Almost every hike in the past few months has led to a view of Mount Carrigain which drove me nuts. Why? I am working to hike all of New Hampshire’s 48 4000 foot mountains and Mount Carrigain just so happened to be 1 of 2 left on my list. I finally climbed it on the last weekend in November which made for a great hike that also narrowed my list down to 1.
Mount Carrigain can be approached from a couple of directions but we chose to attack it via the Signal Ridge Trail which is the most popular option. This trail starts on Sawyer River Road near Hart’s Location, NH. Please note that the road is closed in the winter which adds 2 miles (each way) to this trip. When the road is open, the Signal Ridge Trail is a 10 mile out and back trip that packs all of the climbing into the second half.
We arrived at the trail head to find temperatures in the 20s with a light coating of snow on the ground; perfect conditions for a late fall hike. I was also surprised that there were only 2 or 3 other cars in the parking lot which is well below average for most trail heads in the whites. That was fine by me as we basically had the trail to ourselves.
The Signal Ridge trail almost immediately leads to a stream crossing where trekking poles where very helpful for crossing. After that the trail seems to follow an old rail bed for about 1.7 very flat miles. We came to a well marked junction with the Carrigain Notch Trail at mile 1.7 and continued left on the Signal Ridge Trail. The trail remains flat for almost another mile and then the climbing begins. From this point the climbing is relentless with many long, steep and straight climbs. However, the climb is worth it when you emerge onto Signal Ridge. This is a short, but exposed section that provides views of the Carrigain summit along with hundreds of other nearby mountains and hills. This is the type of ridge you expect to only find at elevations of 5,000 feet or higher. After that, the trail dips back in the woods and climbs for about half a mile to the Mount Carrigain summit.
Mount Carrigain’s summit is semi wooded but it does have a fire tower which you can climb for some of best 360 degree views available in New England. Be prepared for a drastic temperature drop and high winds if you choose to climb the tower. At this point I was pretty psyched to be standing on my 47th New Hampshire 4000 footer. To get back, simply retrace your steps on the Signal Ridge Trail. We put on our Microspikes for a little enhanced traction on the descent. The return trip provides another view from the Signal Ridge followed by a relentless descent and a flat couple of miles back to the trail head.
We only saw a handful of people on the trail which is low even for winter in the whites. I highly recommend that you check out Mount Carrigain for some of the best views with the fewest crowds in the whites! Just be advised that it is winter up there so pack accordingly! Now it is on the Owls Head to complete my 48!
Check out Summit Post for more info on hiking Mount Carrigain