How to Do a 1 or 2 day Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire

In Camping, Hiking by college@dmin1 Comment

Many day trips or overnight hiking trips in the White Mountains of New Hampshire are fairly straight forward: pack enough food and water, bring extra socks, a first-aid kit, etc. However, completing the 20-24 mile Presidential Range Traverse takes a serious amount of planning, or you may end up lost, cold, hungry, and with no exit strategy. Lucky for you, I’ve done a lot of the work. Use this as a guide for your future trip, always taking into consideration that the Prezi range has some of the worst weather in the world, and that you have to be ready to turn around or go down at a moments notice.

This was my game plan for a Full Prezi Traverse, Southbound, Madison-Jackson (21.7 miles, 8800 ft elevation gain, book time 15:15.)

Places to Get Food and Water:

·  Madison Hut (fill our water bottles/camel backs here)

·  Mt Washington (Water and Snacks, closes around late October)

·  Lakes of the Clouds (right after Mt. Washington for water, closes early October)

·  Mizpah Hut (just after Pierce for water, open all winter)


·  4am or 10am  START – Appalachia on rt 302 (1 or 2 day traverse respectively)

o  Take Valley Way to the Madison Hut water and snacks

o  Note – a common mistake is to do this section too fast, you’re amped and feeling good but like a marathoner it’ll come back and get you near the end, so take it easy and get warmed up

o  Note – only fill up 1 water bottle for the hike up Madison, Madison hut has water and you can save 3-4 lbs on this 5000ft hike by doing this.

o  Take Osgood Trail up/down to the peak of Madison

·  Madison!

o  Take the Gulfside trail all the way to Washington

o  Note – following the Gulfside trail will avoid all peaks if for some reason you need to. There is a way around every summit if the weather gets bad.

o  Note – after Madison you’ve done 40% of our elevation gain

o  EVAC – Valley way to Appalachia, Howker Ridge Trail to rt 2

·  Adams!

o  Gulfside Trail to Edmands Col

o  After Adams you’ve done 5000 out of 8500 total feet

o  EVAC – Lowes Path to rt 2 (Thunderstorm Junction)

·  Jefferson!

o  Take the Clay loop to hit Mt Clay, otherwise continue on Gulfside Trail which has really good footing in that section

o  EVAC – Caps Ridge Trail to Jefferson Notch Road (2.1 miles)

CAMP: somewhere after Jefferson, probably on the Sprinx trail below tree line. You must camp 200 ft off the trail and below tree line. Spinx trail is your best bet for flatish (if not marshy) areas to get some shut eye.

·  Clay! 

o  The peak can be avoided if time is an issue (it’s not an official 4000 footer)

o  The Westside trail can be used to avoid the summit of Washington

o  EVAC – Jewell Trail (off Gulfside Trail not Clay Loop on the summit) to the Base Road, or follow the cars down

·  Washington!

o  Food and water stop

o  Note – the biggest mistake people make is spending too much time here. Get some food and hot cocoa and keep moving!

o  Take the Crawford Path to its junction with the Webster Cliff Trail at Mt. Pierce

o  Lakes of the Clouds Hut has water and snacks and is just before Monroe

o  You can avoid the Monroe summit by hiking the trail around it if need be

o  EVAC – to Lakes of the Clouds Hut then Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to Base Road, Huntington Ravine Trail or Tuckerman Ravine Trail (Hermit Lake Shelter) to Pinkham Notch (AMC Hut)

·  Monroe!

o  Crawford Path, a steep but short ascent, rough but short descent but after this the footing gets much better

o  EVAC – the only way off is to go back to Lakes of the Clouds hut and descend Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to Base Road

· Note: From now on the peaks aren’t marked very well until you get to Eisenhauer again.

·  Franklin!

o  Crawford Path

o  EVAC – Continue to just before Eisenhower and Edmands Path to Mt Clinton Road or go back over Monroe and take Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail by Lakes of the Clouds (can bypass Monroe’s peak)

·  Eisenhower!

o  Crawford Path

o  EVAC – Edmands Path to Mt Clinton Road

·  Pierce!

o  Ending at Pierce counts as the “minimal traverse”

o  Webster Cliff Trail to Mt. Jackson

o  Mizpah hut has water and snacks and is between Pierce and Jackson. We had a glorious bowl of tomato vegetable soup here last time!

o  EVAC – either go back to Eisenhower skipping the summit and descend via Edmands Path or continue on Crawford Path to the Highland Center, or continue to Mizpah Spring Hut and descend via Mizpah Cutoff then Crawford Path to Highland Center

·  Jackson!

o  Take Webster-Jackson Trail to Highland Center

o  Mt Webster is rarely added to the prezi traverse

o  EVAC – from summit descent via Jackson Bridge Trail to Webster Jackson Trail, or continue to down Webster Cliff Trail to Mt Webster and descend to rt 302 via Webster Cliff Trail or Webster Bridge to Webster Jackson Trail to Highland Center.


Individual Stuff: 

o  4 Nalgenes minimum (see above for water stops, gatorade mix can be clutch during a trip like this to keep hydrated)

o  Food, lots of it.

o  2 pairs Wool socks

o  Synthetic Shirt

o  Fleece/Wool Upper Layer (it’s always winter in the whites)

o  Puffy jacket

o  Gloves

o  Hat

o  Rain-proof shell (weather always changes)

o  Goretex pants (if you have them)

o  Treking Poles (if you have them)

o  Cell Phone (just in case)

o  White Mountains Map

o  Head Lamp

Group Stuff

o  Medical Kit

o  Space Blanket

o  Sleeping bag (ideally 35-45 degrees, overnight only)

o  Compass

o  GPS

o  Stuff to make fire

o  Tent (overnight only)

o  Water filter/purification tablets

o  Sleeping pads (overnight only)

o  Crocs or super lightweight flip flops for camp/rivers.

o  TP

o  Sunscreen

Hopefully this helps you prepare for your first Prezi Traverse. Remember to always check the weather before you leave from the Mt. Washington Observatory website.

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