Mount Madison, located just north of Mount Washington and west of NH SR-16, anchors the northern end of the Presidential Mountain Range. It is linked to Mount Washington by a 5 mile crest of high peaks (including Mounts Adams and Jefferson) with only occasional dips below 5000'. It rises an impressive 4000+' from the river valleys to the northeast and east and it's 4580' rise in 6.5 miles from the Androscoggin River is possibly the closest approach from a river to a major New England peak, second only to Katahdin. Mount Madison is the 5th highest of the recognized NH 4000' peaks.
The 5.1 mile class 1 Osgood / Great Gulf Route is one of the quickest and easiest to get to routes to this summit and ascends the southeastern slope. Start from the Great Gulf Trailhead just off of NH SR-16 (1350') and take the Great Gulf Trail southwest for 1.8 miles before reaching the Osgood Trail (1850'). Turn right on to the Osgood Trail and start heading northwest reaching the Osgood Tentsite (2486') in 0.8 miles. From there ascend the Osgood Trail passing treeline and reaching Osgood Junction (4822') in 2.0 miles where the Daniel Webster-Scout Trail (from Dolly Copp Campground) will join in. Continue another 0.5 miles west to the summit from here. The AMC Madison Hut is another 0.5 miles southwest of the summit in the col shared with Mount Adams.
A second good option is to take the 4.1 mile class 1 Daniel Webster-Scout Trail which asends the east slope and starts just 1 mile north of the Great Gulf Trail. This reaches Osgood Junction in 3.6 miles and then follows the Osgood Trail for the last 0.5 miles. From Boston there's just over 2 miles of additional driving to get to this trailhead. This trail was created by Boy Scounts in the Daniel Webster Council during 1933.
Valley Way and Watson Path as well as trails to Mount Adams are accessible from the northern approach from the Appalachia trailhead to the north.
The winter Northern Presidential Traverse encompassing the summits of Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson (5716'), Mount Adams (5799'), and Mount Madison is one of the classic alpine treks in New England. The full Presidential Traverse including the southern peaks of Mount Eisenhower and Mount Monroe is also part of the Appalachian Trail.
GREAT GULF TRAILHEAD: This trailhead parking area is on the west side of NH SR-16 about 5 miles north of the AMC Pinkham Notch Vistor Center (Tuckerman Ravine Trailhead for Mount Washington). It is also about 1.5 miles south of the Pinkham B (Dolly Copp) Road which leads to the Dolly Copp Campground
DANIEL WEBSTER-SCOUT TRAILHEAD: Follow directions above and take NH SR-16 Pinkham B Road and turn west going over Peabody River to the Dolly Copp Campground. Head south about 0.7 miles in the parking area to the Daniel Webster-Scout Trailhead. This trailhead is linked to the Great Gulf Trailhead by the 1.0 mile Great Gulf Link trail.
APPALACHIA TRAILHEAD (Ref: nartreb): From 93, take 3 North at the northern end of Franconia Notch state park. After crossing rte 302, turn right onto rte 115. This ends at rte 2. Turn right and proceed 7 miles to the trailhead. The parking lot is obvious, though the sign will probably be obscured by parked cars. This lot is outside the WMNF border and does not have a fee collection box.
PARKING PASS (WMNF TRAILHEADS): If you park in east side trailheads (Great Gulf or Daniel Webster-Scount trailheads), you will need a mandatory WMNF parking pass. However, a pass is not needed for the Appalachia trailhead on the north side of the mountain because it is not located in the WMNF. The Appalachia trailhead is free but fills up early (Ref: nartreb).
For the passes, see the Mount Lafayette Page for more information. If you are just in town for the day you can get a day pass at the trailhead however if you live in the area it makes sense to get an annual pass. If you don't have a pass they may just leave a membership envelope on your windshield for mail in payment.
You can climb this peak year round. The snow-free hiking season generally lasts from May to October. Come in the winter for a true alpine experience above treeline.
Between June 1 and September 15 you can stay at the cozy full-service Madison Hut. Otherwise you'll need to follow the WMNF Backcountry Camping Rules. Camping above treeline is allowed on 2+ feet of snow. The area above treeline is broad and gently sloping with many excellent places to practice winter camping. This area is not like Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines on Mount Washington where avalanches are common.
See the Mount Lafayette Page for conditions information in the White Mountains area.