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Mountains of the Presidential Range

presidential range photo

Mount Madison

Elevation 5,363 feet

This mountain, the northernmost of the Presidentials, is named in honor of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States. The mountain marks a waypoint on the Appalachian Trail, where northbound hikers on the Trail takes a southerly turn toward Pinkham Notch, descending the Osgood Ridge on their way into the Great Gulf; the Trail bears back north after reaching the Notch, on its journey to Katahdin, 5267 feet, the highest peak in Maine.

In the col just south of the peak, the Appalachian Mountain Club maintains the Madison Spring Hut, an overnight hostel for hikers, which is open from early June to mid-September. A tiny glacial tarn, Star Lake, lies by the Hut.

Mount (John) Adams

Elevation 5,798 feet

Mount Adams, named in honor of the nation's second president, is the second highest peak in the Northeast. Unlike its higher cousin, Mount Washington, Adams has few impacts of human activity, and for that reason may be preferred by backcountry hikers seeking a wilder experience. While the mountain's north side has four simple "camps", overnight shelters for hikers operated by the Randolph Mountain Club, it has no road, railway, or summit buildings. It has been a popular mountain for hikers for many years; Lowe's Path, which ascends the mountain from the north, was cut in 1875 and 1876, and has been a regularly traveled route of ascent since that time. Mount Adams has numerous interesting features, including its five summits (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Sam Adams, Adams 4, and Adams 5), the impressive King Ravine, named for Thomas Starr King, preacher, author, and early popularizer of the White Mountains, and the "Knife Edge" of Durand Ridge.

Mount Adams has earned the unusual distinction by having been identified as one of ten holy mountains of the world by a group that calls themselves the "Aetherians." The Aetherians believe that this mountain is charged with an alien force which can promote healing. Summer pilgrimages and ceremonies have been held here to help direct energy from the mountain out into the world to create peace.

Mount John Quincy Adams

Elevation 5,410 feet

Mount John Quincy Adams is a subsidiary summit of Mount John Adams. It is located just to the northeast of the principal peak. It is named after the son of John Adams, who followed his father's footsteps by serving as the sixth president of the United States.

Mount Jefferson

Elevation 5,715 feet

Mount Jefferson photo

Mount Jefferson is located to the southwest of Mount Adams and its family. It is named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third President. The mountain has two peaks, just a few rods apart; the westerly one is about ten feet higher than the easterly one. Jefferson's features include two prominent westerly ridges, the Ridge of the Caps and the Castellated Ridge, named after rock outcrops which dot those spurs. The twin easterly ridges which jut from the mountain's side into the Great Gulf are called Jefferson's Knees. Another site of interest is a small flat plain to the southeast of the summit; hearkening to Thomas Jefferson's residence, it is called Monticello Lawn.

Mount Washington

Elevation 6,288 feet

Mount Washington is the highest point east of the Mississippi and north of the Carolinas. It was reportedly first seen from the ocean in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazano from off the coast near today's Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The first recorded ascent of the mountain occurred in 1642, when colonist Darby Field climbed to its summit accompanied by Native American guides.

The summit today includes broadcast towers for television and radio stations, the weather station and scientific research facility of the Mount Washington Observatory, and the Mount Washington State Park. Routes to the summit include about a dozen major hiking trails, an Auto Road, and a Cog Railway; the latter two normally operate from May into October. Mount Washington is considered by some to be "The Home of the World's Worst Weather," due to its combination of cold temperatures, heavy snows, dense fog, frequent icing, and high winds. The highest wind gust ever recorded on the surface of the earth, 231 miles per hour, was clocked by Observatory staff on April 12, 1934.

Mount Washington's renowned geographical features include Tuckerman Ravine, favored by spring skiers, and Huntington Ravine, the haunt of winter ice climbers.

Mount Washington is the most visited of the Presidentials, thanks to its road and railroad which bring about 200,000 people to its summit each summer. An estimated 50,000 hikers also ascend the mountain each year. The mountain's harsh weather, steep slopes, and popularity have proven a deadly combination for dozens of individuals who have tragically perished here.

Mount Monroe

Elevation 5,385 feet

Mount Monroe photo; click to enlarge

Mount Monroe, the first peak southwest of Mount Washington, was named in honor of President James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States. Monroe, which would be a significant peak anywhere else in the Northeast, is dwarfed by its neighbor Washington. The summit of Monroe rises less than 400 feet above the small plain known as Bigelow Lawn. At Monroe's northern base lie the two Lakes of the Clouds, the highest bodies of water in New Hampshire. At the Lakes is the Appalachian Mountain Club's Lakes of the Clouds Hut, a hostel which can bunk as many as 90 visitors each night during its June to September season.

Mount Monroe's summit has a particularly fine view of the southern aspect of Mount Washington.

Mount Eisenhower

Elevation 4,761 feet

Mount Eisenhower, in the Southern Presidentials between Mount Monroe and Mount Pierce, was named in 1972 after the 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The effort was championed by Sherman Adams, former Governor of New Hampshire and Assistant to President Eisenhower. This mountain was formerly known as Mount Pleasant, or Pleasant Dome, a reference to the rounded appearance of its summit area. The most direct route to Mount Eisenhower is from the west, following the historic Edmands Path which leaves from the Mount Clinton Road.

Some maps continue to show a "Mount Pleasant Brook" on this mountain. This might be considered a misnomer as, since 1972, there is no longer a mountain of that name. The native American presence in the White Mountains is memorialized by Abenaki Brook, Abenaki Ravine, and Sokokis Brook, all on the mountain's western flank.

Mount Pierce

Elevation 4,291 feet

Mount Pierce is named to honor the only United States President to hail from the Granite State, Franklin Pierce. Pierce was the fourteenth President, serving from 1853 to 1857. During this period, he developed a friendship with Jefferson Davis, who would later be President of the Confederacy. This friendship with Davis and the south may have alienated Pierce from the citizens of New Hampshire. The mountain was given the name of Pierce in 1913.

The name "Mount Clinton" is still commonly associated with this mountain, since it bore that name for many years. The Clinton referred to was DeWitt Clinton, who served as governor of New York in the early 1800's.

Not Quite Presidentials....

Several peaks in the White Mountains bear names which might suggest they are Presidentials, but their location or their specific history exclude them from being counted among the Presidentials:

Mount Lincoln, in the Franconia Range, was named to honor Abraham Lincoln, though at least one early guidebook suggests that the name was originally given to the small summit between Mount Lafayette and today's Mount Lincoln. (A few people refer to this small peak as Mount Truman, though this name is far from official.)

Mount Garfield, northeast of Mount Lincoln, honors President James Garfield. Mount Cleveland, northeast of Franconia Notch, is named in honor of President Grover Cleveland, who summered in Tamworth, New Hampshire. The Carter Range, including Carter Dome and North, Middle, and South Carter, bore those names long before Jimmy Carter occupied the White House. The Carter after whom the Range is named is obscure; some say he was a local hunter, others a doctor seeking medicinal plants.

Mount Hayes, north of Gorham, was named not for Rutherford B. Hayes (who visited Mount Washington on five separate occasions) but for Mrs. Margaret Hayes, first owner of the Gorham hotel known first as the White Mountain Station House, and later as the Alpine House.

Mount Jackson, neighbor to Mount Pierce, is named for Charles T. Jackson, who once served as New Hampshire's state geologist, and not for President Andrew Jackson.

As noted above, Mount Clinton is not named for President Bill Clinton, but for Governor DeWitt Clinton.

Other statesmen honored in the names of White Mountains' peaks are Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Benjamin Franklin, and John Hancock. Mount Martha, the highest point on Cherry Mountain, is said to be named for Martha Washington. A foreign nobleman, the Marquis de Lafayette, who supported the colonists' cause in the American Revolution, is memorialized in the name of the highest peak in the Franconia Range.

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