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Cardigan Mountain State Park

Dartmouth - Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire

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Cardigan Mountain State Park

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  • A dirt road leads to parking and a picnic area.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • There are several picnic tables to enjoy lunch before or after a hike.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • While there is no required fee, there is a suggested donation box at the pavilion.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • The West Ridge Trail leaves from the picnic area.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • Flowers along the trail.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • The first junction along the trail.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • A section of the West Ridge Trail.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • A bridge on the West Ridge Trail.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • Junction with the Skyland Trail.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • Cliffs bridge along the West Ridge Trail.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • The West Ridge Trail becomes entirely rock as it nears the summit.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • The view from Mount Cardigan.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • A junction near the summit of Mount Cardigan.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • Firescrew from Mount Cardigan.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • Windmills in the distance.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • Looking up at Mount Cardigan from the Mowglis Trail to Firescrew.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • On top of Firescrew.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • The view from Firescrew.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • Mount Cardigan fire tower.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • Exposed granite on Mount Cardigan.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • A trail junction on the ridge.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • A winter day on Mount Cardigan.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
  • The summit of Mount Cardigan in winter.- Cardigan Mountain State Park
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Hiking trails. Fantastic views. Picnic area.
Cons: 
Summer weekend crowds. Seasonal road and trail closures.
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Region:
Dartmouth - Lake Sunapee, NH
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

Cardigan Mountain State Park is a local favorite, providing magnificent views from its network of trails to and along the ridge.

A seasonal dirt road brings you to a parking area with picnic tables and a small pavilion. There is no potable water or campground, and the park is known mainly for its hiking trails. There’s no required fee to recreate here; however, there is a box for donations to help maintain state park property and trails.

The 1.5-mile-long West Ridge Trail leaves from the parking area and is the most direct route to the top with 1,200 feet of elevation gain. An alternate, longer trail to the summit is the South Ridge Trail, which splits off from the West Ridge Trail a half-mile from the trailhead. Hikers looking for a steep approach can consider the Holt Trail.

As you near the summit, you’ll notice the footing turns to solid granite and views start to open up around you. This once-wooded summit burned in a large forest fire in 1855, which set the stage for the 360-degree view and the sparse vegetation seen here today. The summit area on Mount Cardigan hosts a subalpine zone, where many of the plants, lichen, and mosses encountered here are fragile and prone to damage by hikers. During your time at higher elevations, try walking only on rocks and avoid stepping on vegetation in an effort to protect rare plants for future generations. A wooden fire tower once stood on Mount Cardigan’s summit, but now you’ll find the metal observation tower that was erected in 1924.

For the adventurer wishing to extend their hike, continue north along the ridge on the Mowglis Trail to Firescrew Mountain, Hanging Ledges, and Grotto and Cilleys Caves. From the summit of Mount Cardigan, the South Ridge Trail leads south to South Peak and Rimrock, providing for a loop hike option, or continue onto the Skyland Trail to Mount Gilman.

Cardigan Mountain State Park trails can also be accessed from the east side of Mount Cardigan, at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Cardigan Lodge. Cardigan Lodge provides a base camp for anyone looking for a longer stay in the area.

During the winter, the seasonal access road is closed, but a small parking area near the gate allows hikers to walk the road and access the trails even when there’s ice and snow. Occasionally, the trails close for mud season in the spring, indicated by a sign at the trailhead.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(4 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(23 within a 30 mile radius)

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