Depending on your age, hearing “the Addams Family” either conjures up images of classic print cartoons, black-and-white television shows, or star-studded mid-90s movies. However, for some dedicated White Mountain hikers, it invokes thoughts of enchanting alpine peaks, magical off-trail scrambles, and scary unpredictable weather on the other Adams family.

If you’re festering for an adventure this fall and looking for an excursion that borders on the bizarre, consider a hike linking the five Adams peaks. No not Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Wednesday, and Thing—rather, Mount Adams, Mount Quincy Adams, Mount Sam Adams, Mount Abigail Adams, and Adams Five.

The Summit of Mount Adams. | Credit: Tim Peck

Getting There

High up in the Northern Presidentials, there’s no better way to kick off the spooky season than with a trip to visit the Adams Family. Step one: put yourself in position to bag all five summits. This is best done from the Gulfside Trail as it crosses the high plateau above King Ravine, on the western side of the Presidential Ridge.

There are many ways to get to this access point, most of which take about 4 miles and 3,500 feet of elevation gain. The most gradual and protected approach is to follow the well-marked Valley Way Trail from Appalachia Trailhead on Route 2, joining the Gulfside Trail near the Madison Hut. Another popular, but more exposed option that leaves from Appalachia is Airline, which ascends the northern ridge of King Ravine. Compared to Valley Way, Airline is slightly more challenging but has better views and is more direct, meeting the Gulfside on the plateau just below Adams and Quincy Adams.

Leaving from farther west on Route 2 is a third option: Lowe’s Path. Built between 1875 and 1876 by Charles E. Lowe and Dr. William G. Norwell, Lowe’s Path is one of the oldest (but not the oldest) continuously used paths in the Whites. It ascends Nowell Ridge, connecting with the Gulfside Trail at Thunderstorm Junction. A benefit of ascending via Lowe’s Path is that hikers cross one of the Adams family summits (Mount Abigail Adams) on the way to the junction.

Mount Adams from Sam Adams. | Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Adams

Mount Adams is the primary peak of the Adams Family and takes its name from John Adams, founding father, second U.S. President, and the nation’s first Vice President. Fittingly, Mount Adams is second to only Mount Washington—the blocky peak stands at 5,799 feet and is the second-tallest peak in the Northeast, trailing only the 6,288-foot Mount Washington. The peak’s prominence provides it with an outstanding view of the Presidentials unfurling to the south, Mount Madison looming in the northeast, and Kilkenny Ridge to the north. Airline and Lowe’s Path are two trails that lead through the broken talus on the way to the rocky summit.

Mount Adams, Quincy Adams, and Madison. | Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Quincy Adams

Beside Adams is a peak named after his and Abigail’s eldest son, John Quincy Adams. Befitting his status as sixth President of the United States, Mount Quincy Adams has spectacular views in all directions. At 5,394 feet, its summit is the seventh-highest point in New Hampshire. And it is perhaps the most challenging of the Adams family to access. One way is to follow the section of Airline above the Gulfside Trail, traversing under Quincy Adams’ western slope until the trail nears the peak’s southwest shoulder. From here, scramble up the shoulder until you reach a blocky pinnacle at the summit proper. Because the ascent begins at an elevation well below Thunderstorm Junction, climbing Quincy Adams also entails a bit more elevation gain than Sam or Abigail.

Mount Washington from Sam Adams. | Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Sam Adams

Mount Sam Adams sits on the southwest side of Thunderstorm Junction. Caught between the Gulfside Trail and Lowe’s Path, this prominent bump is named after Adams’ second cousin and fellow leader in the American Revolution. The peak overlooks the Adams Lawn and the blocky Adams to the north, with excellent views of Mount Washington, the Great Gulf, and Mount Jefferson to the south. At 5,551 feet, Mount Sam Adams is the fifth highest peak in New Hampshire. It is easily accessed from either Lowe’s Path or the Gulfside Trail; just rock hop to the prominent high point.

Sam Adams and Abigail Adams. | Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Abigail Adams

Known as Adams 4 until the Board of Geographic names renamed the peak in response to a petition led by New Hampshire local Bethany Taylor, Mount Abigail Adams (5,355 feet) recognizes Abigail’s prominent role in Colonial Massachusetts and, after the American Revolution, the early United States. An obvious bump on Lowe’s Path about 0.3 miles below Thunderstorm Junction, the summit has excellent views of King Ravine to the north and Madison, John Quincy Adams, and Adams lined up to the east. Just past the summit, there’s a commemorative plaque recognizing the history of Lowe’s path.

Descending the Gulfside Trail. | Credit: Tim Peck

Adams Five

Adams Five stands at 5,256 feet, making it the 16th tallest mountain in New Hampshire, but the shortest (and also least prominent, just 20 feet) of the Adams Family peaks. It’s also the only one without a proper name. The summit of Adams Five is found just a short way down the Gulfside Trail from Mount Adams, heading toward Mount Jefferson, and is gained by a short off-trail scramble and some rock hopping. In the shadows of Mount Adams and Mount Jefferson, you’re treated to a unique perspective and a quiet not found on the more popular peaks in Whites.

Have you crept and crawled to all five summits of the Adams Family? Have you recently lurched across the Gulfside Trail? Are you haunted by this awesome hike? If so, tell us about it in the comments below!