Hiking Mount Cardigan, New Hampshire

Almost a month ago we hiked up Mount Cardigan and back down. (The reason why I’m writing about it this late was explained in the previous blog post.) That hike was excellent and is still one of my favorite short hikes.

View from South Peak, Mount Cardigan.
View from South Peak

People have been climbing Mount Cardigan since the early 19th century. It became particularly popular after 1867 when a carriage road to the summit was built. In 1855 a forest fire devastated the summit and left behind the bare granite mountaintop that is still there now. The 3,155-foot treeless summit offers spectacular views in all directions. On a clear day you can see Mount Monadnock and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Camel’s Hump in Vermont and even Pleasant Mountain in Maine.

Summit of Mount Cardigan, NH.
Panoramic views from the bald summit
Shelter on Mount Cardigan.
Shelter on the way up along the South Ridge Trail
Bram and Caroline on Mt Cardigan, New Hampshire.
Time for a selfie
South Ridge Trail.
Looking up to the summit from the South Ridge.

There are numerous trails to the top. Cardigan State Park lies on the west side of the mountain and is the starting point for the Class 1 West Ridge Trail. After about half a mile it bends to the left, while the Class 1-2 South Ridge Trail forks to the right. We followed that South Ridge Trail which passes by South Peak on the way to Mount Cardigan’s summit and came back down along the West Ridge Trail.

The total distance was about four miles and it took us two and a half hour to complete this loop, including a lunch break at the summit. I really liked the treeless summit – it is technically not above the tree line – which allowed for wonderful views.

Trail signs on Mt Cardigan, New Hampshire.
Trail signs near South Peak
Summit of Mt Cardigan, NH.
Fire tower at the summit
Spectacular view from Mount Cardigan.
Taking the time to enjoy the views
West Ridge Trail, Mt Cardigan.
Cairns help you find the fastest way down along the West Ridge Trail in bad weather
Eagles at Mount Cardigan.
If I could be an animal, I’d want to be an eagle…

A major highlight of this particular hike was two eagles that came soaring by when we were near the South Peak.

What majestic birds they are.

You can pick up a free trail map at the trailhead in Cardigan State Park. Visit the Summitpost website for driving directions.

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