Sunday, June 9, 2013


The weather turned out much better than predicted today, with showers holding off until nighttime, allowing me to enjoy a fine loop hike over Mt. Cardigan (3155 ft.), the iconic peak of central New Hampshire. "Old Baldy," as it is affectionately known, was burned over in 1855 and thrusts a huge bare dome of granite above the surrounding lower ridges. The route I followed started at the AMC Cardigan Lodge at the eastern base of the mountain and looped over Orange Mountain (2684 ft.) a southern spur that offers a great view of the main summit.  

The Cardigan Lodge was originally built in 1934 and was completely renovated in 2005. Click here for the interesting history of the AMC's Cardigan property.

Many trails radiate from the lodge.

The lower Holt Trail follows an old woods road.

A sign marks the boundary between the AMC Reservation and Mt. Cardigan State Park.

The trail crosses Bailey Brook on the "Croo Bridge."

Nice sliding cascades looking upstream from the bridge.

A bit farther up the trail "Elizabeth Holt Falls" can be seen down through the trees. Access is difficult due to the steep slope.

A multiple trail intersection called Grand Junction.

A sign points to the easiest way up Cardigan, which I used for my descent.

I soon veered left onto the quiet, lovely Vistamont Trail, which crossed a low broad ridge amidst some nice hardwood forest.

After crossing a brook, the trail zig-zagged up through more hardwood forest, passing this Pileated Woodpecker tree.

A fine old yellow birch high on the mountainside.

The woods abruptly transitioned to conifers.

Crossing the first open ledges on Orange Mountain (also called Gilman Mountain).

A view south to Ragged Mountain and Mt. Kearsarge.

First view of Cardigan and its fire tower.

A weathered old sign where Vistamont Trail meets Skyland Trail near the summit of Orange.

A broad open ledge offers a fine view of Cardigan and its northern spur, Firescrew.

Looking NE towards the distant White Mountains.

View to the Osceolas and the faint distant peak of Mt. Washington. This was a great place to hang out for a while in some unexpected sun.

A neat old yellow birch stub in the Orange-Cardigan col along the Skyland Trail.

Hikers on open ledges just below the junction at Rimrock.

Rimrock, where there's a wide view to the west.

Ledges along the South Ridge Trail, with a view back to Orange Mountain.

Getting closer to Old Baldy.

The fire warden's cabin, by the South Ridge/Clark Trail junction.

Climbing up the steep ledges of Cardigan's dome.

Looking back to the ledges of South Peak and Orange Mountain.

An intrusion in the granitic parent bedrock.

A large welcoming committee was waiting at the fire tower.

Major trail junction just below the summit.

I found a great scooped-out ledge on the east side and hung out for nearly an hour. The ledgy bulk of Firescrew - great name! - was nearby to the north.

Looking down the Bailey Brook valley to Cardigan Lodge.

Nice place to hang out!

Looking NNW to Smarts Mountain, Mt. Cube, and Piermont Mountain.

My hangout spot.

Benchmark under the fire tower.

I descended via the Clark Trail, Holt-Clark Cutoff (Cathedral Forest Trail), and Holt Trail. On the lower part of the Cutoff there were some large old sugar maples. What a grand and interesting mountain!


  1. Looks like a nice spot, Steve. We are going to Newfound Lake in August, and I was looking for hiking opportunities in the area. I think Cardigan is pretty close, and this looks like a nice route to the summit. I think we'll give this one a try.