There are two major subsidiary peaks of Mt. Adams: Mount Sam Adams and Mount Quincy Adams, named after John Adams' cousin, Revolutionary leader Samuel Adams, and son, President John Quincy Adams, respectively, and two minor sub-peaks, Abigail Adams (named for John Adams' wife Abigail) and Adams 5. The northern side of the mountain ridge is located in Low and Burbank's Grant, and the end of Durand Ridge, and King Ravine, on the north side of Mount Adams are in the town of Randolph (formerly Durand). The entire south side of the mountain ridge is in Thompson and Meserve's Purchase.
The Appalachian Trail traverses the col between Mount Adams and Mount Sam Adams on the Gulfside Trail. The Randolph Mountain Club (RMC) maintains the trails and several huts and shelters high on Mount Adams' north side, including "The Perch", "Crag Camp", "The Log Cabin", and "Gray Knob". A large network of hiking and climbing paths lead south to the huts and ridges from several parking areas located on U.S. Highway 2.
Mount Adams is a popular hiking and climbing destination for experienced and novice mountaineers alike. The mountain is climbed in all four seasons, although it is more often climbed from late spring through early fall. The peak is known to have dangerously erratic weather, especially in winter. There is a prominent sign just prior to the most exposed section of Mount Adams urging hikers to turn around at the first sign of inclement weather. Winter hiking anywhere in the White Mountains requires specialized equipment and skills, as severe storms can develop suddenly. High winds and low temperatures can combine to make winter conditions on Mount Adams approximately equal to the worst reported from Antarctica.
There are numerous direct routes to the summit of Mount Adams. All routes are considered either Class 1 or Class 2, involve about 4 miles (6 km) to 5 miles (8 km) each way, and gain approximately 4,500 feet (1,400 m) in elevation. One popular route on Adams year-round is the Valley Way, which connects with the Gulfside Trail and Lowe's Path. The Air Line is considered the standard winter route on Mount Adams, as it is perhaps the most direct route to the summit. The route gains about 4,500 feet (1,400 m) in elevation over about 4.3 miles (6.9 km) from trailhead to summit. The last 1,000 feet of this route are extremely exposed, leaving mountaineers vulnerable to the storms known to frequent mountains in the Presidential Range.