Though not one of the highest mountains in New Hampshire, Mt. Cardigan is extremely popular among hikers in the Northeast. Mt. Cardigan is widely popular due to its variety of trails, accessibility to Boston and, and that its bald summit gives 360 degree panoramic views. The mountain is often compared to Mt. Manadnock because of its wide popularity, similar height, bald top, and circumstances in that both mountains had major forest fires (Mt. Cardigan's in 1855).
The West side of the mountain is Cardigan State Park. This park is home to the Class 1 West Ridge trail. This is one of the easiest ascent to the top of the mountain. It is also home to the Class 1-2 South Ridge trail which travels along to ridge to South Peak and down to the parking area.
On the East Side is the AMC 1000 acre Cardigan Reservation. which is home to the AMC Cardigan Lodge complex (complete with lodge and campground). It is home to a number of trails, including the Class 3 Holt trail which is considered one of the more difficult trails in New England.
Though Mount Cardigan is only 3100 in elevation, it's treeless top often makes it vulnerable to severe weather conditions usually reserved for mountains above 4000 feet. I have been on Mount Cardigan when winds were easily above 60 mph per hour and there was little wind reported elsewhere.
VIA TRAILHEADS AT CARDIGAN STATE PARK: From I-89. Get off of exit 17 and head east on Route 4 towards Enfield and Canaan. Once in Canaan make a left onto Route 118 towards Orange and Rumney. At roughly a half mile north of Canaan make a right at the Cardigan State Park sign. Bear right after crossing over a stream roughly two and a half miles. The road to the parking area will be on your left, roughly a mile past the creek (closed in winter and early spring).
VIA AMC CARDIGAN LODGE: From I-93. Get off on Exit 24 and head west toward Bristol and proceed 6 miles until you reach the town center. Make a right onto Route 3A towards Plymouth. After about two miles make a left on at the Stone Church just before the lake. Go three mile past the crossroads and bear right about 3 mile from 3A. Three miles from there make a left. Take a right from the church and stay on the route until you reach the lodge.
On the west side (Cardigan State Park) there are no fees while on the AMC side there are trail fees.
Cardigan can be climbed at any time of year, though April and May are not recommended due to mud season and June is home to black fly season.
Be prepared in winter on Mt. Cardigan summit. The smooth, completely exposed summit can be dangerous in icy conditions especially from the east. Bring crampons and if approaching from the east (Holt Trail) an ice axe because the summit is exposed it is very susceptible to heavy winds. Dress according and use caution especially in winter.
Camping on the AMC Cardigan Lodge is available. For information on reservation contact AMC Cardigan Lodge, RFD, Bristol, NH 03222 or call (603-744-8011)
Post your summit mugshot here.