From Lodge to Hut: Hiking the Southern Presidentials with AMC
Experiencing the magnificence of the Southern Presidential Range in the White Mountains is unmatched—within a few miles of hiking, the trail brings you above the treeline to pristine views of rolling blue summits that attract millions of visitors each year. But what makes this experience one of a kind is the addition of staying in one of AMC’s iconic high mountain huts.
Like the European mountain lodges of Norway or Switzerland, these huts provide shelter, a bed, and warm food for guests every day throughout the summer season. You can only access the huts by hiking, creating a truly remote, wild experience. AMC hut croo members eagerly await your arrival, and delight in tales of your adventures from the day. AMC offers guided trips to our huts, with multi-day itineraries that make these one-of-a-kind experiences a reality.
This lodge to hut itinerary includes two hut nights and will bring hikers over some of the most popular Presidential peaks in the White Mountains. This trip includes moderate to strenuous stretches of trail and is appropriate for experienced hikers.
Not part of an AMC trip? You can follow this itinerary on your own and use AMC’s shuttle to transport you and your companions to and from the trailhead. AMC’s White Mountain Guide provides essential trip information, route descriptions, and detailed maps.
Start your journey at the Highland Center, a year-round, full-service lodge in the heart of Crawford Notch. Opened in 2003, the Highland Center provides comfortable lodging for guests with both private and shared room options. Most AMC guided adventures will begin here (or at AMC’s other front-country facility in Pinkham Notch), where you will rest up before heading out on your journey. If you arrive early and want to explore, the Highland Center is the base to several excellent day and half-days hikes, or you can attend one of our programs on site to learn more about the natural environment. Ask an AMC staff member for recommendations when you check in.
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to Lakes of the Clouds Hut
Day one starts at the trailhead for Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. Start at the parking lot off the Cog Railway Base Road (Recreation Pass required), 1.1 miles east of its junction with Mt. Clinton Road and Jefferson Notch Road. The parking area is a stop for the AMC Hiker Shuttle. The trail follows blue blazes along the headwaters of the Ammonoosuc River, with many picturesque waterfalls, cascades, and pools, and affords excellent views from its upper section. The section above Gem Pool is very steep and rough, so watch your footing along the way. The trail will take you directly to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, where you will spend the night.
Distance: 3.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,550 feet
Lakes of the Clouds
Originally built in 1915 and greatly enlarged since then, Lakes of the Clouds Hut is open to the public from June to mid-September and closed at all other times. The hut is on a shelf near the foot of Mount Monroe, about 50 yards west of the larger lake, at an elevation of 5,014 feet. Drop your pack and check in with the friendly croo, then spend some time exploring the area around the hut, including the nearby lakes, the AMC research team’s cloud catcher, and the rare plant life that thrives at this higher elevation.
Optional Hikes: Mount Washington and Mount Monroe
If you have extra energy, Lakes of the Clouds is a great jumping off point to summit two of the highest peaks in New Hampshire. Rising above the hut to the northeast is 6,288-foot Mount Washington—from the hut’s front door, turn left onto the Crawford Path and follow it for 1.5 miles to the summit, climbing 700 feet along the way. At the top, you’ll find the Mount Washington summit house with snacks, bathrooms, and a gift shop, plus other historic and informational displays. Return to the hut the way you came or check with the hut croo for alternate routes.
To the right, follow the Crawford Path to the Monroe Loop trail, a spur trail that takes you to the summit of Mount Monroe. From the hut, you will climb 360 feet over 0.4 mile to the summit and can either loop around back to the Crawford Path for a total of 1.6 miles or return the way you came for a total of 0.8 mile back to the hut. (Pro Tip: If you’re an early riser, catch the sunrise from Monroe before breakfast.)
Crawford Path to Mizpah Spring Hut
After a hearty breakfast made by the croo, you’ll head back out onto the trail, turning right from the hut’s front door to follow the Crawford Path. This trail is considered the oldest continuously maintained footpath in the United States. Most of the trail is above treeline, marked by cairns to keep you on the trail. For 3.9 miles, you’ll follow the Crawford Path with an optional 0.8 mile and 350 feet up and over the summit of Mount Eisenhower. At the junction, turn onto Webster Cliff Trail and follow it up and over Mount Pierce for 0.9 mile to Mizpah Spring Hut.
Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Completed in 1965, this hut is at an elevation of 3,793 feet on the site formerly
occupied by the Mizpah Spring Shelter, at the junction of Webster Cliff Trail and Mt. Clinton Trail, near Mizpah Cutoff. Here, you’ll spend your second night relaxing in the spacious dining area, complete with a library and pump organ.
Return to Highland Center via Crawford Path
To conclude your journey, you’ll take the Mizpah Cutoff trail for 0.7 mile to the junction of Crawford Path and follow that for another 1.5 miles back to the Highland Center. This section of the Crawford Path was cut in 1819 by Abel Crawford and his son Ethan Allen Crawford. In 1840, Thomas J. Crawford, a younger son of Abel, converted the footpath into a bridle path, but more than a century has passed since it was used regularly for ascents on horseback. Today, you’ll enjoy the peaceful sounds of birds and nearby streams as you gradually descend into Crawford Notch.
Before You Go
Before any trip into the White Mountains, be sure to plan ahead. Our beginner’s guide to hiking in the White Mountains will help get you started, but a few things to keep in mind:
- Pack all the gear you’ll need, especially the 10 Essentials.
- Check the weather, as it can change quickly at higher elevations.
- Map out your route and share it with a trusted person who is not hiking with you.
- Have a backup plan.
Enjoy your adventure with AMC? Be sure to check out other guided trips here.