Are you someone who loves outdoor activities and planning a hiking trip to Mount Cardigan? Well, then, we got you. There are many things to know beforehand if you plan a trip to Mount Cardigan and want the best trip you have ever experienced. We present you with this complete guide to check off an activity from your bucket list.
Mount Cardigan is a 3,155-foot treeless granite and bare-rock summit in the towns of Orange and Alexandria that offers stunning views of west-central New Hampshire with a picturesque panorama of all the major peaks in southern New Hampshire that includes Mount monadnock, the White Mountains, a pleasant mountain in Maine, camel’s hump in Vermont and many lakes in the lakes region. It has extensive areas of bare granite ledges, which gives the explorers a more challenging trail.
A devasting fire in 1855, burned over the summit and removed all the trees and vegetation, including thin soil on the surface. Now, after over a century, the summit remains bare of all but a few lichens.
1. How To Reach Mountain Cardigan, State Park
To reach cardigan mountain state park, take Route 120 south from Hanover to I-89 South. First, take the exit to Route 4 east and keep following it for 12.2 miles until you reach the center of Canaan.
Then proceed to turn left after you see the sign that says” Cardigan Mountain State Park” and enters Route 118. After 0.6 miles, you will again see the Cardigan Mountain State Park sign, then turn right and enter the road to Orange.
After a while, you will pass a town hall and a schoolhouse on the left. Cross the bridge over Orange Brook. At 3.4 miles from Route 118, continue straight to cardigan mountain road for 3.6 miles, then stay left at the intersection with brook road. Parking and trailhead are at the end of the Shem valley road; follow this road for 1.5 miles to reach cardigan lodge.
2. What Is Mount Cardigan Summit Famous For?
The Mount cardigan is a 4.8-km loop trail near Canaan, New Hampshire. It is considered a moderately challenging route and hence a very popular area for hiking, snowshoeing, and running. The mountain is set in the 5,655-acre Cardigan Mountain State Park.
Mount Cardigan is an extremely popular destination for hikers with its open summit and expansive views of west-central New Hampshire. This scenic loop hike will bring the visitor through many of the mountain’s noteworthy ecological features. Though not one of the highest mountains in New Hampshire, Mt.Cardigan is extremely popular among hikers and sight-seers. It is widely popular due to its variety of trails and its easy accessibility to Boston. The top gives 360-degree panoramic views, which are worth the effort.
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2.1. Important Trails
Important trails include the west ridge trail, South ridge trail, Clark trail, holt trail (hardest one), manning trail, etc.
3. How Long Does It Take to Cover the Whole Mount Cardigan Trail?
It takes about 2 hours and 5 minutes to complete the whole trail.
4. What Is the Best Time to Visit Mount Cardigan?
The best times to visit the trail are April through November. It is also recommended to visit Mount Cardigan during winter but be extremely careful. The smooth summit can be dangerous, and the icy conditions make it worst, especially from the east. Dress accordingly and be cautious during the winter.
5. Who Manages the Mount Cardigan Lodge?
Appalachian Mountain Club has managed the Mount cardigan lodge since 1934. Their base is located at the foot of the mountain and is often used as a hangout spot for day hikers who come to hike.
AMC maintains a large network of hiking trails on this beautiful mountain and its peak, “Fire screw.” As there are many intertwined trails, AMC has marked the hiking trails with brown signs while the ski trails are marked with blue signs.
For adventurers looking to camp, AMC cardigan lodge offers the camping service.
Before you start the trail, it is important you know the guidelines for the trip.
- The trial is open to the public, so be respectful toward others
- Travel by foot only; please stay on the marked trails only for your safety
- Do not litter around.
- Do not pluck the plants or disturb animals
6. How To Start the Trip?
6.1. Hiking trails
6.1.1. Starting the trail
Starting from AMC’s cardigan lodge, near the parking area, ascend a small staircase from the upper end of the parking lot and follow the West Ridge trailhead. The west side of the mountain is home to Cardigan State Park. This area contains a Class 1 West ridge trail. It is also home to the Class 1-2 South ridge trail which travels along to ridge of the south peak and the parking area.
The entrance of the west ridge trail is occupied by an overhead shelter filled with picnic tables and restrooms. West ridge trail is the direct route to the summit, but one has to climb 1.5 miles. Keep walking until you reach a woods road and diagonally cross it at 0.3 miles. At 0.4 miles, leave the south ridge route, descend, and stay on the West Ridge Trail left.
The trail crosses a swampy bench at 0.7 miles. As you continue to follow the trail, you will notice the change from the northern hardwood forest maple into the red spruce and Balsam firs. Conifers found on trees like Balsam firs and pine are better adapted to the higher winds and colder temperatures. The thin soil and exposed ledges again support the growth of conifers whose root systems prefer sparse conditions.
At 1 mile, you will find yourself at Skyland trail junction. Continue walking and cross “Cliff’s Bridge” to the older site of Hermitage Shelter. The shelter was abandoned and dismantled because the campers polluted the surroundings and contaminated the forest. It is a request not to stop here to have your picnic lunch.
At 1.3 miles, you will find a new type of rock which will be whitish-grey. This rock is known as the Kinsman Quartz Monzonite. These rocks were formed after the collision of Africa with North America about 380 million years ago. The summit ledges are mainly polished smooth because of the glaciers that flowed down about 12,000 years ago. After reaching the top of the Fire screw, you can enjoy a wide panorama of the Lakes region. A fire tower crowns this peak.
The trail ends at the T-junction with the Mowglis trail. To continue to reach Mount cardigan, turn left from the Mowglis trail along the ridge. From the dome, the views are magnificent. Unlike Fire screw, Cardigan has no fir trees to obstruct its 360-degree view of the majestic mountains.
To descend from the hike, walk to the trail sign and follow the Clark trail to the forester’s cabin at the base of the ledges. After 0.2 miles on forester’s cabin, turn right at the junction onto the South ridge trail. This trail is excellent for nature lovers as it is between trees and ledges. Continue straight until you reach South Peak of Cardigan. Continue along the ridge until you reach Rimrock. At about 0.8 miles, the Skyland trail diagonally crosses the south ridge trail. At half a mile, the trail crosses Warden’s cabin. Turn left to stay on Clark trail.
Continue walking down through the lively forest until you reach the beautiful view from PJ Ledge (ski trails crossing). PJ Ledge should surely be on your bucket list as its huge views of the cliffy flanks of Firescrew are breathtaking. In about 0.3 miles, you will discover a junction with the Hurricane Gap trail. Continue straight for another 0.4 down the Clark trail and then proceed to turn left to enter the Holt-Clark trail which is also known as Cathedral Forest Trail.
The Cathedral Forest trail descends through the lovely Cathedral forest. Continue 0.1 miles to Grand junction and turn right to enter Holt trail. Class 3 holt trail is considered one of the most difficult trails in New England.
6.2. Ski trails
During winter, it is a must to go skiing on the well-maintained trails on Mount cardigan. Skiers can wither ascend or descend from the same trail, be a little more adventurous, and undertake the 5.5-mile grand tour of the entire Cardigan.
The slopes of Mount cardigan offer some of the excellent skiing available in New England. The mountain still draws a wide range of snowshoers, campers, and skiers. Appalachian Mountain Club operated a high cabin located half a mile from a summit as well as a lodge at the mountain base. The trails are great for beginners as well as experienced skiers. Not only do the wide trails allow newcomers to learn skiing but also Mount Cardigan has two trails designed for skilled skiers.
Skiers can choose the Duke’s or the Alexandria trail and witness the Firescrew. The Duke’s trail is about 1.25 miles long and comparatively easier than the Alexandria Trail.
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6.3 Things to carry for a trip to Mount Cardigan
6.3.1 Water bottle
Remember to take a water bottle with you because there is no water available at the venue. Pack what you need and then store another water bottle. During the hike, the body needs to be kept hydrated throughout the time as on the trails it is difficult to find places for water. The whole trek can easily be done in a day. Pack food and snacks if required. Some of these quick snacks include dry fruits, nuts, and energy bars. Moreover, treats are available at the Cardigan Lodge at the base of the mountain. For a special treat, stay at the High Hut on the mountain and make reservations which are both available through the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Always take a map with you so that you have an idea about the trails and where each one goes. The map is one of the essential things to carry. Always bring along a hard copy of the map as there are some regions where it is difficult to get a network and hence it is tough to connect to GPS. Taking a map will surely prove to be a blessing.
ii) Take the right gear
Pack the right gear such as a first aid kit, hand sanitizers, etc. The First kit must contain things like bandages, band-aids, antiseptic lotions, and many more. These things will be a life savior, in case of emergency.
iii) Dress accordingly
Wear clothes that are suitable for a real adventure. Prefer wearing Trekking pants as they are much more comfortable and breathable. In addition to this, remember to take trekking shoes. A good pair of trekking shoes is one of the important things to carry while trekking. Choose one that is comfortable in rough terrains as well as sturdy and waterproof.
iv) Walking sticks
Long hours of walking on bumpy and long trails can be hard. Hence it is always suggested to bring a walking stick along. Choose the one that can easily be stored and is lightweight. Furthermore, If you are traveling with an elder person, make sure to take a walking stick with you. Some of the spots on the trail are steep and hence elder people will need some assistance.
Summary – Mount Cardigan
Mount Cardigan has a lot to offer, from dense forest to diverse species of animals, refreshing your mind and soul. Leave the comfort of your home and go on an adventure to experience nature’s beauty and wonders. This way you will be enjoying the true beauty of nature and experience the diverse landscape of Mt. Cardigan. Also, remember to carry all the essential things to have a fun-filled adventure to Mt. Cardigan.
Have an amazing and safe trip!
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