Holt Trail

HARD 30 reviews

Holt Trail is a 4.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Bristol, New Hampshire that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and rock climbing and is best used from May until August.

DISTANCE
4.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1755 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

hiking

rock climbing

walking

forest

views

waterfall

rocky

scramble

no dogs

The trail starts off easy but quickly gains 1000+ feet in less than .8 miles. If you are afraid of heights, do not attempt.

hiking
18 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.

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.

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!

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.

hiking
8 months ago

Went up Holt, to Mowglis, then descended down Manning. This was really tough going up for me, steep slabs with very few handholds. Required some holding on/climbing and I am lacking in upper-body strength dept. If I were alone, I could see contemplating turning back, but there's sort of a point of no return (in wet conditions, like my hike) and I was past that anyway when having difficulties. I've hiked a lot, hikes rated "hard", but this was no joke!

hiking
8 months ago

I would say that this was by far the hardest trail I have ever hiked. I don’t know why this trail isn’t on the NH most terrifying trails. People who have reviewed this trail before have talked about hitting a point of no return. I would say about three quarters of the way through this trail you hit the point of no return. It’s very steep and it would be very difficult to safely turn around to back track. There wasn’t a moment that my heart wasn’t racing because of how steep and scary this trail was. Now I know there are a lot more advanced hikers that have gone up this trail and said it wasn’t too difficult, but for a beginner to intermediate hiker this was extremely difficult. I would say that the steepest and scariest part of the trail is the very top of the trail. The rock face is easily at a 70 degree angle, the pictures I have seen online don’t do this part justice. There is an over-hanging rock that will help you get up this section, but the hand and foot holds aren’t as good as everyone has made them out to be. I would say beating this trail there wasn't so much a sense of accomplishment but relief. Take the Clark trail down, its quite easy and was a much needed break after going up the Holt trail.

hiking
9 months ago

This was my first hill climb, as I just moved here, and I had my 115 lb. Choc. Lab with me. We had a blast but learned the hard way to take a map along. Instead of veering left when the trail split we followed the Holt trail. I hadn't read anything about the difficulty we would encounter and should have done some more prep work. This trail is definitely not for beginners or dogs. We did about as well as we could hope for, almost reaching the top, but realized the folly of attempting anymore. Live to climb another day! I WILL be climbing much more, but will definitely delve deeper into directions and advice before attempting any more hiking. Even though it wasn't a complete success, my best buddy and I are hooked and at 60, will be trying to do the 48 before I'm wormfood.:)

10 months ago

This is a challenging hike and definitely not for kids. Like others have mentioned, be sure to have grippy shoes and do not go when its wet. There were several places to stop along the way to catch your breath and take in the beautiful views. Once you start scaling the rock, you're committed so be sure you're up for the challenge!

hiking
10 months ago

So fun! Challenging, so avoid during wet or icy weather.

hiking
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

challenging trail, hiking shoes are a must.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Our family did this when our kids where 11 and 5 (they hiked it by themselves). It was a harder trial but so much fun. The view up top was great and very windy. After some lunch we headed across to the West Ridge Trail. The view was not as good (not that we expected it to be), but it was still a fun hike. We would defiantly go on this hike again.

hiking
Friday, April 14, 2017

Absolutely wonderful view at the top if its a nice day. My friend and I could see Mt Washington from the top and easily had a 100 mile view the day we went. Did it in the snow so it was difficult for a little while but totally worth the trek.

hiking
Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The weather was not to bad but it rained and snowed (!) the day before so the path was really slippery. With good shoes and caution it was feasible but not easy.

As many other said, do not even think about going down this way.

hiking
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I loved this trail. It has a big mountain feel to it and is a nice challenge. But you've got to be comfortable on steep slabs with some exposure. Don't even think about it when conditions are wet, or if you don't have grippy footwear, and unless you are prepared to rappel, descending this trail is foolishly dangerous.
That's ok because descending by way of Firescrew and the Manning Trail is fabulously scenic and by comparison quite easy.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Plenty of warning signs about skill level needed for the trail at the Grand Jct. I had the hike to myself until very near the top. I was overtaken by some younger gentlemen who had climbed the trail before. Got some tips on best route back down from them. Came down Moglis to Manning. Plenty of bare rock there as well. Recommend good sticky shoes but the rock face has good texture for grip. Wonderful climb! 360 deg. view from summit is great.

hiking
Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Good hike with some fun yet challenging scrambles. What it lacks in overall length it makes up for with a few mentally tough sections. Lots of open rock scrambles so be sure to have hiking shoes that grip rock. Great views from the top in all directions on a clear day.

Do not take this trail down. I looped it with Mowglis Trail over to Firescrew and then down the Manning trail back to the AMC Cardigan Lodge. It ended up about 5.2mi loop with +1900 ft elevation.

hiking
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Excellent trail plenty of ledges and great views.

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2 months ago

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9 months ago

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Saturday, June 03, 2017

rock climbing
Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

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Friday, July 22, 2016

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Monday, December 07, 2015