MORE INFORMATION: Appalachian Trail Conservancy 799 West Washington Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-6331
HIGHLIGHTS: At Crawford Notch, the Appalachian Trail enters the Presidential Range, a twenty-five mile section between Crawford and Pinkham Notch. Like Franconia Ridge, it is mostly above tree line and includes the peaks of Mt. Webster (3,910′), Mt. Jackson (4,052′), Mt. Pierce (4,310′), Mt. Eisenhower (4,761′), Mt. Franklin (5,004′), Mt. Washington (6,288′) and Mt. Madison (5,363′). If weather permits, the views from both Franconia Ridge and the Presidential Range are some of the most spectacular on the Trail. Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England, was once the proposed northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Now it has the distinction, however, of having recorded the highest wind speed on Earth. In 1934, winds hit 231 mph. Today there is a weather station that still operates on the mountain, and nearby is a Summit House with post office, museum, cafeteria, and gift shop. The Cog Railway also is a common site on the summit as it transports visitors from the valley to the summit of Mt. Washington.
The trail from Mt. Washington drops over 4000 feet past Mt. Madison, the Madison Springs Hut, the Osgood Tentsite, and finally reaches Pinkham Notch at around 2000 feet. The notch is located on NH 16 and it is AMC’s headquarters in the Whites. It is open year-round, and has a full service lodge, cafeteria, store, and showers. The northbound hiker will miss parts of Franconia Ridge with this route and this is unfortunate because the ridge is one of the most scenic sections on the entire Appalachian Trail. Franconia Ridge includes Little Haystack (4,760′), Lincoln (5,089′), Lafayette (5,249′), Garfield (4,488′), South Twin (4,902′) and Guyot (4,560′). All summits are above tree line (which is roughly 4,000 feet in the Whites), but Liberty (4,459′) is not directly on Franconia Ridge. A side trail takes you a short distance from the AT to the summit.
Thumbelina and I were chased off Franconia Ridge by a wicked storm which had rain, sleet, fog, and 60 mph winds. We bailed to the Greenleaf Hut, 1.1 miles down a side trail from the summit of Mt. Lafayette (5,249 feet). This side trail eventually meets up with Lafayette Campground, where this section starts.