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 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.

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 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'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 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.

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 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.

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.

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He also volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.

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  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. Derek Christensen

    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?

    • Start in the north, it’s easier. if you don’t have reservations at Lakes by now, I’d be surprised if you can get them.

  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

    • It will be a mob scene. The popular sections of the Whites are best avoided on National holidays. The trails and shelters are packed and traffic will be backed up for miles.

  20. 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. : )

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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?

  24. 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!!

  25. 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!

  26. Hey Phil,
    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!

  27. Phill,

    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.

  28. Hi Philip,

    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.

  29. 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..

  30. Phil,

    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.

  31. Hi. The info on here is invaluable. Thank you.
    Two Questions:
    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?

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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!

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