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Cardigan State Park spans 5,655 acres and is an excellent area for hiking. A mountain road leads to trails on the west slope of Mount Cardigan as well as a trail to the summit. Mount Cardigan's 3,121-foot treeless granite summit affords outstanding views of west central New Hampshire, with a panorama that includes Mount Monadnock and the White Mountains, Camel's Hump in Vermont, and Pleasant Mountain in Maine.

On this beautiful fall day I wanted to try a few Mt. Cardigan trails, so I headed up West Ridge, then took Clark Trail up and down the very windy peak. To add some distance I looped Clark to Vistamont to Skyland, ultimately returning on South Ridge. Vistamont was particularly muddy, with steep sections requiring careful attention not to slip. An advanced beginner, I'd rate this combo loop on the hard side of moderate, with gorgeous views and exciting terrain throughout.

1 month ago

Great Hike! Challenging but doable in dry conditions. Take your time and stay focused and you'll be fine. Great views. Cool firepower at summit. Holt trail not recommended for descents. Definitely would recommend to anyone looking for a nice day scramble.

hiking
2 months ago

First trail my family and I attempted after our recent move to New Hampshire. I’ve done some hunting and hiking in Colorado and Alaska, but my family has not. That being said- they did phenomenal. We made it up and back in a few hours. My children are 4 and 5, so it took a while longer than it may take most. The views were amazing. If you’re going in the fall or winter, dress appropriately, the temperature drops substantially at the peak, and it was SUPER windy when we went. Great hike though. Trails were easy to follow and the trail markers are clearly visible. All in all, great hike.

Well after the rain stopped...
great hike mainly because of the stunning leaf peeping. It was the perfect timing to see the autumn leaves. However, it was super muddy and slippery at times but great colors and good chilly temperatures to keep you nice and cool.

hiking
2 months ago

I had never hiked Mount Cardigan, let along up the Holt Trail. A friend recommended it and I was on board for a challenge. We went this past Sunday after a rain storm and it was not the best idea. the first bit of trail is okay, just muddy. The scramble/climb during the last half mile or so is rough. Between the wet rock and wet moss, it was tricky. It was mostly upper body/core strength since you couldn't get a grip with your boots. If not for a couple ahead of us, we may not have found the right crevice to make our way up. Heed the trail warning and go on a dry day!

First time hiking it .....easy to follow and we had a blast!!! The views are amazing ❤️

Amazing views, a good length, and one instance of confusing trail markers made this 4/5 for me. There are maps available under the “Shelter” at the parking lot at the beginning of the West Ridge Trail. Also a few picnic tables there.

We hiked this trail at the end of September 2018, and the trail up to the rock face was soggy or muddy most of the way. Definitely hike in waterproof hiking boots/shoes. The water also made some of the rock face near the top rather slippery.

Our intent was to take the West Ridge Trail up and back. It is marked with orange paint. There is a fork in the West Ridge Trail about 1/4 mile before the peak, and the West Ridge Trail continues to be marked by orange paint on the rock face. It was confusing because there was an orange arrow pointing down the other fork, so we erroneously followed that fork (didn’t notice the orange paint on the rock face on our way up... see picture I uploaded). That fork ended up leading to where the South Peak and Rimrock trail breaks off, so our ascent to the peak was slightly steeper coming from that side vs. the West Ridge side.

I have not been hiking much recently, and was carrying a 35 pound toddler on my back for the duration of this hike. I also do not have good hiking shoes anymore. My knees are definitely feeling it this evening. Would recommend using a walking stick / hiking poles.

Also would not hike this unless it’s a clear day. The view is too pretty to waste on a cloudy / rainy day. We were a couple weeks early for peak fall colors, but was still worth it.

This was a nice trail. not overall challenging and the views come close to the top. the top of the holt trail is a lot of fun and very steep. it's the only difficult part on the trail though and is only the very end. great views at the top. we enjoyed this trail for a quick hike.

Great hike. The climb up Holt was very steep and absolutely would not recommend in wet conditions or as a descent. Lots of bouldering/scrambling with the last .5 mile getting intense and the last quarter/eighth getting downright scary requiring some technical climbing ability and liberal use of hanging on to notches in the rocks and roots to get a footing and push up. Not for the faint of heart. But once up absolutely gorgeous views. Agree with all on the tail end of skyland and a good portion of woodland trails being very overgrown and recommend pants. We moved fairly quick throughout and finished in about 5 hours exact. Would do it again with very good gripping shoes and no wetness on that holt ascent.

did it in knee deep snow not the best conditions to hike but deff worth it great views from top

We took the South trail going up and then did a slightly longer loop taking Clark Trail, then back west on the Hurricane Trail (uphill again) before heading down on the West Trail. Best part aside from the amazing views, was the mossy forest along Hurricane Trail. If you have the opportunity, take the extra .5 miles to head Southeast on Clark Trail, then West on Hurricane before heading down on West. Or, take the South trail going up and down.

on Mowgli's Trail

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike, I only saw one other person on the trail, and it was a Saturday with very nice weather. A few muddy spots, but not terrible.

WORD OF WARNING: The trail head is about 1.5 Miles down an old logging road. The road is pretty beat up. I would not try to drive down it if you are not confident in your vehicles off-road capability or don't have good ground-clearance. I have a full-size truck with slightly oversized all-terrain tires, and there were a few points I felt the truck bottom out on the skidplate. I would NOT recommend trying to do it in a sedan or small SUV.

I saw some people parked at the beginning of the logging road, but that adds 1.5 Miles each way to your hike. (and an additional 500 feet of elevation)

Great hike! We stayed on the Clark Trail to include Cardigan Mountain peak (see our recording) and are glad we did! The Clark trail is pretty busy though, lots of groups. The trails on the east were very quiet and include beautiful views including a stunning view of Cardigan peak. Due to all of the recent rain it was pretty muddy and slippery in some spots. There are also some areas that require scrambling.
Highly recommend this hike! It took us about 4 hours but we stopped frequently to take in the many beautiful views and had lunch on the Gilman peak.

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike to the waterfall with my sons who are 5 and 8. They loved the challenge and getting across the stream. At the falls we rested and played. Water was too chilly to get in all the way but that’s expected. Super fun day. We are staying at the amc cardigan lodge.

hiking
3 months ago

A few suggestions:
-Pick a day that is nice and dry. This hike would be dangerous & extremely difficult to complete in the rain.
-Pack a light bag and leave your hiking sticks at home. You're going to need your hands during the steep scrambles at the end.
-Make sure you have a pair of boots with good tread (avoid getting them muddy if possible)
-You may want to skip this if you have a fear of heights.

This trail doesn't get "scary" until the very end. There are some steep scrambles before, but you can walk right up the rock if you have a descent pair of boots and the conditions are dry.
The scary part is a class 3 scramble. Basically rock climbing without ropes or obvious places to put your hands and feet. I would suggest taking your time and plotting out a route up in advance. The biggest thing is to not freak out! You'll be fine if you take your time and stay focused. All and all it only took a few minutes to finish this section.

I would definitely would suggest this for anyone looking something a little more challenging.

Great views but half of the Holt Trail markers are faded and often far and few between. Also the best views are found by going in reverse.

The holt trail sucks and often takes you up an unnecessarily difficult path (and treacherous for one part) when you could easily walk around the trail a few feet to avoid this. Unfortunately when you get to the rocky top of the mountain it takes you through dirt sections prone to being muddy. I was safer by simply walking up the dry rocky hills. It rained yesterday but was sunny today so everything EXCEPT THE TRAIL was dry.

Mount cardigan is still very worth it but summit it by literally any path other than Holt to spare yourself frustration and potential danger if it is even remotely wet or icy.

hiking
4 months ago

With more than 15 4000-footers and many more hikes under my belt, I decided to hike up this class III trail and it turned out to be some challenge. For first time in my 6 years of hiking experience, I can say that the trail description and warning signs along the trail are completely justified. What starts as an innocuous climb slowly turns into tricky difficult scramble on wet rocks along the brook to give way for the final very steep section of bald rocks with very few crevices to get a proper foothold on. You will need to summon up lot of courage and technical hiking skills for the final 0.1 mile of the hike which is an almost rock-climbing without any equipments.
Heed all the warnings and be totally prepared (mentally and physically) if you want to take this trail. Smaller backpack, proper hiking boots etc etc. Prior experience with rock scrambling is must. Avoid going up in bad weather condition and going down altogether. Decided to come down by Clark trail.

4 months ago

Nice early morning hike to the top and some great views.

Great hike with my 7 year old. Just enough challenge and beautiful views from the top.

fantastic loop and terrain diversity, will be back for sure

4 months ago

An excellent hike with some heart stopping moments. Made it with three pre teens.

4 months ago

Ran from little sugar loaf mtn in Alexandria NH to cardigan which was 17 miles. Used the holt train. Lots of fun, extremely technical. Meant for experience hikers. Wouldn’t recommend for beginners. Very steep and rock with not much to grab onto.

5 months ago

Hiked yesterday with my son. This was my sixth or seventh trip up Holt but the first one where the sun was really shining. The rock face on the steep sections are extremely exposed, so the heat was something of a surprise. We had ample water, but even still I was mentally caught off guard.

I absolutely agree do not think that this trail should be descended.

Fantastic trail that is well-marked and leads to a wonderful view at the top (note: we only had time for the West Trail). As others have said, the trail gets a lot of use but in most parts it’s plenty wide to allow faster hikers a lane to pass. Definitely kid friendly, though it is a very steady upward climb, a few rock scrambles, and the last leg is over the smooth and somewhat steep boulder face of the summit. Definitely will do this hike again when we are in the area. I’ve been walking/hiking some, so in moderate shape, and the hike took us 1.5 hours up and back (though we were moving a little faster on our descent) using only the Western Trail.

What an amazing day we had on this trail. Started at AMC lodge (very cool in of itself) and headed up Manning. Got the heart beating and the sweat pouring (it was 100 degrees plus today) for much of the ascent but when we got to the first viewpoint it was all worth it. The slight scrambles up the ridge to the summit were challenging but doable. Firescrew was gorgeous. The summit and fire tower could never be described with mere words - absolutely breathtaking on this hot, but clear day. The descent down Clark was tough on the toenails at first, but then wasn’t bad at all. Will absolutely do this trail again!

Hiked today. Quick trip to the views! Nice breeze when you get above the tree line. Great way to spend 1/2 the day.

This was a good hike, not to difficult for someone who is a little out of shape like me. The view is amazing at the top!

hiking
5 months ago

Great hike!

Fun hike but was very unfortunately clouded in on this day. The views must be insane. Lots of slab towards the summit that can be slippery when wet. I’d probably want to be doing this hike on a dry day. Still, the trails were great and despite the inability to see any distance it was a great hike. Will return on a clear day.

hiking
6 months ago

I love fire towers. This was a great hike with a great view at the top. Check out my trip report with photos and some things to look out for.
http://www.eastcoasthiker.com/trails/cardiganfiretower

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