The West Ridge Trail, rises 1,200 vertical feet from the state park on Cardigan's west slope and provides the easiest access to the summit. This is a good hike for older children. The path is wide and the ascent is gradual. The trail carries the hiker through a lovely white birch forest and into a forest of conifers. As the trail climbs the forest type changes again to balding rock sprinkled with Labrador tea and stiff mosses. Also, the hiker should observe that the orange tree blazes have been replaced with stone cairns. Once you reach the 360 degree summit there are several opportunities to descend via another route. A trail which reconnects with West Ridge Trail about midway back to the parking lot is South Ridge Trail.
Some General Notes About the Mt. Cardigan's Trails: The trails on the east side of the mountain are much longer and generally steeper. From the east side base at the Appalachian Mountain Club lodge to the west side base at the state park is more than 40 miles by road. As there are no shuttles that travel between the two areas, it is especially important to check your map before leaving the summit and to select a trail that will lead to your car. Hiking trails are blazed in different colors based on their location on the mountain. Trails on the east side of the lodge are blazed in yellow, trails along the north-south ridge are white and trails on the west side of the state park are orange. Colors are independent of trail names. The South Ridge Trail, for example, changes from orange to white at Rimrock.
Directions: From Canaan, NH, Take SR 118 to New Colony Road heading east. A sign directs you to the park. The trailhead is located at the rear of the picnic area behind the shelter.
Elevation: 3,121 feet
Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
Distance: 3.5 miles
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Cardigan State Park, New Hampshire
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