Mount Madison Loop Hike

Mountain:  Mt. Madison (5366')
Trails:  Great Gulf Trail, Osgood Trail, Star Lake Trail, Parapet Trail, Madison Gulf Trail, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Presidentials
Location:  Thompson and Meserves Purchase, NH
Rating:  Difficult  
Features:  Summit, views, 4000-footer, hut, loop hike
Distance:  11.5 miles  
Elevation Gain:  4016 feet (high point minus low point)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 8:15  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 9:00   Typical: 11:00  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  07/07/2007 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  10/02/2008  
Weather:  Overcast, rainy, cool
Author:  Pat Rourke
Companion:  7 SDHers

Route Summary   

We started at the Great Gulf Trailhead and went a short distance before reaching a T-junction. We turned left to follow Great Gulf Trail; Great Gulf Link is to the right. At the next junction, we bore right to follow Osgood Trail which we followed all the way up to the summit and down the other side to Madison Hut where Osgood Trail ends.

Group on Mt. Madison (photo by Mark Malnati) We encountered many junctions along Osgood Trail. At the first junction, Osgood Cutoff goes left and a spur to the Osgood tent site goes right; we went straight. From this point all the way to the hut, this is also the Appalachian Trail (AT). The next junction is called Osgood Junction. Parapet Trail leaves to the left and Daniel Webster-Scout Trail leaves right; again we went straight. At the next junction, we again went straight while Howker Ridge Trail goes to the right. Watson Path is the next junction - at this point we are on the Mount Madison summit.

Descending from the summit, we went straight to keep on Osgood Trail. We passed by the junction to Pine Link on the right just before reaching Madison Hut.

From the hut we headed south on Star Lake Trail just until its junction with Parapet Trail. Then we bore left to follow Parapet Trail also just a short ways until it met up with Madison Gulf Trail. We turned right and took Madison Gulf Trail down until it met with Great Gulf Trail which we followed downhill, going straight at the junction with Osgood Trail, and then finally turning right at the junction with Great Gulf Link in order to return to our vehicles.

So this was a loop trail with the lower section of the Great Gulf Trail hiked both up and down. This route crosses several small brooks.

Mount Madison (photo by Mark Malnati)

Place         Split
Great Gulf Trailhead on Rt. 16 (1350') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Great Gulf Trail/Great Gulf Link 0.3 0.3
Jct. Great Gulf Trail/Osgood Trail (1850') 1.5 1.8
Jct. Osgood Trail/Osgood Cutoff (2486') 0.8 2.6
Osgood Junction (4822') 2.0 4.6
Jct. Osgood Trail/Howker Ridge Trail 0.3 4.9
Mt. Madison (5366') 0.2 5.1
Madison Hut (4825') 0.5 5.6
Jct. Star Lake Trail/Parapet Trail (4900') 0.2 5.8
Jct. Parapet Trail/Madison Gulf Trail (4850') 0.2 6.0
Jct. Madison Gulf Trail/Great Gulf Trail (2300') 2.7 8.7
Jct. Great Gulf Trail/Great Gulf Link 2.5 11.2
Great Gulf Trailhead on Rt. 16 (1350') 0.3 11.5

Map of hike route to Mt. Madison (map by Webmaster)

  Trail Guide   

Mt. Madison AMC Hut (photo by Mark Malnati) We had seven strong hikers for the Madison summit (which was an asset for this hike). The day started with cool temps and a nice steep climb. As we approached the summit, we could see the Mount Washington auto road to our left, but Mount Washington and Madison were overcast with no views. The strong winds made it feel like 30-40 degrees. We rushed over the summit and had lunch at the Madison Hut (with a full house).

It was all downhill from there (no pun intended). It began to rain and our descent was huge boulders and rock slabs (very steep and slippery) so we had to slide down half the way to prevent tumbling face first. Our hike took nine hours rather than the book time of seven. But we were all smiling when we finished and knew we had to work hard for this climb.


NH - Central East

  Mt. Madison (photo by Mark Malnati) Driving Directions   

Parking for the Great Gulf Trail is on the west side of NH 16. This is about 1.5 miles north of the Mount Washington Auto Road and about 6.5 miles south of Gorham. It is 1.5 miles south of the junction of NH 16 and Pinkham B (Dolly Copp) Road near Dolly Copp Campground. There is a large parking lot here.

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. Madison Trail Reports   


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