Dennis ascending (photo by Mark Malnati)

Mt. Cardigan, South Peak, Orange Mtn., Rimrock

Mountains:  Mt. Cardigan (3155'), Mt. Cardigan South Peak (2864'), Orange Mtn. (Mt. Gilman) (2684'), Rimrock (2800')
Trails:  Woodland Trail, Clark Trail, Vistamont Trail, Skyland Trail, South Ridge Trail, Hurricane Gap Trail, Holt-Clark Cutoff (Cathedral Forest Trail), Holt Trail, West Ridge Trail
Region:  NH - Central West  
Cardigan State Park
Location:  Alexandria, NH
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Summits, views, cliffs, loop hike
Distance:  6.7 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1850 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 4:15  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 6:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  06/21/2008 (Saturday)  
Weather:  Clear and sunny
Author:  Sue Murphy
Companion:  Seventeen SDHers

Route Summary   

This is a loop hike starting at AMC's Cardigan Lodge, climbing up to Orange Mountain (a.k.a. Mount Gilman), then after a short descent more climbing up to Rimrock, and then up a bit more to South Peak of Mount Cardigan before finally returning to the lodge.

There is also an option to skip Cardigan's South Peak and instead climb the main peak of Mount Cardigan.

To do the main loop across Orange Mountain, Rimrock, and South Peak:

  • Across from the AMC's Cardigan Lodge, to the left of the pond, start hiking on Woodland Trail and follow it for 0.7 mile.
  • At a T-junction turn right onto what is now both Woodland Trail and Clark Trail and continue for 0.5 mile.
  • Watch carefully for the next junction where you will go straight/right on Clark Trail while Woodland Trail turns sharply left.
  • Ascent (photo by Mark Malnati)
  • Walk another 0.8 mile on Clark Trail.
  • Turn left onto Vistamont Trail and follow it for 1.0 mile until it meets up with Skyland Trail just below the summit of Orange Mtn. (a.k.a. Mt. Gilman).
  • Turn right onto Skyland Trail and follow it for 80 yards to reach the summit of Orange Mtn.
  • Enjoy the open views and then continue on Skyland Trail in a northwesterly direction. i.e. Do not go back in the direction towards the Vistamont Trail junction.
  • After 1.0 mile on Skyland Trail you will arrive at the summit of Rimrock.
  • From Rimrock, turn right (northeasterly) on South Ridge Trail which will bring you to the summit of Cardigan's South Peak after 0.3 mile.
  • Again, enjoy the excellent views and then start the descent by taking a spur trail northeasterly which connects South Ridge Trail to Hurricane Gap Trail after 0.1 mile.
  • Turn right on Hurricane Gap Trail and follow it for almost 0.3 mile where it will run into Clark Trail (a part of Clark Trail that you have not yet traversed on this loop hike).
  • Upon reaching Clark Trail, bear right to follow Clark Trail, quickly reach PJ Ledge, and after 0.3 mile reach a junction marked by a large cairn. Bear left/straight to pick up Holt-Clark Cutoff (a.k.a. Cathedral Forest Trail) while Clark Trail continues straight.
  • After 0.6 mile on Holt-Clark Cutoff (Cathedral Forest Trail), turn right onto Holt Trail at Grand Junction where Holt Trail as well as a few ski trails all meet. (Ignore the junction with Vistamont Trail which comes in from the right about 100 yards before meeting Grand Junction. i.e. Bear left if you happen to notice this junction.)
  • Follow Holt Trail for 1.1 miles all the way back to AMC's Cardigan Lodge.

To do the loop option across Orange Mountain, Rimrock, and Mt Cardigan:

To do the loop that climbs Mount Cardigan's main peak instead of South Peak is only 0.1 mile longer (for a total of 6.8 miles) but the additional 300 feet of elevation gain over a short span pushes this option from an Easy/Moderate rating up to a Moderate difficulty level.

  • Follow the above route until summiting Rimrock.
  • Continue across Rimrock on Skyland Trail for 0.2 mile where you will meet West Ridge Trail.
  • Turn right on West Ridge Trail and follow it for 0.1 mile.
  • At a fork, bear left to stay on West Ridge Trail for another 0.3 mile which will bring you to Mt. Cardigan's summit.
  • For the descent follow Holt Trail for 1.1 miles until reaching Grand Junction where Holt Trail, Holt-Clark Cutoff (Cathedral Forest Trail), as well as a few ski trails all converge. At this point you are back in line with the main loop described above.
  • Follow Holt Trail for an additional 1.1 miles all the way back to AMC's Cardigan Lodge.

SDH (photo by Mark Malnati)

Place         Split
AMC's Cardigan Lodge (1392') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Woodland Trail/Clark Trail (1600') 1.2 1.2
Jct. Clark Trail/Vistamont Trail (2050') 0.8 2.0
Orange Mtn. (Mt. Gilman) (2684') 1.0 3.0
Rimrock (2800') 1.0 4.0
South Peak (of Mt. Cardigan) (2864') 0.3 4.3
PJ Ledge (2550') 0.4 4.7
Grand Junction (1750') 0.9 5.6
AMC's Cardigan Lodge (1392') 1.1 6.7

Fire tower on Mt. Cardigan (photo by Mark Malnati)



Trail map of hike route to Orange Mtn., Rimrock, South Peak, and Mt. Cardigan (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

Quite a group (17 of us) met at the AMC Cardigan Lodge to ascend Orange Mountain (a.k.a. Mount Gilman). We started on the Woodland Trail, around the pond, through the woods and on to an old logging road. After a mile or so, a sign for the Clark Trail could be seen through the brush and bore to the right (easily missed if one was not paying attention). Shortly after this point the trail began to climb steeply and met with the Vistamont Trail which continued to climb over a low ridge, then down, down, down to cross Clark Brook then immediately climbing steeply again to open ledges on to the Skyland Trail.

At some point we reached Orange Mountain where we rested a bit and enjoyed the excellent views. The trail descended to a col then climbed fairly steeply to Rimrock where a group headed off to summit Cardigan and a group stayed and ate the remainders of their lunches.

SDH descending from Mount Cardigan (photo by Mark Malnati) Mount Cardigan (photo by Mark Malnati)

From Rimrock we walked to South Peak just below Cardigan. We were able to discern the group heading to Cardigan off in the distance and we "high fived" with our poles. The day was glorious and the views spectacular.

We would have gladly stayed there for the remainder of the afternoon... but, unfortunately other duties and obligations called... so down the Clark Trail where we met up with an AMC group (40++ from Andover) and on to the Holt Trail and back to the lodge where the "mountain goats" waited on the lawn for those of us a bit slower.

I think everyone agreed it was a great hike and a challenge despite it not being a 4000-footer. There are several peaks including Cardigan that offer excellent views on the two long ridges that run easterly toward Newfound Lake. The area is worth exploring for future hikes. Thank you everyone for a wonderful day!

View (photo by Mark Malnati) View (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central West

  Driving Directions   

Jack ascending (photo by Mark Malnati) This trail (along with many others) starts from AMC's Cardigan Lodge.

  • From the center of Bristol, head north on Route 3A.
  • 2 miles north of Bristol, turn left onto West Shore Road.
  • Drive along the shore of Newfound Lake and bear left after 1.8 miles which will put you on Cardigan Mtn. Road (or perhaps Fowler River Road?).
  • After 1.1 miles, bear right to follow Fowler River Road.
  • After 3.2 miles, turn left onto Brook Road (a dirt road).
  • After 1.0 mile, at a T-junction, turn right onto Shem Valley Road.
  • After 0.2 mile, bear right to stay on Shem Valley Road.
  • After 1.3 miles you will have reached the parking lot for the AMC Cardigan Lodge.

Some of the dirt roads, especially Shem Valley Road can be muddy and narrow. Not a big deal - just use some caution.


AMC Cardigan Lodge: restrooms, lodging, meals, camping. I read in the AMC guide that services are seasonal but the lodge was open in March when I went and several people were staying overnight and I've read elsewhere that it's a year-round lodge. The Cardigan Lodge is a large, clean building.

More Mt. Cardigan Trail Reports   

  SDHers descending (photo by Webmaster)


Mt. Cardigan South Peak (photo by Mark Malnati)


Website by Logo

© 1998-2024
Page copy-protected against website content infringement by Copyscape
The information on this site may freely be used for personal purposes but may not be replicated on other websites or publications. If you want to reference some content on this site, please link to us.