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.

4.4 miles
1,755 feet
Out & Back


rock climbing







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.

13 days 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.

1 month 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!

2 months ago

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.

2 months ago

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

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.

3 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.

3 months ago

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

3 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.

4 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.

5 months 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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

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.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

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.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

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!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

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.:)

Monday, August 21, 2017

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!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Excellent trail plenty of ledges and great views.

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