Cardigan State Park is a great location for mountain hiking in the northeast. It covers an area of 5,655 acres. Most visitors who come to the park are attracted by the amount of hiking trails, each varying in length and difficulty. Views of Mount Monadnock, Pleasant Mountain, The Camel’s Hump and the White Mountains can be enjoyed from the 3,121-foot granite summit in the park. Pets are allowed in the park. There are no camp sites located on the property of the park, but within just a few miles there is a campground called Baker River Campground, which features several sites and services. Since this state park’s geography is not flat and very rocky, camping is just not possible. Visitors to the park come for nature walks, hiking and photography. There are several picnic areas available in the park for visitors to use, although there are no drinking water pumps. Cardigan State Park is open all year. No garbage or containers should be left behind at the park; there is not a garbage pickup schedule. This park is strictly pack-in, pack-out. While the land retains its beauty year-round, the winter months are very cold and snow is often seen then. The best months to visit are in the spring, summer and early fall. When planning a visit from out of state, keep in mind that the month of August is usually very wet here. The weather is humid and warm, with rain almost every day.
Since the early 1800s, Mount Cardigan, the granite summit in Cardigan State Park, has been a popular destination for relaxation and exercise. The park has a very dated history, which took off in the late 1860s when a road for buggies was built to the granite summit. At the time, the total cost of building the road was only $200. An expansive forest fire hit the area in 1855, which is the reason why the enormous granite monstrosity has no trees on it. In an effort to prevent further future destruction of the park, a wooden lookout tower was constructed in the early 1900s and later replaced with a steel structure in the 1920s. In 1918, the park officially became the Mount Cardigan State Reservation, after the purchase of 700 acres of land. The trails that exist today were built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Friends of Mount Cardigan and the Cardigan Highlanders are two civilian groups that continue to keep up and preserve the beauty and integrity of this park.
The main hiking trail in Cardigan State Park is the West Ridge Trail. It has an elevation of 1,200 feet from the surface of the state park’s entrance. With a distance of 1.5 miles, it is easy enough for most visitors to accomplish. This trail is well-kept and is safe for unseasoned hikers. Some inclines may be fairly steep in certain spots, but for the most part it is not too challenging. There are also several trails located on the eastern side of Mount Cardigan, which are meant for seasoned hikers and climbers. These trails wind around much more and ar steeper for longer stretches. The mountain itself has a wide base; from the west side of the mountain near the lodge to the east side where the Appalachian Mountain club is located, the distance is approximately 35 road miles. Since this park has no staff or services, shuttles are not available to make this trek. For this reason, hikers are encouraged to plan ahead and leave their vehicle where it will be accessible at the end of a hike. Thanks to the civilians who keep up the park, the trails are marked well and each is marked with a different color. Each color relates to the trail’s location on the mountain. For example, trails on the west side are orange and those on the east side are yellow. Since the trails, colors, their names and meeting points are somewhat confusing to explain, it is important for visitors to view a trail map of the park before visiting. For park information and trail maps, contact the park at:
Cardigan State Park
Orange, NH 03741
Trail Map: http://www.nhstateparks.org/uploads/pdf/CardiganHikingMap_web.pdf