New Hampshire's White Mountains are home to the Presidential Traverse, which includes Mount Washington, elev. 6,288 feet, and beautiful full-service huts run by the Appalachian Mountain Club. All images: Matt Hoffmann.
When a friend invited me on a short backpacking trip this past August, I couldn’t believe how unique New Hampshire is. The section we undertook, called The Presidential Traverse, is a series of 4,000+ ft. peaks (Mount Washington being the highest at 6,288 ft.) that’s known for being the most difficult and most beautiful section of the Appalachian Trail.
One of the big reasons hiking in this area is particularly special, is the Appalachian Mountain Club, which runs a system of full-service high-mountain huts (the only full-service mountain huts in North America).
Since 1876, they’ve provided hikers a home-cooked meal and a bunk in the most remote and spectacular spots in the Northeast (most are operational between May and October and must be booked in advance). Because we were staying in these huts and not camping, we had the luxury of carrying tents, sleeping bags, breakfast or dinner, which made our 4-day hike, beginning in Franconia Notch State Park, that much more enjoyable.
We stayed at Zealand Falls Hut, Lakes of the Clouds Hut, and Madison Springs Hut. The atmosphere at these huts is filled with joy and positive energy. Hikers pile in throughout the afternoon and evening and share their stories of the day. You meet a lot interesting people here—after all, hiking in the Whites isn’t easy and everyone has a different reason for being there.
The hut crews are unbelievably kind and hardworking, and clearly love creating a warm atmosphere. This was particularly evident at Lakes of the Clouds Hut, just below the summit of Mount Washington, which is known for having the most violent weather in America.
Every week crew members hike down hundred-pound packs of supplies from the top of Mountain Washington, where the highest wind speeds of anywhere on Earth have been recorded (231 mph!). We were so grateful to experience being taken care of with a rustic shelter, beautiful meal and meaningful company after our epic day suffering up Washington in the wind and rain.
All in all, the White Mountains are a place I intend to return to many times. It’s easy to plan and there’s an abundance of different routes and combinations of routes to choose from.
To learn more about the Appalachian Mountain Club or to reserve huts, click here.