Introduction(Note: Page originally by Jerry L)
The historic Crawford Path ranks as the oldest continuously used and maintained hiking trail in the Northeastern United States. Dating to 1819, the Crawford Path runs from Route 302 in the vicinity of the Crawford Hostel to the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington. Over the last two centuries, it has been re-routed on several occasions and the current incarnation of the Crawford Path passes over or very near the summits of Mount Pierce, Mount Eisenhower, Mount Franklin and Mount Monroe before its terminus at the peak of Mount Washington. It also passes by the well-known Lakes of the Clouds in the vicinity of the AMC hut bearing the same name. It is the premiere hiking trail in the southern Presidentials and this path typically constitutes a significant portion of a "Presidential Traverse." The section between the summits of Mounts Pierce and Washington also represent the Appalachian Trail in this area. From Route 302 to its end, the Crawford Path is approximately 8.2 miles in length.
An outstanding history that traces the origins of the Crawford Path can be found in Laura and Guy Waterman's Forest and Crag, which is widely recognized as the definitive history of the Northeast Mountains. Forest and Crag also reviews a bit of the history of the Rosebrook-Crawford family that was responsible for not only providing shelter to many travelers but guiding so many early "hikers" up into the clouds of the Presidential Range.
ApproachThe trailhead itself is easy to find by the Crawford Hostel on Route 302. Use the designated Crawford Path parking area opposite the hostel or utilize the parking area a short distance up Mount Clinton Road.
Route Description - Trailhead to Mount PierceOption #1 - Starting from the parking lot on Mount Clinton Road, cross the parking lot and take the spur path (AKA Crawford Connector) which leads from Mount Clinton Road to the Crawford Path proper in approximately 0.6 miles.
Option #2 - Start from the parking area opposite the hostel on Route 302 and begin hiking along the Crawford Path.
Both options will intersect shortly. At this intersection, follow the Crawford Path along Gibbs Brook, which parallels the trail along the left side. Continue northeast along the main trail and at 1.7 miles the intersection of the Mizpah Cut-Off Trail is found to the right. Stay to the left and follow the trail along moderate slopes and several stream crossings. At 2.9 miles you will intersect with the Webster Cliff Trail which is above tree line. Signs are posted along the trail noting sensitive areas where you should not leave the trail. At the intersection of the Webster Cliff Trail, stay to the right and go 0.1 miles to the summit of Mount Pierce.
Total distance 3.1 miles, 2,350 feet elevation gain.
Route Description - Mount Pierce to Mount WashingtonClimbing above treeline near the summit of Mount Pierce, the Crawford Path is now exposed to the full force of the elements for which the Presidential Range is so well-known. The Crawford Path through this section also joins with the Appalachian Trail, which comes in from the south, having passed over Mount Jackson before connecting to the Crawford Path. Anyone familiar with the Presidential Range as a whole will testify to the general pleasantness of the southern section of the Range as opposed to the more rugged and rocky Northern Presidentials. The Crawford Path always offers good footing and relatively gentle grades between Mount Pierce and at least the base of the final push to Mount Washington's summit, where the required effort increases a bit. The hiker in this section of trail is afforded frequently spectacular views without much of the more significant physical exertion associated with trudging through the Northern Presidentials.
Total distance - 5.1 miles, 2,400 feet elevation gain. Summits traversed in between Pierce and Washington (south to north): Eisenhower (loop), Franklin, Monroe (loop).
For a more specific section-by-section breakdown and highly detailed trail beta for the Crawford Path, check out the hike nh site. This site contains specific information on summit loops, topography, distances and estimated hiking times. The author of this page sees no need to duplicate the same data.
MapsNational Geographic Presidential Range Map
White Mountain Guide Centennial Edition
Mount Washington Observatory