Mount Carrigain via Signal Ridge Trail

Destinations:  Mt. Carrigain (4700'), Signal Ridge (4420')
Trail:  Signal Ridge Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Carrigain Region
Location:  Livermore, NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summit, views, ledges, brooks, cascades, fire tower, 4000-footer
Distance:  10.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  3250 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 5:45   Typical: 6:40  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 8:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  08/29/1999 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  10/02/2009  
Weather:  Warm overall
Author:  Webmaster
Companions:  GONErs: Kathy K., Sara, Dave, Arnold, Martin

Route Summary   

This out-and-back hike follows Signal Ridge Trail up Mount Carrigain which offers fantastic views both from Signal Ridge and from the mountaintop fire tower.

  • From the parking area on Sawyer River Road, start on Signal Ridge Trail.
  • After just 0.2 mile you will cross Whiteface Brook which may be difficult at high water. If it seems too dangerous, return to the parking lot and bushwhack along the stream's south bank until running back into Signal Ridge Trail.
  • From the first brook crossing, follow Signal Ridge Trail for 1.5 miles which will bring you to a trail junction.
  • Bear left, still following Signal Ridge Trail while Carrigain Notch Trail goes off to the right.
  • Continue for another 2.8 miles, climbing steeply after the first mile.
  • You will arrive at Signal Ridge, an open area with great views, especially to the nearby cliffs of Mount Lowell.
  • Continue on Signal Ridge Trail for a final 0.5 mile which will bring you to the mostly wooded summit of Mount Carrigain. Climb the fire tower to get fabulous views.
  • After enjoying the views, retrace your steps all the way back to Sawyer River Road. From the summit, make sure you pick up Signal Ridge Trail in a southeasterly direction as opposed to Desolation Trail which leaves to the northwest.

Place         Split
Signal Ridge Trailhead (1480') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Jct. Signal Ridge Trail / Carrigain Notch Trail (1900') 1.7 1.7
Signal Ridge (4420') 2.8 4.5
Mt. Carrigain summit (4700') 0.5 5.0 3:00 3:00
Signal Ridge (4420') 0.5 5.5
Jct. Signal Ridge Trail / Carrigain Notch Trail (1900') 2.8 9.3
Signal Ridge Trailhead (1480') 1.7 10.0 2:45 5:45



Map of hike route to Mt. Carrigain (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

The first couple miles of the trail are very easy – either flat or a gradual climb. And the first of these miles is accompanied by Whiteface Brook which has beautiful (but small) cascades and inviting pools. So inviting that on the way down Martin and Dave went for a swim despite the ice cold water.

Shortly after passing the junction with Carrigain Notch Trail (bear left here), Signal Ridge Trail begins a steep and relentless climb. During the last three miles of the trail you pay for the mildness of the first two miles. There are not many switchbacks – the trail just seems to go up and up with long straight sections. Mostly along the edge of the mountain so there are plenty of views to glimpse in between the tree branches.

There were many mushrooms along the trail. Some were colored a bright orange but the most notable ones were the ones that looked like perfectly cooked pancakes. These left Kathy and I craving pancakes. While Kathy and I would have been content to eat what these mushrooms reminded us of; Arnold was only content to eat the mushrooms themselves. It turns out this type is one of his favorites and on the way down he collected a whole bag full. He said that once they're cooked up, they both smell and taste delicious.

Cliffs of Mt. Lowell seen from Signal Ridge (photo by Webmaster)

After 4.5 miles, the view opened up as we reached the small clearing of Signal Ridge. The fantastic views here, combined with pleasantly cool breezes and the shining sun made me want to hang out here for hours. It was a hard spot to leave. There was a great view of the cliffs of Mount Lowell as well as many other more distant mountains.

From the ridge, we also had a clear view of Mount Carrigain's observation tower. That motivated me to press on to check out the view which promised to be even more interesting. So we dipped down from the ridge, back into the trees, then began the final ascent of Mount Carrigain.

When we reached the summit it was much cooler and windier. From the actual summit the views were somewhat limited as there were still a lot of small evergreens, but climbing to the top of the observation tower rewarded us with unobstructed 360-degree views. The winds were extremely strong and we all bundled up in our warmest clothes to enjoy the spectacular vistas.

Signal Ridge seen from the fire tower on Mt. Carrigain (photo by Webmaster)



NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trailhead for Signal Ridge Trail is located in Livermore, New Hampshire on Sawyer River Road, off of Route 302.

From the West:
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 302 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), follow Rt. 302 East for approximately 19 miles.
  • Turn right onto Sawyer River Road (FR 34).
  • Follow Sawyer River Road for 2.0 miles.
  • Signal Ridge Trail is on the right just before a bridge over Whiteface Brook. Parking is on the left just after the bridge.

From the East:
  • Follow Rt. 302 West.
  • Turn left onto Sawyer River Road (FR 34) which is located about 4 miles west of Bear Notch Road (also on the left) in Bartlett.
  • Follow Sawyer River Road for 2.0 miles.
  • Signal Ridge Trail is on the right just before a bridge over Whiteface Brook. Parking is on the left just after the bridge.

Winter: Sawyer River Road is closed during winter.

Check out the White Mountain National Forest's road status page for the most up-to-date information on road closures.

Other Notes   

WMNF Recreational Pass

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

  • $5 per day
  • $30 for a year-long pass
  • $40 for a year for a household

More Mt. Carrigain and Signal Ridge Trail Reports   



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