Via Valley Way and Airline Trail 9.1 mile round trip
Mt. Adams is New Hampshire’s second highest mountain at 5,799 feet above sea level. The main summit is named for president John Adams, and the smaller (but not independently recognized by the AMC) summits are named for other members of the Adam’s family. Often obscured by clouds Mt. Adams is a challenging but interesting peak to climb. There are many trails that can be used in combination to reach the summit, and thanks to the Randolph Mountain Club, there are a large number of trails that reach most of the interesting view points along the way. This club does a fantastic job of trail maintenance and while there are vast networks of trails in this area, they are all independently blazed, signed and very easy to follow. We chose the Valley Way to ascend to the Madison Spring Hut then the Gulfside Trail to Airline for the summit. On descent we chose the Airline trail, as it is the most direct route to the parking area from the summit.
Beginning at the Appalachia parking lot, located on NH 2 we embarked on the Valley Way trail. This parking area is very popular, especially on weekends during peak hiking season. There are no facilities located at Appalachia and there is a parking fee of $3.00 collected here. It is a pick up and drop off located for the AMC shuttle, so if transportation or parking are an issue that is a valuable resource that can be utilized. The Valley Way trail is the most direct route to the Madison Spring Hut (3.8 miles). It is moderately graded to ascend and well sheltered by trees almost the entire way to the hut. This makes it a good trail for descending in unfavorable conditions, if you find yourself stuck in inclement weather. While it has junctions with several other trails along the way it is very easy to stay on track so long as you keep a map handy and be sure to read the signs at each junction. The trail follows Snyder Brook as it ascends and several of its smaller tributaries so water is available on the trail, and at the hut as well so there is not a need to carry water filters or purifiers. There is one rough section of Valley Way, after the tent sites are reached at mile 3.2, the last .6 miles to the hut climb up Durand’s Ridge to the Madison Spring hut. The hut was originally built in 1929 and has been expanded and remodeled over the years. There is potable water and a restroom inside, as well as baked goods available for purchase. Please remember that dogs are not allowed inside the AMC huts and please respect others by keeping them leashed when near or outside.
We ventured up the Gulfside trail from the hut for about .2 miles until we reached the junction with the Airline trail and took this the remaining .8 to the summit. The upper section of the Airline gains the summit cone by following a series of cairns and blue blazes over sections of large angular stones. These can be hard to follow in bad weather and this section does have loose rocks, so take care. John Quincy Adams summit is viewed to the left as you continue to follow Airline up to the summit of Mt. Adams where the Star Lake and Lowe’s Path junction is located. On a good day the views from the top are spectacular, to the north you can see the towns of Berlin and Gorham, New Hampshire, and mountains in all directions. The Mount Washington auto road is visible as is the summit of near by Madison.
We chose to descend the Airline trail the most direct route back to the parking lot. This route is exposed as it follows the bare crest of Durand’s Ridge with a steep drop into the King’s Ravine on the left (west) and Snyder Glen on the right (east). It offers dramatic views of Adams, Madison and to the north. The upper section of the trail is a bit rough as it climbs down and over the ridge. The footing is good and the trail is well marked. As you get back under tree line the trail is quite rough in places and when wet can be quite slippery. It is steep through the middle part of this trail, so take caution so as to avoid a fall. Once under the tree cover there are no more views but Airline continues down at a steady to moderate grade, emerging into a power line clearing right before the parking area at mile 4.3 from the summit.
Mt. Adams is a beautiful and dynamic area to spend time hiking. The summit offers some fantastic views from the northern Presidential range, and the trails used to gain the summit offer many other view points as well. There are some cascades and unique geologic features in both King’s Ravine and Snyder Glen. These canyons both are features in and of themselves. King’s Ravine is a remnant of glacier activity, and Snyder Glen is a valley created by the movement of the brook over millennia. Randolph mountain club has done a great job of maintaining many of the historic trails in this area, most of which were constructed in the late 1800s by some of the first settlers in the region. Mt. Adams is a challenging hike but is definitely a hike that can be enjoyed by most dogs and their people. We ascended on a cloudy cold day in August and found two other groups of people and their dogs at the summit.
Distance From Appalachia Parking Area:
Randolph Path: .9 miles
Upper Bruin Junction: 3.3 miles
Madison Spring Hut: 3.8 miles
Gulf Side Trail: 3.8 miles
Airline Junction: 4 miles
Mt. Adam’s Summit: 4.7 miles
Summit to Appalachia via. Airline Trail: 9.1 total miles