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Presidential Traverse Lodging and Campsite Options

Presidential Traverse Topo
Presidential Traverse Topo

If you are not interested in hiking a full 23 mile Presidential Traverse, one of the longest and most scenic White Mountain routes in one calendar day, here are all of the available lodging and campsite options available to break the hike up into multi-day segments. Above-treeline camping is not permitted in the White Mountain National Forest in order to protect fragile alpine vegetation. Please be a good steward and don’t camp above treeline in our mountains.

Landmarks, Campsites, and Lodging Options

There are three types of camping and lodging options available near the Presidential Traverse Route without making a major descent below treeline: tentsites, self-service shelters and cabins, and full service cabins. All tentsites, self-service shelters and cabins are limited in capacity and only available on first-come first-serve basis, although multi-day stays are permitted. The full service cabins are available on a reservation basis and although walk-ins are possible if there empty space is available, reservations are strongly advised.

In the chart below, I list the location of major landmarks along the hike route (on the left) on a mile by mile basis, along with different lodging and camping options that you can use to break your Presidential Traverse hike into a multi-day journey (on the right). Below that I describe each lodging and campsite option, the cost to stay there if any, and additional links for more information about each one. I hope you find this format useful.

The Route

While there are several alternative routes you can take to hike a Presidential Traverse, the most common one starts at the Appalachia Trailhead and Parking lot on Rt 2 outside of Gorham, NH and climbs the Valley Way Trail to Mount Madison. After descending Mt Madison, hikers follow the Gulfside Trail to Mt Washington, taking spur trails to each of the northern Presidential peaks: Mt Adams and Mt Jefferson, before climbing Mt Washington. From Washington south and east, the route follows the Crawford Path with more detours to Mt Monroe, Mt Eisenhower, and Mount Pierce. The final presidential peak, Mt Jackson, is considered optional, but many people also climb it before descending into Crawford Notch. I’ve included it in the route I describe in this post because there are two camping and lodging options near Mt Jackson, which are good stopping points if you want to take an overnight break before you descend back into civilization.

Presidential Traverse Lodging and Camping - Part 0

Major Landmarks, Campsites, and Huts
Major Landmarks, Campsites, and Huts

Presidential Traverse Lodging and Camping - Part 2

Presidential Traverse Lodging and Camping - Part 3

Presidential Traverse Lodging and Camping

Valley Way Tentsite

Free. Managed by the US Forest Service. First come first serve. Wooden tent platforms with some soil-pads and overflow camping available. Open all year. Compositing toilet and nearby stream for water.

Appalachian Mountain Club: Madison Springs Hut

Expensive: Managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Co-ed bunk bed accommodations. Blankets, sheets, pillows, dinner, and breakfast provided. Located in the col between Mt Madison and Mt Adams. Great views and atmosphere. For reservations.  Open June through September, only.  Member discount available.

Randolph Mountain Club: Gray Knob Cabin

Inexpensive: Managed by the Randolph Mountain Club. Co-ed style accommodations with an on-site caretaker, but you need to bring your own bedding, food, and stove. Located just below treeline on Mt Adams, on Lowes Path. Stream water located nearby. Outhouse. Open year round. For more information. Member discount available.

Randolph Mountain Club's Crag Camp Cabin
Randolph Mountain Club’s Crag Camp Cabin

Randolph Mountain Club: Crag Camp Cabin

Inexpensive: Managed by the Randolph Mountain Club. Co-ed style accommodations with an on-site caretaker, but you need to bring your own bedding, food, and stove. Located just below treeline on Mt Adams, overlooking magnificent King Ravine. Stream water located nearby. Outhouse. Open year round. For more information. Member discount available. Highly Recommended.

The Shelter at The RMC's Perch
The Shelter at The RMC’s Perch

Randolph Mountain Club: The Perch Shelter and Tentsites

Inexpensive: Managed by the Randolph Mountain Club. Three-sided shelter and adjacent tent platforms on the northern side of Mt Adams. with a visiting caretaker. Stream water located nearby. Outhouse. Open year round. For more information. Member discount available. Highly Recommended.

AMC Lake of the Clouds Hut, White Mountains
AMC Lake of the Clouds Hut, White Mountains

Appalachian Mountain Club: Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Expensive: Managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Co-ed bunk bed accommodations. Blankets, sheets, pillows, dinner, and breakfast provided. Located on the southern flank of Mt Washington, just above treeline, below Mt Monroe. Great views. For reservations.  Open June through September.

Inside the AMC Mizpah Hut
Inside the AMC Mizpah Hut

Appalachian Mountain Club: Mizpah Springs Hut

Expensive: Managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Co-ed bunk bed accommodations. Blankets, sheets, pillows, dinner, and breakfast provided. Located near Mt Jackson. Great views and atmosphere. For reservations.  Open May through Mid-October.

Naumann Tentsite

Inexpensive: Managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Five single platforms, two double platforms, composting outhouse, dishwashing area, metal food boxes for bear protection. Located next to the Mizpah Hut. Stream nearby for water.

Appalachian Mountain Club: Highland Center

Expensive: The Marriott of the Appalachian Mountain Club Lodging System. Shared and private rooms available. Blankets, sheets, pillows, dinner, and breakfast provided. Located of Rt 302 at the top of Crawford Notch. For reservations.  Open year-round.

Bunk House Interior
AMC Shapleigh Bunk House Interior

Appalachian Mountain Club: Shapleigh Bunkhouse

Moderate: Bunk style lodging with pillows, sheets, and blankets provided. Full kitchen and shower facilities included. Meals are extra but available at the adjacent AMC Highland Center. Discount for Appalachian Mountain Club members. Open year-round. For Reservations.

Recommended Maps

If you want to hike a Presidential traverse, buy yourself a map before you arrive and carefully plan out your route and bailout trails in advance in case you need to abort your hike due to bad weather, blisters, fatigue, or other issues. When planning, be sure to factor in  your cumulative elevation gain in addition to the mileage you plan to cover per day because it will slow you down and tire you out if you’re not used to climbing 3000+ feet every weekend, like most local hikers.

Here are the maps I recommend for a Presidential Traverse and the White Mountains in general.

Note: cell phone access is non-existent for most of the Presidential Traverse route except at the summit of Mt Washington, so don’t plan on using your cell phone as a GPS.

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30 comments

  1. Philip,
    You are quickly becoming my go to White Mtn. hiking resource.
    I am interested in doing this traverse in one day. But plan on doing it in two this summer. Then in one next year.
    Thanks for all the great info! This really helps my pre-trip planning.

    • I love this place and figure that educating people about it and how to use the place in a low impact way is better than the alternative.

      Another reader asked for some help in planning help for their multi-day treaverse, so I figured I’d write it up to share with others too.

  2. I’d like to add the parking lot as a great place to sleep if you are waiting for your ride to pick you up.

    (Not to set camp but to doze off after hiking)

  3. Great cell phone at the west end of Lakes Hut (but none at the door).

  4. Thank you a bunch! The weather kept me from my planned traverse when I was up there last year. Hopefully, one of these years I’ll get there and put this to use.

  5. The Perch is great. Dr Spice and happy days memories. Nice post and so helpful for people. Why Section Hiker is a go-to website for hikers seeking adventure in the Whites.

  6. Hermit Lake Shelter? Dry River drainage?
    Mt. Webster is part of the traverse IMO

  7. Does the Neuman tent site require reservations? Thanks for the great info and site.

  8. Last time I did a Presidential Traverse (June 2011), the Dungeon at Lakes was still an option (Maybe not a good option). Don’t know if it still is…

    I splurged, and stayed in the hut…

  9. I stayed at the Perch on Oct. 9th, 2012 before summiting Mt. Washington on the 10th. It was a real lifesaver to be able to drop down those 1,000 ft to a known quantity reliable campsite. It’s good to know all of your below tree line options when you’re up there. I want to become an RMC member now.

  10. Hi everyone,

    The wife and I are planning on doing the PT 6/29,6/30,7/1. Some help would be very much appreciated.

    1. We are hiking and want to camp 2 nights. Where should we start from and what two camp sites should we aim for?

    2. Do we need a detailed map or is everything pretty well marked?

    3. How early should we plan to get at the campsites by? I’d hate to get there and not have any spots left.

    4. Any other tips you can offer are bonus! Thank you for the detailed write up. This will be our first hiking trip out east.

  11. Is camping allowed off trail anywhere or only at these sites? I’m backpacking next weekend and would like to stay away from the crowds. It would just be myself and a tent. I know not to camp above tree line, to stay 200 ft off a trail or water source and leave no trace methods. I just dont want to set up my private camp somewhere to just be yanked out of it at some ungodly hour you know?

    • There’s simply no place to camp unless you bring a hot air balloon. The terrain is just too rough. Go down to a lower elevation (way down) or stay at the designated sites, please. If you want to stay away from the crowds, go to the Wild River Wilderness, but not the Presidential range.

  12. Philip, thank you for this extremely helpful information. Your posts are very detailed, concise and informative and will be a gem to help me plan my trip to the Traverse. I appreciate the effort!

  13. Does the perch tentsite require a reservation?

  14. Philip, this is an amazing resource! Every time I plan a trip I come to your website. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into creating this.

    One note about cell phones and GPS (don’t worry, I never hike without a map). Cell phones receive GPS information from satellites. In the early days, “triangulation” was used for location services to determine distance from cell towers. Then GPS chips were added but were still closely coupled to the cell functionality. This has slowly been changing, and most cell phones today (2016) can receive GPS information anywhere as long as you have previously saved the map on your phone. It’s a handy backup to have.

  15. Justine Méthot

    Hi! I’ll like to do the presidential traverse and starting by the south (Mt Jackson). I know that most of the time people begin at the north…My question is, is it a good decision to sleep at the Clouds Hut? And is it a good decision to begin by the south side?

  16. Hey all. I was just wondering as an estimate how long it took to hike from Appalachia to the Perch. I know all people hike at different speeds but I’m just trying to get a ball park figure. Also, I know the sites fill up but what would be a reasonable time to arrive to get a site on a weekday and a weekend. Thanks in advance

  17. Is it possible to hang a hammock at The Perch?

  18. My son and I are looking to do a “traditional” north/south traverse this September. Since it’ll be our first time in the Whites, we want to take our time and enjoy the scenery and weather permitting, fill up our memory cards with great photos. So we’d like to do it over two nights camping using our hammocks. Would love some input on recommended “hang” options.

  19. Hello
    I was wondering if anyone knows if Labor day week-end is busy at the tent sites.
    I know they are first come first serve, so I am curious about the possibility about hiking to a site only to find tent sites already claimed

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