If you haven't been to Mount Cardigan State Park, Mount Cardigan State Forest, the Appalachian Mountain Club's 1200 acre Cardigan Preserve or AMC Cardigan Lodge, consider taking a look. Mount Cardigan is worth visiting in any season. Lots of great hiking trails, open summits, backcountry ski trails, camping options and lodging options. The area is conveniently located between I-91 and Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. It truly is an area with something for everyone.
My goal for this hike was for my wife and I to meet up with my daughter and one of my son's to do a loop hike that would include the summit of Cardigan. I chose to start from the west side of Cardigan by parking at the winter parking lot (on Burnt Hill Road) for the West Ridge Trail. With the gate to the summer parking lot closed, the hike is lengthened by a half mile or so each direction, but that gives you a chance to get your lungs going before the real climbing starts and a chance for a easy finish on the way out.
|Pavilion at the summer parking area.|
From the summer parking lot, it is only 1.5 miles to the summit of Mount Cardigan via the West Ridge Trail, but that was going to be our descent route.
|The sign at the start of the West Ridge Trail|
We went up the West Ridge trail for only a half mile before taking the right fork on the South Ridge towards Cardigan Rimrock to start our counter-clockwise loop. The snow depth was probably only 4-6", but there were occasional drift areas we had to punch through.
|The fork between the West Ridge Trail and the South Ridge Trail|
Just prior to Cardigan Rimrock the first viewpoint opens up .
|A first viewpont|
|Nick & Lindsay at Rimrock with Mount Cardigan in the background|
From Rimrock, we took the Skyland Trail to Mount Gilman (Orange Mountain on my topo map).
|Mount Cardigan from Mount Gilman|
At Mount Gilman, we dropped down the Vistamount Trail down past the Clark Trail and the Cathedral Forest Trail to the Holt Trail, where we were greeted with the warning sign below. With the gear we had on hand (microspikes), we decided to backtrack to Cathedral Forest Trail to begin our ascent back towards Mount Cardigan.
The Cathedral Forest Trail connects to the Clark Trail from which we continued upwards towards the summit. Our partly Skies were clearing into a full bluebird sky as we neared the summit. The wind was strong though.
|The old fire lookout cabin|
|Looking to South Summit and Mount Gilman|
We took some time to add a layer and some face protection as we broke above the treeline.
|A windblown summit cone|
The view from the summit is awesome in good weather, and today was one of those days.
|A look at the 1924 firetower on the summit.|
|Rev is hoping for a snack.|
|Looking north towards Firescrew Mountain from the summit of Mount Cardigan.|
|Starting to head down the West Ridge Rail|
We enjoyed the sunny summit for awhile, in spite of the wind. To complete our loop hike, we returned via the West Ridge Trail. The trail was hardpack snow and with microspikes it was an easy return to the car in less than an hour.
|Rev the fearless leader|
|The crew - Lindsay, Leesa & Nick|
|An interesting pink ring in the sunset on the way home.|
Everybody loved this peak and multiple hike (and ski) options that are possible here. It was a good day that we'll remember. We completed the day by picking up some pizzas on the way out.
Hike Distance: 8.5 miles
Hike Time: 5 hours, 45 minutes
Total Vertical Gain: ~2800'