The route for the Presidential Traverse can vary, particularly the beginning and finish. We will describe here the traditional traverse. The traditional traverse begins by ascending up the Valley Way Trail to the Madison Hut. From the hut the traverse follows the Gulfside Trail to the Cog Railroad track below the summit of Mount Washington. From the tracks you follow the Westside Trail around Mount Washington to the Crawford Path. The Crawford Path is then followed to its finish at the top of Crawford Notch near the AMC Hostel.
I will not go into great detail about the trails below tree line, the best resource for trail information is the AMC White Mountain Guide 26th Edition Compiled and edited by Gene Daniell and Jon Burroughs. I will however give you hints and descriptions of the above tree line section as it relates to the winter traverse.
Below I have created a route plan for the traverse. The route plan is designed for navigation and planning purposes. The plan is meant to be read from left to right. It starts at the Valley Way trailhead and ends at Crawford Notch. On the far left is the first column; there you will find the waypoint you are at with the altitude and the latitude and longitude of the waypoint so you can set your altimeter and GPS. In the second column you find the direction to follow in true north or the contour in feet or the land feature to follow to the next waypoint. The third column is the distance you will need to travel to the next waypoint done in miles and tenths of miles. The fourth column is how much elevation in feet you will loose or gain on your way to the next waypoint. The fifth column is the approximate time it will take you to complete the leg to the next waypoint. The time was figured between Madison Hut and the Junction of the Crawford Path and the Webster Cliff Trail using this simple formula; 1 hour for every 1 ½ miles plus 1 hour for every 1000 feet. In other words if a leg were 1 ½ miles long with an elevation gain of 1000 feet the estimated time would be 2 hours. For the section up the Valley Way and down the Crawford Path from the Webster Cliff Trail to Crawford Notch the time was figured using this formula; 2 miles an hour and 1200' per hour. The reason you can travel faster on these sections of trail is because they are below tree line. Usually the terrain below tree line has better footing and is out of the weather so travel is easier. Your times may vary due to fitness level, trail and weather conditions. The sixth column there are comments about the route to the waypoint and the seventh and final column is the waypoint you are headed to with altitude, latitude and longitude information.
headings, contour elevations and terrain features in the "follow"
column are meant for times when you cannot find the trail. Whenever
you can follow the trail it will be better than following the compass
bearing. Although the bearings stay close to the trail they will not
stay right on it and the time it takes you between waypoints in a whiteout
may be substantially longer than the estimated time in the plan. The
bearings are meant to get you through sections where the trail is obscured
by snow or to get you to an escape route, campsite or as a double-check
in poor visibility.
© Chauvin Guides International, P.O. Box 2151, North Conway, NH 03860 Voice: 603-356-8919