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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.

hiking
12 days 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

It’s a busy but very nice trail. Not too steep , not too long , just right . Perfect for kids . The views on top are gorgeous too !

on Holt Trail

hiking
19 days ago

You ever read stuff like the reviews on this trail here and go, "I'm not sure how capable these hikers are; their experiences are relative, so I'll give it a go?"

Heed the warning.

I am about 140 lbs and 5'7. I'm in the military. I have a scrawnier (ectomorph) build. I don't work out a lot but I am comfortable with hikes. I wear military-style boots. I carried my dSLR camera with just one lens, my knock-off GoPro, some water, an MRE, and a 100-weight fleece (which I was very glad I did, later). All this and some miscellaneous crap in a 5.11 Rush 72 Hour pack.

When I drove down to Mt. Cardigan, I found myself on the opposite side of the mountain. Decided to do a loop to get to it instead, so I hiked up the West Ridge Trail, then to the South Ridge Trail, then to the Skyland Trail, then went down on the Vistamont Trail. I took my left too early and went up the Clark/Holt cutoff trail, realized it really wasn't that difficult and figured that I didn't actually take the Holt Trail, so being just 0.2 mi from the summit at the start of the Hurricane Gap trail, I turned and went back down to meet Holt.

I knew I was on the right track after I saw the infamous sign. I proceeded.

The trail itself has many moments where you don't think it's a trail anymore. You start off the first half through an overgrown path and cross mossy rocks over a stream, holding onto a downed tree. You keep going and think, this isn't bad. And then you get to your first rock face with a simple yellow UP arrow with just a crevice to shove your boot into and hold onto.

And that's the easiest part of the rapid ascent.

You go up a lot of these rock faces that have grades of 50-60% with little to hold onto, and then some easier rock scrambles in between. It is very tiring (especially after having hiked all day) and I highly-recommend you take breaks. You will get to a point where you can't safely descend (if you wanted to, anyway). TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS. You can run UP the rock face in some parts, but there are a lot of others where the grade is more like 70%.

Also, the trail markers turn from yellow to white. Did anyone mention that? (I later realized that they did this to tell hikers what side of the mountain they were on, but I thought also that both colors are horrible choices for trail markings.)

You may lose the trail multiple times, because it is not marked very well between a few stints. I know I did... twice. I erroneously climbed a few spots where I had to carefully descend back... and scared as heck considering I had a backpack with my gear in it, treacherously pulling me back. (If you fall backward at all, there's nothing to stop you, save a few brush spots.) I honestly thought I was done for at one point, where I lost the trail and tried to climb upward with barely anything to grab... you will need a lot of upper-body and leg strength to pull and push yourself up. I had to rest a few times just hugging the rock face and pulled muscles in both legs... it was scary.

And each time you get past a stint like that, it eases up... and then you're presented with another rock face. Repeat this, again and again. TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS.

Like someone else said, it's like rock climbing, but without the gear. Which makes it, at times, terrifying.

I finally made it up but it was dusk at this point, so I don't have great photos. It is also very, very windy up there. The fire tower is a welcome site when you're on your last dregs.

There are cairns up there as well which help you guide yourself down to the West Ridge Trail. THIS trail is easy to follow down... I didn't even use a light for a while to preserve my night vision and just followed the developed trail.

I highly-recommend that you bring plenty of water in a SMALL pack and as minimal gear as you can. I do NOT recommend a large backpack as I did, and definitely do not recommend hiking Holt AFTER already having hiked most of the day. Have boots or good hiking shoes. I would not recommend gloves unless they are "sticky" with a good grip... you need to have finger strength to help pull yourself up. I would highly suggest you DON'T do this after rainy weather... the rocks can become very slippery, I'd imagine.

In hindsight, now that I'm over being an insignificant speck to nature, I do recommend the challenge, but be ready for it.

Nice break from the west ridge trail. I preferred this way up. The South peak has pretty good views to the south east. The only thing you miss is the waterfall on the west ridge trail. There is a side trail to the fire wardens cabin which was pretty neat.

Hiked with my 10 and 6 year olds. both faired well but this loop does extend the amount time spent on bare rock. My 6 year old feels uneasy on open bare rock with an incline.

I don't think I would hike just the west ridge again. I preferred this loop.

Great hike. Lots of rock-face near the top which I don’t love. Very windy at the top too. But good challenging hike. We went up manning and down Clark, per recommendations we saw here. Glad we did that. Took us 3 hours including a short break.

Easy trail with great views. Fun drive out to trailhead and perfect hike for dogs too!

hiking
1 month ago

We tried to get to the Holt trail, but accidentally drove to the wrong side of the mountain, so ended up taking the West Ridge Trail instead. It was very beautiful, but fairly easy. It took us 40 minutes to get to the summit, and then we looped around to Firescrew (the other summit), and went down the South Ridge Trail (hitting two more summits along the way). Overall, we did 6 miles of trail in 4hrs, including lunch.

The trail starts out very simple, but then gets more difficult, with some scrambling over bald face rock at the top. It's very scenic!! When we went, it was muddy in parts, but no ice or snow, and we were entirely fine in just running shoes.

Small spots with ice , up with two dogs on leashes no problem! Muddy wear gaiters! Lunch just below the summit.

hiking
1 month ago

I went this past Saturday! Was way too icy to get to the top, very dangerous. Will update review once the ice melts and I go in the summer.

hiking
2 months ago

Icy with snow

Did the orange loop today 4/14/18. The road up to the tables and benches is closed so you have to walk up that. Once on the trail it was very icy / snowy, I recommend boots, extra socks, gloves and snow picks . Very slippery!

Gets progressively steeper on the way up, but nothing too strenuous. You start getting views at around 1.2 miles, and the panorama at the summit is phenomenal. On a clear day, you can see the White Mountains, the Green Mountains, the Lakes Region, and countless other points near and far. The beginning of the descent is very steep, all rock, then it goes over a fairly level ridge with nice views. After that, it gets steep again, hands are necessary at times. Overall a nice hike, but the descent route was more difficult than we were expecting.

hiking
6 months ago

hiked to firescew on December 7th with Shea (my dog) via manning trail. do not recommend this trail this late in the season without crampons! serious ice obstacles!

hiking
6 months ago

Great view for a short hike. I wasn't expecting as much Ice as there was. I should have brought ice spikes. Our dog had a great time.

hiking
6 months ago

This trail had heavy ice on it (November) and very unsafe. It might be nice in the summer but not late fall. Also my dog had a hard time with this trail, it’s not as dog friendly as I was hoping.

nice trail, wish I had hiking sneakers tho. pretty wet, but still navigable and we're in our 60's. beautiful views up top.

hiking
7 months ago

Excellent hike (one of the tougher moderates I’ve seen on All Trails) - got off the trail a few times when we were focused on the climb and not the markers.

Great little trail ,off season and still bumped into 4 or 5 groups working their way up as we came down. After two days of rain trail was still navigable.

hiking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

This trail presented a humbling challenge to my intermediate ability. The trail was slow and steady in the beginning. It then becomes the steepest slab of rock I've ever navigated on foot.(and all fours at one point with my knees not hitting the ground). My short stature was not an asset on this hike. The final ascent to the top required rock climbing without any safety apparatus. This was the mental challenge of the hike. My fingers were two inches too short to reach the rocks edge to pull myself up. My steady footing(I love you KEEN) pushed me through the tiny crevasse to reach the "hand hold" to then pull myself up. The sign at the trailhead is 100% truth. The hike was rewarding because it was a beautiful panoramic view at the top.

Despite living within a half hour this was the first time I've ever done this hike. Overall it was great, well marked trail-we followed the West Ridge up and down. I did it with my 70 year old Grandmother, 7 year old daughter, 3 year old son and puppy and it was challenging enough but not too hard. The view at the top is amazing. The only downside is the very narrow road, insane parking situation, people literally must have hiked up half a mile from their parking spots! Also lots and lots of traffic with people going up and down and boat loads of dogs some not on leads (no problem) but had some that ran up not on lead which really isn't good because just because that dog is friendly doesn't mean the other is. Either way I would definitely do it again. Reminder, it's carry in and carry out, help to keep our parks clean and enjoyable!

hiking
8 months ago

My boyfriend and I did this trail today to appreciate the fall foliage. It was a beautiful and well maintained trail. It was of moderate difficulty and the views from the top were lovely despite the fire tower being closed. My biggest tip for someone looking to hike this trail would be plan to go during the off hours. This is a very VERY popular trail full of families and dogs all trying to enjoy the same space. Parking was difficult and traffic on the trail itself was very heavy. All and all, it was a fun hike!

hiking
8 months ago

Holt to Holt-Clark cut off at Grand Junction. Clark to summit, to Mowglis to Firescrew- and descent Manning trail. Loved this hike. Very steep places on ascent and descent. Great challenge, beautiful day, foliage views, sweeping vistas, places to stop. Dry weather recommended.

Rainy day on the mountain, but still a gorgeous area to hike.

hiking
8 months ago

First time up this mountain, definitely earned my respect. The trail was very easy until the final pitch to the summit ... aggressive slabs and cracks but doable. Would be unsettling if wet. Excellent 360 views from the summit. Great little shelf out of the wind for lunch or a nap. Agree with others not to descend upper Holt. Wonderful hike all around!

Hiked Manning / Holt Loop over past weekend. Beyond some wet scramble up, a soaked by and cloud socked peak, cautious decent of rock - it was very manageable for mildly experienced climber.

West Ridge trail up & down. Moderate hike, steep in places, rock face, fantastic sweeping views. Great foliage hike. Will go back to explore other trails/the loop.

hiking
8 months ago

We had the mountain to ourselves yesterday! Great hike!

8 months ago

10/04/17 Third time up Cardigan (2nd time up Holt) awesome top, hasn't disappointed yet!" Descended Fire Screw to Manning. Would not recommend going down Holt.

Good hike. Well marked trail.
Can be busy with other hikers

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