Here are all of the available lodging and campsite options available along the Presidential Traverse 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: tent sites, self-service shelters and cabins, and full-service cabins. All tent sites, 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 hiking 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.
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.
Valley Way Tent site
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: 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.
Randolph Mountain Club: The Perch Shelter and Tent sites
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.
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.
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 Tent site
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 off Rt 302 at the top of Crawford Notch. For reservations. Open year-round.
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.
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.
Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:
- Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide, 31st ed.
- AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set
- White Mountains Map: New Hampshire and Maine
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.
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.
Hi Phil, planning a first time for a Presidential Traverse on Apr 23-24, north to south. Would the Perch be the best place to overnight then complete the hike on the 24th? Can we hammock there? And of course an invitation to join us as well. : )
better bring your snow shoes. I’d stay at Gray Knob if I were you. Inside.
Need to do your weather homework….
Ok. April is definitely not gonna work. More like July or Aug. We flatlanders aren’t accustom to elevation cold and did not factor that in. A sheepish thanks Phil!
Hi Phil, just found this site. Will be near The Presidential Traverse in late June and would like to do the full hike in 2 days. Question, what is the best option for return transportation from the North finish to the South start. Won’t have 2 cars with us..? Thanks.
changes all the time. this is a rural area.
Just found this page as I am planning a multi-day traverse in August (mid-week thankfully). Appreciate the information and looking forward to reading more of your site and gear reviews.
This is very helpful info – thank you! My family and I are going to take our time and have 3 nights/4 days to do the PT. I noticed The Pinnacle tent site on my map near Huntington Ravine, but it wasn’t mentioned here. Any information or opinions on that?
Yikes, I just read your post about the Huntington Ravine Trail, and we definitely aren’t ready for that! But I’m wondering how feasible it would be to take the Nelson Crag trail from Mt. Washington to The Perch, then the Alpine Garden Trail back over to the AT. Would that still be crazy for regular people, after finishing the Northerns?
Sorry, I meant The Pinnacle, not The Perch.
I can’t answer that question for you.
Quick question. I plan to do the hike in 1 day but need to get back to my car at Appalachia on rt 2. I’ll be exiting the Crawford Path on rt 302, coming off of Pierce. Any suggestions on getting back to my car?
Hey everyone. Great page. Super helpful. I’m planning a multi-day traverse at the end of September 2017. Not planning on staying in any of the huts, so I’m looking for campsites. I’m struggling to find a good spot near Mount Jefferson. I’ve read about a couple on the east slope, but can’t confirm their exact locations or if they are still in use. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!
Get a map.
Hi Phil, great site. I’ve always wanted to do this trip. So a few friends and I are looking to do this September 2017, around the third week. We plan to use AMC Madison and Mizpah huts. We will have some backup gear to bailout in case but not enough to stay at any of the RMC sites. Maybe on a different adventure with just me.
Question: for a 3day trip which seems more reasonable and why? Southbound desired.
Option 1 -park a car at Pinkham, drive group up to Dolly Copp area, hike Great Gulf to Osgood to Madison. Day2 traverse to Mizpah bypassing maybe Mt Washington. Day 3 head down to Pinkham via Isolation trail and Glen Boulder to Deritissima.
Option 2 – use the route you have here starting at the Appalachia Rt2 plot. End and Crawford Notch. Car drop off is a bit longer but not the reason.
Really looking for which seems better. Look forward to seeing anyone’s thoughts. Thanks!
Thanks for all the helpful information. I’m planning on doing this trek next week (mid-week to hopefully avoid some crowds) and was wondering if you had any info on a shuttle service from Crawford Notch to the Appalachia trailhead? My boyfriend and I will only have one car. Also, we’re looking to possibly do three nights and take some alternate routes around the Presidential Traverse, instead of strictly staying on the trail the whole time. Is camping possible/allowed off the AT (under the tree line, 200 ft away)? I saw in another comment you mentioned the terrain was too rough for camping outside designated trail sites along the AT. Thanks!
My friends and I are planning on hiking the traverse and some are torn on the idea of doing the traverse in one versus two days. The idea of the physical demand of one day is awesome but on the other hand the more sensible option seems to be to perform it over two days. Any thoughts or opions to help steer us in the right direction?
The best time to do a one day traverse is in June when you have more daylight. You have significantly less now. It’s not an impossible hike for people who hike hard routes in the Whites all the time, but if you don’t and you can camp, that might be the better option.
Looking at your old post about doing trail in 2 night 3 days. Do you have any info you could share? We are planning same type of trip.
Full guidebook trip plan (free) https://sectionhiker.com/backpacking-white-mountain-4000-footers-guidebook/a-presidential-traverse/
I saw your reply to Ohio Grampa who was considering the trip in April. I’ll be up in that area the weekend of 10May19, and I am wondering what the snow cover will be like. Do you know of any sources of current information on trail conditions?
Thanks for all your time and effort with this site, and thanks in advance for your time in reply.
Is there a bear box at Valley Way tentsite (just north of Mt. Madison)?
Suggest you contact the forest service and ask, I don’t know. I haven’t stayed at Valley Way for a while, but there’s no reason it to expect that it will have enough space even if it does.
I was there in October and no bear box, I’m going soon again as well. I use an Ursack anyways but unless they added one, no bear box..
Thanks so much for all of your posts. So helpful as I plan my trip. I’m hoping to complete the traverse from North to South with one overnight…on July 4th. Crazy? The huts were full weeks ago, but I’m more worried about the tentsites being full as well. With limited options for pitching a tent elsewhere, I’m a little hesitant with the predicted crowds. My other idea is to cover my planned section in the Dry River Wilderness over the 4th and loop back to hit the Presis from South to North closer to July 7th. Thoughts?
The entire area will be overrun with people over the 4th of July weekend but they’ll clear out by the 8th. I’ll be headed north into the Mahoosucs or the Nash Stream Forest to hide out until then. I love the Whites, but the crowds can be oppressive at times. I think there’s a pretty good chance that the RMC cabins and tent sites will be jam packed over the holiday. That includes the Dry River Wilderness.
Thanks Phil, all good to know. I think I’ll do the same and find somewhere a little more remote to hide out. Will have my Tenkara rod with me (read that post, too) so have something to keep me busy until the crowds subside.
I stayed at Guyot two summers ago and the caretaker said that they had been mobbed by something like 80 people there on the weekend of the 4th! I mention this because Guyot is more remote than any of the places you’d stay on a Presi Traverse. In my experience, northern sections of the Long Trail are far more remote and less populated, even on busy weekends, so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, maybe try there? Last year, I stayed at the Glen Ellen shelter (which is new, beautiful, enclosed, next to a cliff and a stream, and has a bear box) and it was so remote that no one had signed the log book in almost a week! While on the AT section of the LT in mid-July, every shelter was full or nearly so, but when the LT split from the AT, I didn’t see another human being for 36 hours. Personally, I try to hit the Pemi and the Presi only on weekdays during peak season.
Hi. The info on here is invaluable. Thank you.
What kind of crowds should I expect that last week (weekdays) of August before Labor Day (done by the Thursday before)?
Also, are dogs allowed on the trails (leashed) and in the camping areas?
If you want solitude, come after the holiday.
Hey Phil, myself and a buddy are planning to make this trek in early October but it’ll only be the two of us. Do you have any recommendations for getting back up north at the end of the traverse? I’m not familiar with the area so I don’t know if we’d be able to find transportation easily towards the south. Thanks for the wonderful information so far.
Call one of the local B&Bs and ask them for their shuttle driver list. Or just search for it on google.
Hi Phil.. thank you for a great blog. I am fairly experienced (did GR20 in 8.5 days last year). When is the earliest (month/day) I can do Presi Traverse with most of the snow gone? I would prefer not to rely on micro-spikes (I do understand that I need to check the weather before starting!)
Also, can I pitch a tent at perch shelter and do I need book a campsite for the tent ?
Thank you much!
June. Perch is first come first served, but I wouldn’t count on it being open during the Pandemic.
This is fantastic info, thanks for sharing! I’m planning to backpack the traverse over 3 days. Although there are no reservations available due to the pandemic, will tent sites be available to use or should really plan to rely on finding backcountry spots? Also is it true that huts will still have potable water available?
Word is that the AMC huts have water. I’m not sure how they’re dispensing it. The RMC cabins and shelters are closed. There is no camping above treeline in the Whites, so plan on heading down to camp. There are actually very few decent backcountry sites on steep slopes, so you’ll have a very hard time obeying the backcountry camping rules without losing significant elevation. Here is a trip plan that will give you more useful planning information.
This was a massive help thanks for sending the link. Sounds like valley way camp site would be ideal for a night and then possible nauman for the second night. We will just need to be strategic with the water we have and filter from streams. Thanks again!
Thank you so much for this – it’s a great help. My friends and I are planning to stay the night at the highland center but want to sleep in tents rather than inside. Are there any tenting sites/platforms at the highland center? Or close enough to it?
Awesome feedback! We are planning on hiking the presidential
This summer but I still can’t figure out the “camping “ situation
Can we camp out anywhere? Or does it has to be at one of the huts?
They are pretty expensive and quite honest we want the “camp out” experience. Can you share you thoughts on this please? I want to start out on the north to south.
If you read this article, it will answer all of your questions. Just to emphasize, there is no camping anywhere you want. The forest service patrols and they fine people they catch. There is no camping above treeline anywhere in the White Mountain National Forest except on 2 feet of snow. But you won’t have any snow in summer. Good luck.
The following article also describes the route and camping options in painstaking detail.
Planning the Presidential Traverse for the first 3 day weekend in September 2021. I understand weather is unpredictable but is early September an acceptable time to do this hike. Did the Pemi loop last year in October and it was perfect weather, 50 to 60 degree days. Thanks, and the information on your site is excellent!
I’m sure it will be fine. September is probably the best month to hike in the Whites, period.
It will be difficult to find camping spots. Besides everyone on their 3-day holidays, there are many NOBO and SOBO thru-hikers. Plus, the RMC cabins are closed and the RMC tent sites are running at reduced capacity.
we are planning to do this range by the end of october. any tips for us?
I’d bring some very warm clothing and possibly even microspikes.
This information was great. I am planning on hiking the Traverse the end of June and it will be me and my mini Aussie. We are looking at doing the hike over 3 days. Could you tell me which campsites I would be able to have my dog at. He loves hiking and has already done a few of the High Peaks in NY. Thanks
the USFS ones.
Looking into doing the traverse this weekend, and I would like to camp at the perch tentsite (all the shelters are full, and I like camping anyway). Crazy idea to try this on a Saturday? Do you know if they can ‘make room’ if all the sites are full, or are you just SOL?
I did the Pemi loop a couple of years back and they accommodated the overflow, but not sure if they could do so here.
Thanks for any info or recommendations.
It would be a miracle if you got a spot. There is simply no room at the Perch. Just hike it in one day. Much less hassle.
That’s what I thought. Disappointing to hear, but thanks for confirming. Will look into doing it in one day or possibly another hike instead.
For one day, is there any abbreviated version of this traverse you might recommend?
Adams and Madison. Up airline, down valley way. Great bang for the buck.
Thank you !
Hi, Was wondering: Would it be feasible to plan a presidential traverse 3 day hike, staying the first night (after 6 or so miles) at RMC Crag Camp Cabin, and then the second night at the end at Shapleigh Bunkhouse? It would involve upwards of 17 mi on that second day. Is that even remotely realistic in mid-January? Would it be more realistic to attempt this in reverse?
We’re a fit crew and would have winter hiking gear including microspikes, but not sure this is totally inadvisable. Thank you!
It’s better to hike north to south. Much easier. Crag camp is first come first served – just be aware of this. It’s also unheated and you may have to melt snow for drinking water. People do winter traverses in a day (with lots of headlamps), but if you’ve never hiked above treeline in winter in the presidentials, you really don’t want to attempt this route. It can be quite dangerous for people who are not well versed in above treeline winter travel and who arent in top fitness for winter hiking. March is the best month to do it in winter. Its warmer and the weather is not as bad. In January, microspikes are probably going to be insufficient. I’d recommend bringing crampons and snowshoes and full face protection. If you want my 2 cents, I’d hire a guide – Redlining Guiding in North Conway is a good group to call that caters to hikers. They can help you with go-no go decision making and equipment.