Trip report

Mount Madison Hike

4000 Footer DATE: 04/04/2020 - 04/04/2020

Trip/Event Location: Gorham, NH

Trip Leader(s): Gandalf , JDNnh

Max # People: 15

Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money

Difficulty Level: Very Strenuous

It’s still winter up high! Mount Madison [5366 ft.] is in the Presidential Range with a sharp alpine summit with terrific views! Views include the Great Gulf and Mount Washington, Carter-Moriah

Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:

Follow New Hampshire Route 16 north thorough Pinkham Notch to the town of Gorham and turn left [west] on U.S. Highway 2. The large Appalachia Trailhead parking area is on the left [south] side of the highway about 6 miles west of Gorham. We'll be driving a blue Toyota Tacoma truck. 

Or take I-93 North, then U.S Highway 3 North, and then New Hampshire Route 115. Turn right [east] on U.S. Highway 2 and drive about 12 miles [more or less] to the large Appalachia Trailhead parking area on the right [south] side of the highway. We'll be driving a blue Toyota Tacoma truck.

Trip Report/Photos
Featured Photo

On Saturday Jon and I got up early and headed to Appalachia for a 8:00 AM start to hike up one of the most magnificent peaks that the White Mountains has to offer, Mount Madison! Madison [5367] is fifth on the New Hampshire list of tallest mountains.

In the winter these are very pesky mountains to hike because of brutally cold temperatures, low visibility, and damaging winds guarding the peaks more often than not. Madison proximity to the ridge with the adjoining Presidential Range summits of Adams, Jefferson, Washington, and Monroe, make them as challenging as any White Mountain 4,000 footers!

How easy was today’s hike? Temperatures were in the low 30’s, hardly any wind and mostly sunny.  First 2.5 miles were not a problem at all. There was 3-5 inches of fresh snow and we wished we had brought snowshoes. We did manage with Hillsounds Spikes. We did not encounter many people…in total…perhaps ten at most.  

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we were a bit concerned about social distancing but its 4.3 miles to the summit so there was plenty of mileage to spread out! When we did encounter people, we stepped off the trail allowing 6 feet for them to pass.

The hike we laid out was pretty straightforward. We opted for the quickest route up and down. That meant starting/finishing at the Appalachia trailhead on Route 2 outside of Gorham, and taking the Valley Way Trail.

The parking lot had only ten cars when we arrived. Most were NH license plates. There were two people in the parking lot gearing up to leave. We set off from Appalachia on the Valley Way Trail. We used Hillsounds Spikes the entire day. The temperature in the valley was 30 degrees. We started at 8:15 AM after driving from our house in Waterville Valley.

We took our first break by the series of cascades about 1 mile from the start and continued to climb at a comfortable grade high above Snyder Brook, crossing several small brooks. After the junction of Watson Path, there was more snow on the trail so we were sinking a bit.

Further up, we encountered a once in a lifetime experience [I've been winter hiking for 35 years]. We found ourselves in trees caked with ice and forming thousands of mini-icicles of all shapes and sizes. We were walking in a glistening ice crystal forest that was simply unbelievable.

When we reached Madison Hut, there was nobody there. At the hut, we put on our wool hat and down parka, ate lunch, and drank some water before setting out for the top of Madison.

When we started climbing up the summit cone, we began postholing sometimes as deep as our knees. All the rain we received turned into a massive ice and snow storm up high!

A woman who started before us turned around after ten minutes saying she did not feel comfortable under these conditions. So Jon and I broke the trail all the way up to the summit.

Solitude is one of the joys of being in the White Mountains this time of year. The cairns were caked with ice forming these beautiful formations. The trail was not icy due to all the crusty snow we were postholing in. We took our time and was careful with our footing. We reached the top a little past noon.


We ended having the summit all to ourselves! We spent a few minutes on top soaking in the fantastic views! There is no worrying about work when out hiking or even this crazy pandemic. That is one of the main reasons why we love forays into the mountains. You have to check out our picture of the summit sign!

We made our way back to the hut again…with nobody around. We had a snack and then headed down.

Once below tree line, we had a pleasant walk back to our truck. We finished our 8.6 mile hike with 4,050 elevation gain in under 7 hours. Phenomenal day on Mt. Madison! How often do you get temps in the 30’s, almost no wind, have a once in a lifetime experience hiking through a glistening ice crystal forest and stupendous views?

What Members Are Saying About This Trip/Event

  • Beautiful photos. I especially liked #69 and the summit sign photos. From the front it looked like a cross, from the side a person!! - sedonahikerman

Members That Participated


Outdoor Fitness Level: Very Strenuous

Thornton, NH

United States

Outdoor Fitness Level: Very Strenuous

Thornton, NH

United States
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