Mount Cardigan via West Ridge Trail

Mountain:  Mt. Cardigan (3155')
Trail:  West Ridge Trail
Region:  NH - Central West  
Cardigan State Park
Location:  Orange, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, fire tower
Distance:  3.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1225 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:00   Typical: 2:05  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 3:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  04/26/1998 (Sunday)  
Weather:  About 50 degrees (at top, wind chill factor made it seem much colder)
Author:  Webmaster
Companion:  Fred

Route Summary   

Cliff's bridge (photo by Webmaster) Follow the orange-blazed West Ridge Trail all the way to the summit and go back down the same way.

  • From the parking lot, start up West Ridge Trail.
  • After 0.5 mile veer left to stay on West Ridge Trail (South Ridge Trail goes to the right).
  • Walk for about another 0.6 mile then bear left to avoid a right-hand turn to the Skyland Trail.
  • Veer left again after 0.1 mile to avoid the Ranger-Cabin Trail.
  • Keep ascending West Ridge Trail. On the open rock it is marked by a combination of cairns, paint on rocks, and blaze boards.
  • Return the same way. Since there are many trails leaving the summit, be sure to follow the correct one: look for the cairns and blaze boards.

Place         Split
West Ridge Trailhead (1930') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Mt. Cardigan summit (3155') 1.5 1.5 1:00 1:00
West Ridge Trailhead (1930') 1.5 3.0 1:00 2:00


  Trail Guide   

This was a steady but easy climb. The trail is well marked with orange blazes. It's a great rest/warm-up trail.

The trail (photo by Webmaster) Starting out on the trail there were many deciduous trees - many blown down by ice storm of 1/98 - yet the trail was mostly cleared of the fallen trees. It was muddy in spots for about the first half-mile. For a little while, a babbling brook runs along the trail. We saw cool icicles and mini-waterfalls (1 or 2 feet tall). We crossed "Cliff's bridge": a skinny wooden bridge with railings - then that was the last of the trail alongside the brook.

Then there was a mixture of rock face and shorter conifers. As soon as the woods open up a bit, you start getting great views.

Then there was all open rock. Gray rock with stripes of white rock - looked like somebody had painted white lines to draw some kind of boundaries (BIG squares). I started to feel the wind in rock/confier area and then the wind steadily increased until it was really strong at the top, which was totally exposed.

There was a small fire tower at the top (locked up). This tower was visible as we were driving up the road, immediately after turning off of Rt. 118. The summit is completely bald. There were small ice/slush "ponds" in the rock depressions at the top.

There was small amounts of snow along the upper part of the trail before getting to the all-rock section. We had a mini-snowball fight.

The summit gives a fantastic 360-degree view. We could see the Presidentials and they were still covered in snow.

We enjoyed the view from the top without freezing by ducking down just a few feet from the dome-shaped top so we were shielded from the wind.

NH - Central West

  Driving Directions   

  • From I-89, take exit 17 (Rt. 4).
  • Follow Rt. 4 east for 12 miles.
  • Bear left to get onto Rt. 118.
  • Turn right at a Cardigan State Park sign and follow the signs to the summit. (Bear right 2.7 miles from Rt. 118; at 3.4 miles bear left; at 4.1 miles you'll be in the parking area.)


There are outhouses at the end of the parking area farthest from the entrance road.

More Mt. Cardigan Trail Reports   


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