The views from Madison Spring Hut and its closest peaks will knock your socks off. The hut sits above the treeline at the northern end of the Presidential Range and overlooks the sheer walls of Madison Gulf. Hike a moderate 3.8 miles to spectacular views of the Presidential, Kilkenny, and Pilot Ranges. For a closer-in feel, jog over to nearby Star Lake and marvel at the fragile alpine flora unique to this little corner of the world.
This was my 4th time staying in one of the AMC huts, first time at Madison Spring. This hut on the northern end of the Presidential Range is a minimum 3.8 mile/3500' climb via Valley Way Trail, but friends and I took the less traveled Howker Ridge Trail (4.4 miles/4450' to the summit of Mt Madison and then a 1/2 mile descent to the hut). Others arrive via the Gulfside Trail as part of a Presidential Traverse.
Staying in a hut has some perks for a multi-day backpacking trip. A robust dinner and breakfast are included in the nightly rate; you also receive a bunk with a mattress, pillow and 3 wool blankets. Your pack will be a little lighter and you can replenish your water for the next day's hike.
Bunks are triple deckers, so be prepared to climb a ladder if you arrive late in the day. Your bunk will have a solar reading light and numerous hooks as well as a shelf. Meals are served family style. Dinner consists of bread, soup, salad, and a main dish (we had braised beef with peas& rice); breakfast this morning was oatmeal, scrambled eggs, pancakes and bacon. Let them know about dietary restrictions when you make your reservation…and you will need reservations as the hut is usually full, though there are some special accommodations for through hikers willing to help out and sleep in the dining room.
There is potable water, sinks with running water, and compost toilets.
Depending on your route to the hut, you may want to drop your bag for a hike to the summit of Mt Madison or over to Star Lake. After dinner (at 6pm), there's a great view of sunset from the dining room or the porch, though many of us walked a little below the hut to get a clearer view of the sunset in the distance. Before dinner or after sunset the guests may hang out in the dining room playing games, reading or talking until quiet hours begin at 9:30. The Croo will awaken you at 6:30 for breakfast at 7. We found we had minimal cell service close to Star Lake, but not in the hut.
Before we left in the morning, we slackpacked to the summit of Mt Adams, the 2nd highest peak in NH, rising 1000' above the hut and offering views of Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson, then our way down via Valley Way and Randolph Path to our cars. Many other overnight guests, including throughhikers, continued on to Pinkham Notch or Mt Washington.
We had beautiful weather both days, but it is always good to check the higher summits forecast from Mt Washington and plan appropriately. We encountered sunny skies, but it was windy on the summits. Although some of the huts are open year round on a self-service basis, Madison Spring closes in the autumn.