I Like Ike (Climbing Mount Eisenhower)
Of all the famed New Hampshire "Presidential Peaks", Mount Eisenhower offers perhaps the most unique summit of all, its relatively spacious, cairn-filled peak serving as a roomy viewing field of the surrounding northern White Mountain region with stunning 360-degree views. The mountain was originally named Mt. Pleasant until it was changed in honor of the 34th American president and famous war general Dwight D. Eisenhower in the early 1970s.
At 4,780 feet, Mt. Eisenhower is among the highest peaks in the state but is dwarfed by its Presidential neighbors Mts. Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Washington. But unlike those rocky, relatively cramped summits (save for Washington, which serves as the range's Disney World in terms of tourist traffic) Eisenhower invites its visitors with a relatively steady (but rigorous) climb up clear paths and periodic scenic views to a rolling and wide mountaintop.
Whereas the aforementioned Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Washington all serve as true tests of endurance, both physically and mentally, Eisenhower is deceptive in its own height, mainly because of its steady but relatively gradual grade to the summit, a climb which at times feels more akin to a long uphill walk in the woods than a hearty hike up a nearly five-thousand-foot mountain. There are no hideously steep uphill stretches and the footing doesn't become overly challenging until just below tree line, where many parts of the trail turn into rocky steps and intricate. Once above tree line, the views of the surrounding Crawford Notch region are breathtaking and feel closer than one experiences on the range's higher elevations, making Eisenhower possess perhaps the most spectacular viewing point of the southern Presidential Range hikers will find.
The day's hike was a traditional ascent, starting on the Edmunds Path for 2.7 miles until reaching the Crawford Path briefly before travelling the Eisenhower Loop for just under a mile before reaching the summit.
Taking the Crawford Path instead allows you to bypass the Eisenhower summit entirely and forge a direct path to Mt. Pierce (1.2 miles). One caveat--as of now (July 2018) the parking space at the Edmunds Path trail head is inaccessible to vehicles due to a large sinkhole on Mt. Clinton Road (paved), forcing one to park just off Base Station Road and walk the just over two-mile stretch to the trail's beginning.
Piles of downed trees were cut and pushed on the sides of the trail by workers, stark evidence of a recent storm which wreaked havoc on a multitude of access points to Presidential Range peaks. This type of damage is a sobering reminder just how powerful the systems of weather remain this far north and at these elevations. While the elevations of Presidential Range peaks are moderate by overall standards outside of New England, the weather patterns remain unpredictable and dangerous, causing it to be home to the most hazardous weather in the world.
At the conclusion of this hike we had registered just over nine miles (9.2) of distance in five hours and ten minutes with just a hair under three thousand feet in elevation gain total (2,986'). Not a bad day at all, but one where trucking it on the paved road seemed like a nice warm up heading in but by day’s end felt like a chore when we walked back to our vehicle (it added up to over four non-hiking trail miles). If you can get to the trail head and skip the road entirely, the hike is one of the most economical of all the four thousand footers.
As is the case with the mountains on this range, weather for this day came in two forms--warm, sunny and clear below tree line and overcast and windy above it, making it feel almost like two separate hikes. While the clouds obscured the long views almost entirely once above tree line and off the Edmund's Path, there was still a sense of grandeur in the climb, especially up the Eisenhower Loop, where the high winds conjured up an eerie and almost mystical feel around the hike, something which belied the humid and sunny weather below tree line.
The weather for this day called for a decent block of clear skies in the morning and very early afternoon with possible thunderstorms coming in afterwards. Our plan was to summit Eisenhower and then hike onto Pierce for a two-peak day.
Based upon the predicted weather reports (incoming rain clouds and possible thunder storms) and weighing the risks of continuing our planned trek we opted to backtrack down Edmund's Path after summiting Eisenhower back to our point of origin.
We packed fairly well for the day’s weather changes and ended up using most everything in our packs (After going above tree line, I donned my fleece jacket and windbreaker over what I wore on the way up the Edmunds Path). Although this is a popular mountain to link with climbs to Pierce and even Jackson for peak bagging efficiency, Eisenhower is worth climbing by itself—its sprawling summit along and sloping uphill climb make the mountain’s wondrous views even more accessible for both novice and experienced hikers alike.