“This incredibly rewarding route is a full day of challenge and amazement.
— Ronit Malka
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall
This route follows a series of trails, summiting every peak named after a US president in the White Mountains. Although it can be backpacked and is even undertaken in winter, running the entire trail in a day is very popular. There are two popular routes, the "minimal" traverse of 19 miles exiting after Mt Eisenhower and the "full" traverse of 23 miles exiting after Mt Jackson. Most of the trail (Mt Madison through after Mt Eisenhower/Mt Jackson) is above treeline, providing exceptional views of the White Mountains. Be warned that it's often foggy or cloudy, though, especially up on Mt Washington.
The road to Crawford Path Trailhead (Mt Clinton Road) is closed during the winter.
Need to Know
All trails are very well marked.
Mt Washington is known for very bad weather even in summer so check the weather beforehand (mountwashington.org/experie…
) and be sure to pack a coat, fleece, longsleeve, hat, and gloves, as well as long pants and rain coat/pants. Would not recommend trying this run in a day during the winter.
There is very little shade above treeline (between Mt Madison and Mt Pierce), and even mild sun and cloudy days can give serious sunburn.
The majority of the trail is very rocky, especially between Mt Madison and Mt Washington; there are less rocky trails on the ridge between Jefferson and Washington and after Lake of the Clouds.
Good water sources along Valley Way
and Crawford Path
(need treatment), potable water at Madison Spring Hut, Mt Washington summit, Lake of Clouds Hut, and Mizpah Hut (if doing full traverse). The summit of Mt Washington has a big visitor center with food and souvenirs.
Many trail runners run this route, but it is very slow because of the elevation gain and very rocky trails and summits. Would not recommend summiting while on trail runs and instead opt for the less rocky trails.
One of many popular routes, this version of the presidential traverse begins at the Appalachian Trailhead at the AMC Highland Center. Take either Randolph Path
, Air Line
, or Valley Way
trails to the AMC Madison Springs Hut.
Summit Mt Madison (out and back up very rocky, scrambly trail). From the hut, follow the Gulfside
Trail along the ridgeline to the summit of Mt Washington (taking the Air Line
Trail to summit Mt Adams, the Mt Jefferson Loop
to summit Mt Jefferson, and if desired the Mt Clay Loop
to summit Mt Clay along the way ). From the summit of Mt Washington, follow the Crawford Path
along the ridge line down to Lake of Clouds Hut and continue along Crawford Path
to just under Mt Pierce (summiting Mt Monroe with the Mt Monroe Loop
and Mt Eisenhower with the Mt Eisenhower Loop
). The Mt Pierce Summit, which is very close to Crawford Path
, is an easy summit to hit even if you're doing the minimal traverse (though it is not officially part of the traverse).
Minimal Traverse: Continue down the Crawford Path
to either the AMC Highland Center (left at fork 0.2 miles from road toward Rt. 302) or the Crawford Path Trailhead (right at fork) on Mt Clinton Road. Pass Gibbs Falls on the right as you descend.
Full Traverse: Continue over Mt Pierce to the summit of Mt Jackson on the Webster Cliff Trail
, then take a right onto Webster-Jackson Trail
to exit onto Route 302. You'll be on the Saco Lake Trail for the last 0.3 miles.
Alternative: You can also take Star Lake
Trail from Mt Madison to Mt Adams; this is a more difficult trail. Tuckerman Ravine
Trail also descends Mt Washington, but is much more difficult than Crawford Path
and is out of the way toward Lake of Clouds and Mt Monroe.
Flora & Fauna
Most of the route is in the Alpine Zone, where the trees are (briefly) stubby evergreens before becoming only crabgrass and the occasional wildflower. Towards the start and end of the route, there is a normal mix of deciduous and evergreen trees, as well as some streams up Valley Way
and down Crawford Path
History & Background
Mt Jackson is technically not named for President Jackson, but for NH state geologist Charles Thomas Jackson. Because of this, many people do not include it in the definition of a Presidential Traverse.
Mt Clay, named after 19th century senator Henry Clay, was renamed Mt Reagan by the NH state legislature in 2003. However, the US Board on Geographic Names voted not to change the name in 2010, so it remains Mt Clay on most maps. Because of the name change, some suggest it should be included in a Presidential Traverse, but most do not require summiting Mt Clay/Reagan as part of the run.