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  1. #1

    Default Presi Traverse & AMC Highland Parking

    My buddy and I will be doing the Presidential Traverse this August. We are leaving the vehicle at the southern end and taking the AMC shuttle to the Appalachia trailhead.

    I've heard that parking at the Highland Center is only for guests. Where is the best place to leave his vehicle at the southern end (free or paid). We plan to do the entire traverse with Jackson as the final summit, then take the Webster-Jackson trail down from the mountain.

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  2. #2

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    There is road side parking at the bottom of Webster cliffs at wiley house station road
    Trail Miles: 4,317.5 - AT Trips: 72
    AT Map 1: 2193.1 Complete 2013-2021
    AT Map 2: 270.2
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 148.0
    BMT Map: 52.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  3. #3

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    There are a couple of options but first I need to check your definition of Presidential Traverse (and define it for others reading this thread). Traditionally the traverse starts at Appalachia but some folks start at Pine Link or the Webster Scout trail at Dolly Copp campground. Both have far better views then the Valley Way but AMC does not do drop offs at these locations. They are much more rugged than Valley Way which is former pack mule route. Some folks get dropped off just east of Appalachia or just hike over to Howker Ridge trail to pick up the top end of Pine Link and the Webster Scout trail to see the east face of Madison which is not visible from Valley Way. The Presidentials officially end at Mt Pierce so the Crawford Path is the out down to the Highland Center. A popular variation is to add Mt Jackson (named after a geologist not a president), Mt Webster and Webster Cliffs to end at the south end of Webster Cliff trail which is few miles south of the Highland center. Some also include Jackson and Mt Webster and skip the cliffs and come down the east loop of the Webster Jackson trail. So be aware there are variations.

    In your case you are ending up near the Highland Center so there are several options that are visible by Google Earth. There is parking on the west side of RT302 at the base of the Webster Jackson trail. its off the road and free with fairly high visibility. Just up the road towards the Highland Center there is parking at the railroad station, it too has good visibility and is free. The Highland Center lot is signed guests only but some people interpret using the shuttle as being a "guest" (I will let you struggle with this moral conundrum). its usually full. The other option is just across the street a short walk up Mt Clinton Road on the left is a USFS fee lot for Crawford Path. Its $5 for a day pass if you are there multiple days its $5 a day. Bring cash and there is a fee station. This site is off the main highway so is less visible from a theft perspective. This lot fills up frequently on weekends. There is informal overflow parking along Mt Clinton Road.

    The Highland center area at the top of the notch gets heavy day hiker use with a lot of ovenight parking, all the lots can be full on weekends. The state police generally ignore people parking along RT 302 but make sure your tires are off the pavement (there are wide shoulders).

    Be aware the Presidential Traverse can mean two things. On the weekends around the summer solstice in a few weeks a traverse is one day hike of the presidential ridge. The AMC shuttle is useless unless you plan to stealth camp the night before as most folks time the hike to start in the dark near dawn. The other presidential traverse to folks outside the area are the hut to hut or the more logistically difficult backpack using the very limited legal camping options. Every legal campsite and every hut will be full in August.

    If you are going southbound from Appalachia burn into your memory, if you need to bail out, never go down a side trail to the left to bail, any side trail to the left leads to a much longer walk out and some very rough trails. Any trail to the right ends up on a road in 2 hours or less, either US RT2, Jefferson Notch Road or Mt Clinton Road. The last two are dirt roads but get a lot of hiker traffic. If you do ignore my advice and bail out on the east side of the mountain (RT16) its a 60 plus mile hitch which may take several hitches) or a long wait for an AMC shuttle.

  4. #4

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    You will want to take the 9AM shuttle from the Highland center to the Valley Way which arrives at 10:05. (book a room at the Highland Center. You'll need to stay somewhere the night before and the Highland center will be the most convenient place to do it) That gives you enough time to hike up to the Valley Way tent site, which is the only practical place to camp on that side of the mountain. Make sure don't try this on a weekend. That also saves you the 3 mile, 3,000 foot, 3 hour climb in the morning. Except you now have to carry the overnight load the whole way back to Crawford notch, as there is no camping allowed along the traverse. Don't even think about it. The only over night option is a stay at the lakes of the Clouds hut and they may already be booked for August.

    And remember, do not step off the trail. To do so is a hanging offense. Step only on rocks, do not leave footprints. The plants up there are rare, endangered and with the thin soil, just few foot steps can kill them.
    Last edited by Slo-go'en; 06-08-2021 at 13:46.
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  5. #5

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    Thanks for all the info, Peakbagger! I figured I would get a short response from two or three people, but this was like drinking from a firehose. Lots of great info.

    I realized that some people refer to the Traverse slightly differently than others, but not like what you described. Yes, we plan to start at Appalachia, hike up Valley Way hit Madison and then head south to all the major summits along the way. We plan to hit Jackson as well, even though I have read that some people choose to skip it.

    Your info helped a lot. Thanks!

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    You will want to take the 9AM shuttle from the Highland center to the Valley Way which arrives at 10:05. (book a room at the Highland Center. You'll need to stay somewhere the night before and the Highland center will be the most convenient place to do it) That gives you enough time to hike up to the Valley Way tent site, which is the only practical place to camp on that side of the mountain. Make sure don't try this on a weekend. That also saves you the 3 mile, 3,000 foot, 3 hour climb in the morning. Except you now have to carry the overnight load the whole way back to Crawford notch, as there is no camping allowed along the traverse. Don't even think about it. The only over night option is a stay at the lakes of the Clouds hut and they may already be booked for August.

    And remember, do not step off the trail. To do so is a hanging offense. Step only on rocks, do not leave footprints. The plants up there are rare, endangered and with the thin soil, just few foot steps can kill them.
    Thanks Slo-go'en. Our plan is to get the shuttle on Monday morning, hike up to Madison and start heading south. We have the option of Crag Camp, Gray Knob or The Perch along the way. But depending on how the weather is and how we feel, I was hoping to push on to the Jewell Trail.

    I know there is very limited legal off-trail options on that trail, but we have hammocks so a completely open and flat area wouldn't be necessary. I also saw a post somewhere else that the person had managed to find a legal, off-trail area along the Jewell Trail, so that was going to be our plan as well.

    I found a couple maps that show where the alpine zone extends to along the Jewell Trail so I was going to try to pinpoint the area and drop a waypoint for it on my GPS so we know where to find it. I am guessing that there will be a sign along the trails indicating that we are entering the Alpine Zone? I know when we did the Pemi loop a few years back there were signs indicating that we were passing the point where camping was no longer legal.

    I have a copy of the AMC map and also the 30th edition of the White Mountains book. Both have become extremely valuable for planning purposes.

  7. #7

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    And yes, I plan to avoid trails on the east side that head down into the The Great Gulf. I've read that those trails are steep and rugged and don't lead to anything very quickly. Although, I do have all the trail junctions (even the ones on the east side) along the route plugged into my GPS in case the weather turns ugly and we need to bail out quickly. I also have the AMC topo map and plan to bring my compass as well.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    You will want to take the 9AM shuttle from the Highland center to the Valley Way which arrives at 10:05. (book a room at the Highland Center. You'll need to stay somewhere the night before and the Highland center will be the most convenient place to do it) That gives you enough time to hike up to the Valley Way tent site, which is the only practical place to camp on that side of the mountain. Make sure don't try this on a weekend. That also saves you the 3 mile, 3,000 foot, 3 hour climb in the morning. Except you now have to carry the overnight load the whole way back to Crawford notch, as there is no camping allowed along the traverse. Don't even think about it. The only over night option is a stay at the lakes of the Clouds hut and they may already be booked for August.

    And remember, do not step off the trail. To do so is a hanging offense. Step only on rocks, do not leave footprints. The plants up there are rare, endangered and with the thin soil, just few foot steps can kill them.
    Here is the post about the Jewell Trail camp site. It was on VFTT.org:

    Tuckermanpaws
    "I am doing a loop hike starting and ending in Pinkham. I plan to hike up the Great Gulf, find a place to camp, and then hike over to Eisenhower for the decent. I am trying to mix things up a bit and get out for the night. I will be with my dog and I need a place to setup a tent. I heard that there is a spot just below treeline on Jewell, is this accurate? I do not want to break any laws, so any legit suggestions are welcome. Thanks!!"

    JustJoe
    "This would be said spot. Which as far as I can tell is legal by the WMNF backcountry camping rules. I want to say it's about .1-.2 miles before the alpine zone on the north side of the trail."

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  9. #9

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    The last time I was up there, about 3 years ago, that site was still there on Jewell trail. There is normally water crossing the trail before it heads into woods but its draining below the Gulfside so plan on treating. Its just a wide spot in the trail where the trees are just tall enough to be outside the alpine zone. There is space for a couple of small tents in the open and spaces under the low canopy on the south side of the trail. I am not a hammocker but would speculate that anyone setting up a hammock would be set up about 1" above the ground. It is legal by WMNF rules but the WMNF on rare occasions will post an area as a re-vegetation site (no camping). They do not post this anywhere except at the spot they decide to close. In that case you have to head down the trail until you find a spot. Per WMNF rules, you literally can camp in the middle of the Jewell trail, (not the case for the Ammonusuc Ravine trail or anywhere above treeline).
    I can see the spot on Google Earth by following the Jewell trail down the mountain. Its about 6/10th of mile down from the Gulfside (the AT). BTW, my standard warning is that this is popular day hike route and this area is popular toilet spot for dayhikers so watch your step. The other BTW is this area is very exposed to the prevailing winds and thunderstorms, anyone spending a night there in a thunderstorm will probably wish they did not.


    The cog railroad built some leantos with porta potties for "public use" but they are 1 mile down off the AT. I have not heard of anyone using them on a traverse as it would be quite a loss of elevation along the powerline "road" which runs parallel to the cog down from the Gulfside near the Westside Trail junction.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    The last time I was up there, about 3 years ago, that site was still there on Jewell trail. There is normally water crossing the trail before it heads into woods but its draining below the Gulfside so plan on treating. Its just a wide spot in the trail where the trees are just tall enough to be outside the alpine zone. There is space for a couple of small tents in the open and spaces under the low canopy on the south side of the trail. I am not a hammocker but would speculate that anyone setting up a hammock would be set up about 1" above the ground. It is legal by WMNF rules but the WMNF on rare occasions will post an area as a re-vegetation site (no camping). They do not post this anywhere except at the spot they decide to close. In that case you have to head down the trail until you find a spot. Per WMNF rules, you literally can camp in the middle of the Jewell trail, (not the case for the Ammonusuc Ravine trail or anywhere above treeline).
    I can see the spot on Google Earth by following the Jewell trail down the mountain. Its about 6/10th of mile down from the Gulfside (the AT). BTW, my standard warning is that this is popular day hike route and this area is popular toilet spot for dayhikers so watch your step. The other BTW is this area is very exposed to the prevailing winds and thunderstorms, anyone spending a night there in a thunderstorm will probably wish they did not.


    The cog railroad built some leantos with porta potties for "public use" but they are 1 mile down off the AT. I have not heard of anyone using them on a traverse as it would be quite a loss of elevation along the powerline "road" which runs parallel to the cog down from the Gulfside near the Westside Trail junction.
    Thanks. This is good info to know because my buddy and I are coming from Michigan and are not well-acquainted with the fine details of specific trails in the Whites.

    Maybe the better option is to descend to The Perch camp, but then the problem is we will have that many more miles the second day.

    I was thinking it would make a nice two-night hike if we stayed somewhere along the Jewell Trail on the first night and at the Nauman tent site the second night.

    Hmm.... decisions, decisions, decisions.

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  11. #11

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    The spot on the Jewel trail is way, way, way down off the ridge and as Peakbagger said, it's a toilet pit. It's seems a lot farther then 0.6 miles. And being the only spot and being well known, what are the chance of finding space there late in the day? Slim.

    Crag Camp and Gray Knob are currently closed. I have not heard if there are plans to open them later this summer. The Perch is open, but has very limited space and fills up early, it can't be counted on. Hammocks are useless unless you drop down into the hardwoods, which start at about 3,000 feet and even then it's iffy due to the dense underbrush.

    Starting up the Valley Way at 10 AM is okay if your going to stay at the Madison Spring hut. You MIGHT make it to the Perch before dark but getting there so late is a problem. Getting all the way to the Jewel trail? Not likely.

    Like I said, hike up to the Valley Way tent site and get a nice, early start at dawn the next day or maybe shoot for sunrise on Madison.

    This is from last February, looking at the ridge the Jewel trail follows down from the Gulf Side trail. The blue line is about where that small flat area is located.
    IMG_20210308_142557002_HDR_LI.jpg

    Looking back towards Adams and Madison from the Gulf Side near the top of the Jewel trail.

    IMG_20210308_140129728_HDR.jpg
    Last edited by Slo-go'en; 06-08-2021 at 20:36.
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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    The spot on the Jewel trail is way, way, way down off the ridge and as Peakbagger said, it's a toilet pit. It's seems a lot farther then 0.6 miles. And being the only spot and being well known, what are the chance of finding space there late in the day? Slim.

    Crag Camp and Gray Knob are currently closed. I have not heard if there are plans to open them later this summer. The Perch is open, but has very limited space and fills up early, it can't be counted on. Hammocks are useless unless you drop down into the hardwoods, which start at about 3,000 feet and even then it's iffy due to the dense underbrush.

    Starting up the Valley Way at 10 AM is okay if your going to stay at the Madison Spring hut. You MIGHT make it to the Perch before dark but getting there so late is a problem. Getting all the way to the Jewel trail? Not likely.

    Like I said, hike up to the Valley Way tent site and get a nice, early start at dawn the next day or maybe shoot for sunrise on Madison.

    This is from last February, looking at the ridge the Jewel trail follows down from the Gulf Side trail. The blue line is about where that small flat area is located.
    IMG_20210308_142557002_HDR_LI.jpg

    Looking back towards Adams and Madison from the Gulf Side near the top of the Jewel trail.

    IMG_20210308_140129728_HDR.jpg
    Wow! Ok. Well, this is exactly why I was hoping to get some solid information from some local experts. Even books like the White Mountains Guide can't provide this type of information.

    We usually hike between 2.5 to 3 miles an hours, sometimes a little faster. But when we did the Pemi loop a few years back we averaged 1 mph. It took us about 11 or 12 hours from the Lincoln Woods parking lot to reach the Guyout campsite. I figured roughly 8.5 - 9 miles from Appalachia to Jewell (if I remember correctly) so I figured we could do that but... maybe not.

    Maybe we should do as you say and stay at Valley Way and then hit it early the next morning. If we do that then I wonder if we could reach the Nauman tent site the next night.

    Thanks again for the invaluable info!

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  13. #13

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    Nothing personal but now that I know you are from Michigan and new to the area, you need to change your plan and shorten up your daily mileage. Its pretty much standard that folks from outside the area underestimate hiking in the whites. Plan on 2/3rds or even half your typical mileage and speed. Once you get to Madison Hut, you are not hiking, you are rock hopping about 95% of the time all the way to Mt Pierce. Lot to be said for Valley Way tentsite the first night. Many folks just want to push hard the first day and then regret it. The Pemi Loop has bony sections but not as consistently bony like the ridge.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 06-09-2021 at 05:14.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Nothing personal but now that I know you are from Michigan and new to the area, you need to change your plan and shorten up your daily mileage. Its pretty much standard that folks from outside the area underestimate hiking in the whites. Plan on 2/3rds or even half your typical mileage and speed. Once you get to Madison Hut, you are not hiking, you are rock hopping about 95% of the time all the way to Mt Pierce. Lot to be said for Valley Way tentsite the first night. Many folks just want to push hard the first day and then regret it. The Pemi Loop has bony sections but not as consistently bony like the ridge.
    Ok. Yes, I remember quite vividly our first and second days on the Pemi loop. Constant up the first day, lots of rocks and an average of 1mph. The second day from Guyout campsite to Galehead Hut was not quite as bad but we were both surprised at how long it took us to descend that .8-mile or so down to Galehead over those large boulders; just very slow going over those large, wet boulders.

    We didnít fear not being able to finish the loop we were just surprised at how much it slowed us down. We were tired at the end of the day but not injured or overly sore.

    Every time I see a video of someone thru hiking the AT, even they say the White are rough and slow them down tremendously, even though they have all those miles behind them and have their "trail legs".

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  15. #15

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    Getting a very early start from the Valley Way tent site you should be able to make Neuman tent site okay. It also allows you to take your time and take lots and lots of pictures. Just don't waste too much time at the summit of Washington - the summit building can suck you in at the snack bar and gift shop. It can be quite windy up there. Walking into even a 20-30 MPH head wind can be very tiring. If your planning an early August hike, afternoon thunderstorms are also common, so getting a very early start is also wise. And if you want to go over all the summits instead of going around them, that also slows you way down.
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  16. #16

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    Nothing personal but us locals hear it all the time from people outside the area where the whites kicked their butts Here is a recent thread on VFTT with someone who was doing the same hike https://www.vftt.org/forums/showthre...eight-amp-gear. Watson Path runs down from the top of Madison so they didnt even get very far on the ridge.

    The hike up from Appalachia to Madison Hut is roughly the same elevation but a more consistent grade compared to the Lincoln Wood trail which is flat as a pancake until you turn up away from the river. If you take the AT and skip the summit blue blazes the Gulfside and Crawford path have less grade than a couple of sections of the Franconia Ridge trail but add in the blue blazes to the summits of Adams, Jefferson, Clay Monroe and Eisenhower and they add up . Not many folks skip the summits on a nice day so make sure you add in the extra mileage and elevation in your planning.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Getting a very early start from the Valley Way tent site you should be able to make Neuman tent site okay. It also allows you to take your time and take lots and lots of pictures. Just don't waste too much time at the summit of Washington - the summit building can suck you in at the snack bar and gift shop. It can be quite windy up there. Walking into even a 20-30 MPH head wind can be very tiring. If your planning an early August hike, afternoon thunderstorms are also common, so getting a very early start is also wise. And if you want to go over all the summits instead of going around them, that also slows you way down.
    Thanks. I just recalculated the mileage from Valley Way to Nauman and it's 13.3 miles, give or take a few tenths. A long day, I'm sure, with the rough terrain, but getting approximately 1/3 of the elevation gain behind us on day one, followed by a good night's rest and an early start then I think we can do it.

    I will admit, this is the first hike I have ever conditioned for in my life and I have hiked in the mountains in Montana and the LHHT in Pennsylvania last year where we had an equal amount of elevation gain as this trip, but it was spread out over five days.

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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Nothing personal but us locals hear it all the time from people outside the area where the whites kicked their butts Here is a recent thread on VFTT with someone who was doing the same hike https://www.vftt.org/forums/showthre...eight-amp-gear. Watson Path runs down from the top of Madison so they didnt even get very far on the ridge.

    The hike up from Appalachia to Madison Hut is roughly the same elevation but a more consistent grade compared to the Lincoln Wood trail which is flat as a pancake until you turn up away from the river. If you take the AT and skip the summit blue blazes the Gulfside and Crawford path have less grade than a couple of sections of the Franconia Ridge trail but add in the blue blazes to the summits of Adams, Jefferson, Clay Monroe and Eisenhower and they add up . Not many folks skip the summits on a nice day so make sure you add in the extra mileage and elevation in your planning.
    I already got a GPX file from someone else's Traverse and plotted it out on CalTopo. CalTopo is a great tool and I was able to do a Terrain Stats graph which showed all the peaks and the total distance, elevation gain / loss as well as average and max grades.

    I also added my own way points for trail intersections that would be good bailout routes should the weather turn ugly and plan to bring the map and my compass as well.

    We're doing a lot of research for this trip because we understand the potential risks, especially since so much of this route is above treeline and very exposed.

    We definitely will not be ignorant and unprepared backpackers and will respect the terrain and the potential for bad weather.

    I'm thankful for the great advise you all have provided.

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