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The Presidential Traverse – Is It For You?

by | Jun 15, 2022 | Hiking, Mountaineering, TRAVEL | 0 comments

The Presidential Traverse is a series of peaks that make up the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, New Hampshire.

The range of mountains, located within the White Mountains of New Hampshire is part of the White Mountain National Forest.

Let’s make one thing clear from the get go, this hike, or should we say mountain range, is absolutely no joke.

This is a serious undertaking for the very experienced climbers, you will see why as we explain, but don’t think about doing this as a novice hiker.

It should be clear that the ‘Presidential Traverse’ is nicknamed to cover quite a few mountains named after our illustrious list of presidents.

Can you meet this huge undertaking, or is this something for you to set upon your horizon and work towards?

In this article, we will cover some general information about this hike. So you can figure out if it is traverse is ultimately for you.

Happy Hiking!

An Overview

This is one of the most serious hiking in New Hampshire and is certainly up there with the most arduous terrains in the US. 

The hike is nearly 23 miles long if you choose to complete it all, the elevation gain can reach 9000 feet which is serious.

The mountain range exhibits some challenging rock hiking that can be hard for beginners. Additionally, it’s super exposed trails above the treeline can make foot placement can be really important and tricky.

Beyond the physical proficiency the hike demands, there are logistical issues that hikers also have to deal with.

At 23 miles this can take up to four days depending on your ability. However, more experienced climbers have managed to do it in the day. 

Completing this over a few days requires detailed advance planning. From sourcing enough food to dealing with changing weather conditions. What’s more, the mental toll can all be serious factors worth preparing for.

The Route

This is a 23 mile route, so there is a lot to cover.  Most people walk the trail north to south, following the succession of peaks as the main route. SO in the most simple terms, the route can be listed as follows:

  1. Mt Madison – 5367 feet
  2. Mt Adams – 5774 feet
  3. Mt Jefferson – 5712 feet
  4. Mt Clay – 5533 feet
  5. Mt Washington – 6288 feet
  6. Mt Monroe – 5384 feet
  7. Mt Franklin – 5001 feet
  8. Mt Eisenhower – 4780 feet
  9. Mt Pierce – 4310 feet
  10. Mt Jackson – 4052 feet
The Route

But here is a more detailed description of the route.

Traverse Peaks

Most people tackle the first peak, Madison, by the way of the Valley Way Trail which forms one of the tougher climbs of the day, best done first.

The 3.8 miles to start the trip has an elevation gain of around 4000 feet. There is a hut at the top of this commencing peak, which is a good place to stock up and check the weather for the rest of the morning.

The next trail to embark on is the Gulfside trail which takes you to the peak of Adams and Jefferson, these trails follow a large valley known as the Great Gulf.

There is a rather pastoral area on the southern shoulder of Mt. Jefferson that is a momentary and idyllic break – it remains tempting to sit down.

Mt Washington, the next peak to traverse, has one of the worst histories of bad weather in the US, let alone the mountain range.

A huge jet stream hangs over the mountain, just waiting to blow hikers off the mountain year round.

It’s best to check before you traverse the mountain, but at the top you will be greeted by a snack bar, however strange, it’s a good place to load up.

Even more strangely, there is actually a train that goes to the peak of Mt. Washington, mainly for the tourists, so maybe avoid it if you want to press on. But if you feel like bailing now, it’s best to do it here.

Luckily, Monroe lies just past the hut and is easy to set your sights on.

What’s even better is that after Monroe, the next four peaks (Franklin, Eisenhower, Pierce and Jackson) are pretty easy, and you can really pound these out with the right preparation and proficiency.

Smashing out these peaks is the key to a good finish time.

Weather on the Traverse

The views are totally worth traversing the mountainside for, but if you get hit by dehydration, snowstorms, lighting, hail, or any other extreme weather condition, which remains quite likely, then these views can quickly be forgotten.

The route remains fairly hard in whatever weather conditions; in the heat it can be really hard for many, in the cold the weather conditions can be debilitating, and in both situations, water management is key.

In the winter these huts are shut, so it requires extra planning.

Many climbers who are well experienced and proficient in climbing can manage to do this in one day. We would recommend trying to do it in either two or three days.

There are many great places to camp, many of which are above the treeline, so remain fairly safe.

The whole trail is actually above the treeline, so some map reading skills are also super necessary to remain safe. However, a road is often never too far away if you bail and need to hitch home.

This trail is hard but really worthwhile. There aren’t too many trails in the US that can provide this level of challenge.

In Summary

Attempting to complete this in one day can be really good training for other harder trails that are out there. US climbers love the trail as while it is close to home, it can provide the challenge necessary for training.

If you want to attempt the Presidential Traverse, we recommend getting yourself a presidential convoy just like they have.

Get some people you trust who have some map skills, experience climbing, and a happy demeanor, and you can really make a good go at it. Without some serious experience in your locker, we wouldn’t suggest going it alone.

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