Mount Cardigan

Alexandria, New Hampshire 03222

Mount Cardigan

Mount Cardigan Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"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.)"

More Mount Cardigan Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Snowshoe Routes: New England (The Mountaineers Books)
Diane Bair & Pamela Wright
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"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
Best Loop Hikes: New Hampshire's White Mountains to the Maine Coast (The Mountaineers Books)
Jeffrey Romano
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"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
100 Classic Hikes in New England (The Mountaineers Books)
Jeffrey Romano
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"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
Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast (Appalachian Mountain Club Books)
David Goodman
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"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
Hiking the White Mountains (Falcon Guides)
Lisa Densmore
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"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
Best Hikes with Dogs: New Hampshire & Vermont (The Mountaineers Books)
Lisa Densmore
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"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

Mount Cardigan Reviews

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9/24/2018
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7/19/2018
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11/9/2011
Thanksgiving day hike with the whole family before our feast! Great morning hike nice for the more experienced and the inexperienced alike in the group!
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10/3/2010
First trip with the New England over Forty Hiking Group. Julie was the trail organizer. We had about 8 people show up for this hike at the AMC lodge. I didn't have the right gear, for this one and was very sweaty. Fortunately it was a relatively warm day. Great company spectacular views. Took the easier Holt-Clark trail. Fairly moderate hike with some steep rocky section about the last quarter of the ascent. Beautiful wide open rock face gives excellent 360 degree view. Firetower on top.
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3/5/2010
I hiked this loop that summits both Firescrew and Cardigan with two friends last weekend, and it was one of the most enjoyable hikes I've done this winter. The trail is a lot of fun, and not too steep for the most part, and the ridge that connects Firescrew to Cardigan was a blast. You get a sense of total exposure while crossing the ridge, yet without it feeling dangerous. We lost the blazes along the manning trail once or twice because of the snow, but easily backtracked. From the ridge to Cardigan we had to do a bit of bushwhacking to reach the summit because there were no more tracks in the snow for us to follow, but it was a lot of fun (even though I often suck waist deep in snow - didn't wear snow shoes - big mistake). Overall, Mount Cardigan's summit provided one of the best views I've seen of New Hampshire so far - rivaled only a few days later by the summit of Mount. Chocorua. Definitely do this hike, you won't regret it!
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6/1/2009
Great hike but go up the West Ridge Trail instead! Google the trail maps and you'll be glad you did!
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8/31/2008
This was a very nice hike. Completed on a warm, sunny day, with dog. Lots of beautiful views and open ledges. Went up the Manning trail and down Holt (4 hours, start at AMC lodge)). Met only one person on the way up! Coming down Holt trail was a challenge - steep, open ledges. Probably dangerous in wet weather. But fun scrambling down. There are easier trails down. I've attached pictures.
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9/4/2007
Beautiful late summer day on the weekend found lot's of other hikers on the mountain. Trail was easier than the guide suggested partly because conditions have been really dry for the last few weeks in NH. We did the route in about three hours - considerably less than the estimate though we didn't hurry and took a leisurely stop on the summit. This route is very nice but the trail shows the volume of hikers in wide worn sections and many roots. Not the worst I have seen but pretty well worn. We didn't bring our hiking dog but saw many on the summit and didn't see any section of trail that would have posed a challenge for an Aussie Shepard - next time...
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10/30/2006
Very high wind at top....several muddy trail sections and one large tree across the trail...but what a view for such a short hike...
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8/4/2006
Climbed Cardigan from Cardigan Stete Park, upo South Ridge Trail and down West Ridge Trail. This is 700 vertical feet shorter than trails from the AMC lodge. The trail is generally maintained, albeit eroded. There are magnificent views of the barren cone from the south ridge trail, then the baren cone ascent is very exposed with sensational views. The summit is very popular, so do not expect solitude. The whole hike with lunch took a little over 4 hours. I highly reccommend this loop Joel Mandelbaum drmaddog42@hotmail.com
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Mount Cardigan Photos

Nearby Trails

Trail Information

Alexandria
Nearby City
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
5.6
Distance
Out-and-back
Trail Type
Moderate
Skill Level
No posted hours
Season
Cardigan State Park, nhstateparks.org/explore/state-parks/cardigan- state-park.aspx; AMC Cardigan Lodge and Campsites, 603-466-2727 (reservations), outdoors.org/cardigan
Local Contacts
USGS Mount Cardigan quad; Southern New Hampshire Trail Map, Map 2: D5–D3 (AMC)
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018