huts!

Map & Guidebook

You should rely on Alltrails and your phone as your guidance, I always recommend purchasing a Map & Guidebook!

Packing

Depending on length of stay & season your list may be different!

  • Clothing:
    • Rain Jacket / Wind Breaker
    • Wool Socks (2 Pairs)
    • Hiking boots
    • Extra Warm Layers
    • Gloves & Warm Hat
    • Hat/Bandana
    • Light Weight Microfiber Towel

For more backpacking gear recommendations go check out our Gear Essentials for Backpacking the Northville Placid Trail

Leave No Trace

  • Pack it in, pack it out.
    • Bring a bag for food waste and garbage
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
    • Dig a 6-8 inch cathole, at least 200 ft from water, camp and trails & bury. (Note: There are many bathrooms a long the way with the huts!)
    • If you use soap for dishes or bathing, make sure you’re a good distance (at least 200 feet) from the water. (Even Biodegradable soap!) Dig a hole and wash up away from the water with a bucket or water bottle!
  • Leave What You Find.
    • Plants, rocks, animals.
  • Respect Wildlife
    • Observe from a distance
  • Respect other backpackers!

Live Free or Die

New Hamshire

Backpacking the Presidential Traverse

Day 1: Afternoon Hike

NH is about a 5-6 hour drive for all of us, so we met at the Crawford Connector Trailhead around 1 PM, parked, paid, loaded one vehicle, and then drove to the Appalachia Parking Lot (about 30 min drive).

We started up the Valley Way Trail and headed to our first destination for the night, the Valley Way Tentsite. There were a few nice spots to set up camp, they also have a porta-potty, and there was a large bear canister for anyone to use.

We had our backpacking/dehydrated meals, shared some treats, a shot of Tequila, and eventually made our way into the tents for the night!

Valley Way Tensite - The Presidential Range

Day 2: Full Day

We woke up the next morning, packed up, and began our journey to attempt the Presidential Traverse!

Shortly, we arrived at the AMC Madison Hut, where they had some leftover oatmeal and warm cornbread! We left our packs at the hut, and then onward to our first Peak! As we started to get closer to the top, the wind picked up! About 50 MPH winds, you couldn’t hear much, but it made you feel alive and 360 views! Although, I was a little nervous the entire hike was going to be like that, hiking along the ridge!

The Presidential Traverse - Mt. Madison
Mount Madison

Back down the mountain, grabbed our packs, and onward we went!

Mount Adams, the second-highest 4000 footer in the White Mountains. Very Rocky and bouldery, oh wait, the entire hike was this way! Another beautiful peak, wind was still heavy, but not as much as it was on Mount Madison!

The Presidential Traverse - Mt. Adams
Mount Adams

Continuing down the path to Mount Jefferson. The wind was pretty dead by the time we got to Mount Jefferson, which Mount Jefferson is known to usually be one of the windiest peaks due to the direction of the winds!

The Presidential Traverse - Mt. Adams

The sky started to clear up, and we had a beautiful hike to Mount Washington! No wind at all on Mount Washington!

Mount Washington is the tallest mountain in the Northeast and is famous for having the worst weather in the world. Mount Washington has the second-fastest wind speed ever recorded on Earth, and the fastest wind speed ever recorded by a human at 231 mph (372 kph).  This is our third time hiking Mount Washington, so I can attest to the crazy weather that happens on Mount Washington!

Backpacking the Presidential Range, NH

On to our final destination for the evening, Lake of the clouds, and finding a place to camp. We hung out at the Lake of the Clouds Hut for a bit! They had lots of treats and we were figuring out where to camp. They suggested heading down below treeline to the AMMO tentsites which was about 0.5 miles.

Hurricane Henri was heading our way, so we were a little worried about storms.

The Presidential Traverse - Lake of the Clouds
Lake of the Clouds

We headed down to find those tensites, and from what we could see there were 2 different spots, both relatively small spots. But we set our tents, warmed our dehydrated food, and sat watching the most beautiful sunset!

Backpacking The Presidential Range

Through the night it started to get a little breezy, and started to rain, I wore 3 layers of wool, with a down jacket on, gloves, and a wool hat on!

Day 3: Morning Hike

When we woke up the next morning, it was still raining, but lightly. The forecast called for rain all day. Our tents were literally sitting in puddles! But this was our last day to hike out, so we just packed up, went back up to Lake of the Clouds, and heated our water for our dehydrated breakfast in the hut out of the rain. And the rain eventually stopped!

Mount Monroe was next on the list! It was still foggy, and misty, but starting to clear up!

The Presidential Traverse - Mount Monroe
Mount Monroe

Onward to our final two Peaks Mount Eisenhower and Mount Pierce.

Mount Eisenhower
Mount Eisenhower

There was a break in the fog here and there and the rain eventually stopped completely, making for beautiful views of the Southern Presidential range along the way.

Mount Pierce
Mount Pierce

And our final Peak – Mount Pierce.

Finally making our way down the mountain to the Crawford Connector Parking lot!

Final Thoughts

This was an incredible hike with breathtaking views, being above treeline for most of the hike, experiencing a mix of weather, and enjoying great company all in the Heart of the White Mountains! The Presidential Traverse is one of the most epic hikes! Challenging both mentally and physically for some!

Traversing the entire length of the Presidential Range, summiting at least seven 4,000-footers, which includes New Hampshire’s five tallest peaks.

Depending on what you want to get out of the hike, people can definitely do it in a day, however, speed is not a goal of mine. Being in nature, doing something I love, with the people I enjoy being with is my priority!

  • Backpacking The Presidential Range
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Letting go of Expectations

This hike can be challenging for most, so let go of the expectations of completing the entire hike. The weather can change at any given moment, know it’s okay if you have to end your hike sooner, be smart, be safe. Expectations can often lead to disappointment if not fulfilled.

Expectations can hinder our ability to see clearly. Let go of what you think should be happening, to see what really is

Letting go of expectations allows you to live in the present moment. You make the best out of what is thrown at you. Going with the flow allows you to be more flexible, and to keep an open mind. And I find that when I let go of expectations, I enjoy myself much more, and whatever I am doing, especially hiking; something that may be both physically and mentally challenging, becomes more meditative.


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Alyx B

A Certified Yoga Instructor, with a Bachelor's in Environmental Sustainability and Animal Science. Lover of animals and tacos! And passionate about traveling, hiking, yoga, and the environment.

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