Building upon the good start to the hiking season with last week’s Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail walk, last Saturday my son and I decided to clamber up rocky Cardigan Mountain in Canaan, New Hampshire.
This mountain is a popular hiking destination, as it’s on the edge of the day trip range from large population centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. So, it can be crowded. Get in early for access to parking. We got there just before 10AM and secured the last parking spot in the lot. By the time we came down the mountain, there were cars parked anywhere they might fit, and down the access road as well.
The weather when we started was beginning to get very hot for May, forecast to top out in the mid-to-high 80s. I think it was 75° when we left the parking lot for the short, but steep climb to the top.
We took the West Ridge Trail. While only 1.5 miles to the top, there’s an elevation gain of over 1300 feet in that short distance to the 3121 foot mountain summit. For the first mile, the trail is wooded, wide and well marked, with many log & rock steps leading you up the mountainside. The bugs were typical for Northern New England on a hot, dry day- there were plenty of them. Both black flies and mosquitos. They don’t seem to be as bothersome if you keep moving; stopping invites the swarm. I don’t get bit by these critters like some people do, but inhaling them is annoying.
As we climbed up, the trail was busy, and we were entertained by the usual sights of hikers with bad footwear slipping and sliding away, and the ubiquitous trail runners coming up and down. The most unusual thing we saw was a guy with a radio-controlled pickup truck running it along the beginning of the granite rock face. I am not making this up!
After about a mile we came to another sign, and then a short footbridge. Not long after we started up the bare rock, and quickly ended up above treeline, moving from cairn to cairn as we worked our way to the summit, where there’s a fire lookout tower.
After taking the required summit photo, we sat down on the east side of the summit overlooking nearby Firescrew Mountain and enjoyed a quick lunch and hydration break. Here’s a short video of our lunchtime view:
We finished lunch fairly quickly, as the bugs found us on the summit despite the nice breeze. It was also getting crowded. We packed up and headed back towards the West Ridge Trail for our descent, passing the lookout tower.
The trip down was fast, although there were still many people on their way up. Returning the way we came was the only option for this trip, and we got back to the Jeep a bit less than three hours after starting the hike. Overall, very enjoyable and fairly strenuous. The views were fantastic. Here’s the link to Cardigan Mountain State Park if you’re interested in visiting.
Finally, a couple more photos from the top: