Enjoy a quintessential hike through a mossy ravine and a long, gradual climb to spectacular views, with side trips to a beautiful waterfall and swimming holes. Though it requires one of the most challenging hikes in this book, Mount Cardigan is a great destination for those ready for a true mountain expedition.
The trip has so much to offer families: a gentle grade, waterfalls, swimming holes, caves, a jaw-dropping summit with views into Vermont and Maine, and amenities at AMC’s cozy Cardigan Lodge and Campsites. Home-cooked meals are available to guests at the lodge or the campground, including fresh-baked breads daily, homemade soups, and hearty entrees, all served family-style in a rustic dining hall. (Note: Dogs are allowed on-trail, but not at the lodge or campsites.)
"If you were a kid growing up in New Hampshire, it’s likely you hiked this up-and-back route to the top of Mount Cardigan. This bare, fire-scourged mount in the Lakes Region is a magnet for school groups, hiking clubs, families- just about anyone and everyone who wants quick gratification for minimal effort. The pain-to-gain ratio on this climb can’t be beat! There are bigger, higher mountains to the north, but this peak boasts equally beautiful vistas. Of course, summer brings hordes, but winter-ahhh, winter-the crowds thin and the surrounding mountains, valleys, and forests take on a new look, covered in a blanket of white. One word of caution; The Mount Cardigan summit is completely exposed and though not super-high, it can be dangerous if high winds and storms move in. Check forecasts and conditions before you begin this hike, and stay alert to weather fronts that might be moving in." Read more
"A shorter ride from the region’s population centers than taller mountains to the north, Mount Cardigan offers some of the finest views of New Hampshire from its rocky summit, including the rugged White Mountains, the blue waters of the Lakes Region, and the rolling hills of the Connecticut River valley. Despite Mount Cardigan’s lower elevation, its trails are as steep and challenging as many that scale the state’s 4000-foot peaks. The mountain also has a tremendous variety of routes from which to choose. While most opt for the shorter, easier hikes from the west, the best of what Mount Cardigan has to offer can be found on its longer, quieter, and more scenic trails to the east." Read more
"Mount Cardigan’s bald granite dome towers over the western side of New Hampshire’s Newfound Lake. From its summit, views abound— from Mount Monadnock on the Massachusetts border to the Presidential Range in the heart of the White Mountains. Don’t let Mount Cardigan’s relatively low elevation fool you; the trails ascending the summit are as steep and challenging as many that scale New England’s highest peaks. The mountain also provides a tremendous variety of options. Many visitors choose the shorter, state park hikes beginning in the west; however, the more interesting trails ascend from the AMC lodge in the east. This hike attacks the mountain’s steepest face and concludes by traversing its most scenic ridge." Read more
"The Alexandria and the Duke’s ski trails are classic down-mountain runs that descend the east side of the Firescrew–Mount Cardigan summit ridge to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s historic Cardigan Lodge. The Kimball Ski Trail descends through lower-elevation forest. The bald summits of Cardigan and Firescrew offer spectacular views." Read more
"This is a short, kid-friendly hike to an expansive bald summit and a fire tower, with views in every direction. With an expansive bald top, a fire tower, and a 360-degree view, Mount Cardigan offers much reward for a modest effort. The West Ridge Trail (orange blazes) is a well-maintained route that is both kid- and dog-friendly. It’s a great first-time hike whether you’ve never been on the trail before or you’re just getting out for the first hike of the year. From the trailhead, the route climbs moderately with numerous steps built into the path. At 0.5 mile, the West Ridge Trail meets the South Ridge Trail. Turn left, staying on the West Ridge Trail. Continue to ascend, eventually crossing two bridges over a large mud hole. The trail bends left, then climbs more steeply through a rocky area, passing a small, picturesque waterfall on the left." Read more
"Mount Cardigan is one of the more popular hikes in this part of New Hampshire, so expect lots of kids, dogs, and other hikers on the trail. It is the perfect hike if you do not have a lot of time but want a big view, particularly if you and your dog are not frequent hikers. The view from the parking lot may tempt you to eat your picnic right there, but it is worth the walk up. With an expansive bald top, a fire tower, and a 360-degree view, it is hard to find a hike with a better reward for such a modest effort. There are several ways to reach the summit, but the West Ridge Trail (orange blazes) is both dog-friendly and interesting. This well-maintained route begins with lots of stone-work and intermittent log and rock steps. The rocks are loaded with mica, which makes them sparkle in the sunlight." Read more