Mount Cardigan is often known for being a family-friendly hike to a 360-degree view, but it also offers options for the more experienced hikers looking for a challenge. Starting from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Cardigan Lodge on the east side of the mountain, multiple trails provide hiking and skiing options year round.
The shortest, most challenging of them is the Holt Trail, which is only recommended for ascents and during times of year when snow and ice aren’t an issue. Don’t let the easy, rolling approach fool you; the majority of the elevation gain to Mount Cardigan’s summit is done in the last half-mile. The trail becomes steep and rocky, ascending ledges and scrambling up slab. Views may be had along the upper section of the trail and from the open, bald summit. A fire tower sits on the granite, and subalpine plants cling to the mountain in cracks in the rock. Protect this fragile vegetation by staying on the rocks wherever possible, and continue steeply down to the trees on the Mowglis Trail to Firescrew and descend via the Manning Trail. Be sure to wear sturdy footwear and give yourself plenty of time, as this loop is challenging and not great for beginners.