Mt. Adams via Air Line

Mountain:  Mt. Adams (5799')
Trails:  Air Line, Gulfside Trail, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Presidentials
Location:  Randolph, NH
Rating:  Difficult  
Features:  Views, summit, 4000-footer, alpine zone
Distance:  8.6 miles  
Elevation Gain:  4500 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 7:20  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 9:45  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/08/2007 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  10/02/2008  
Weather:  Hot, humid, windy, misty
Author:  Mark Malnati
Companion:  Diane K.

Lichen on quartz (photo by Mark Malnati) Route Summary   

We followed Air Line all the way from the Appalachia parking lot to the Mt. Adams summit and returned the same way.

You will encounter many trail junctions along the way - pay attention to the signs and you should have no trouble. Below are listed a few points that may be a bit confusing:
  • Air Line and Valley Way start out sharing the trail, but after crossing the old railroad bed (the Presidential Range Rail Trail) and reaching the edge of a power-line clearing, the trail will fork: Air Line goes right (follow this route) and Valley Way goes left.
  • At 0.9 mile, Air Line will coincide with Randolph Path for 20 yards and then bears left uphill.
  • Above the junction with Air Line Cutoff at 3.5 miles, special attention should be made to follow the trail across the treeless terrain - pay attention to the cairns as well as trail signs.
  • At 3.7 miles, Air Line joins Gulfside Trail which is also the Appalachian Trail and follows it for 70 yards before diverging off to the left.
  • At 4.3 miles, you will arrive on the summit of Mount Adams.

Durand Ridge - that little blue speck is a hiker! (photo by Mark Malnati)

Place         Split
Appalachia parking lot (1306') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Air Line/Randolph Path (2000') 0.9 0.9
Jct. Air Line/Scar Trail (3700') 1.5 2.4
Jct. Air Line/Chemin des Dames (4475') 0.8 3.2
Jct. Air Line/Air Line Cutoff (4800') 0.3 3.5
Jct. Air Line/Gulfside Trail (5125') 0.2 3.7
Mt. Adams (5799') 0.6 4.3
Jct. Air Line/Gulfside Trail (5125') 0.6 4.9
Jct. Air Line/Air Line Cutoff (4800') 0.2 5.1
Jct. Air Line/Chemin des Dames (4475') 0.3 5.4
Jct. Air Line/Scar Trail (3700') 0.8 6.2
Jct. Air Line/Randolph Path (2000') 1.5 7.7
Appalachia parking lot (1306') 0.9 8.6



Map of hike route on Mt. Adams (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

The hike started off hot and humid in a light rain; the rain stopped after about 10 minutes and we made our way up the Air Line Trail. The 4500-foot ascent is pretty forgiving with several "breaks" in the climb. Once we left the tree line, we made our way across the Knife-edge; here we had great views of King Ravine and an occasional glimpse of the Madison summit.
Madison Hut (photo by Mark Malnati)
  From the knife-edged crest of Durand Ridge, there is a trail that seems to drop off a cliff and at that point there is a Randolph Mountain Club sign that calls it the Chemin des Dames. This path was named after a battle in World War I. Going online I found two translations: "the way of the ladies" and "the way of the injuries". I know which I think is appropriate.  

Chemin des Dames trail - "Way of the Injuries" (photo by Mark Malnati) Chemin des Dames trail sign (photo by Mark Malnati)

  After leaving the Knife-edge we hiked up into the mist - the wind was blowing around 45-50 miles per hour and the visibility was low. We summited Adams, had lunch and headed back down. On the way down we ran into a full class of geology students from Bates College heading to Madison Hut; that was an odd sight! All in all, a great hike - thanks to Diane for organizing it.  

Slab (photo by Mark Malnati) Mt. Adams in the clouds (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trailhead is accessed from the large Appalachia parking lot from which many trails depart. Appalachia is located on the south side of Route 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire.

  • From the western junction of Routes 2 and 16 in Gorham, it can be reached after traveling approximately 5.5 miles farther west on Route 2.
  • It is also about 1 mile west of Pinkham B Road.

Other Notes   

WMNF Recreational Pass

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

  • $5 per day
  • $30 for a year-long pass
  • $40 for a year for a household

More Mt. Adams Trail Reports   


Knife-edge on Durand Ridge of Mt. Adams (photo by Mark Malnati)

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