Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mt. Carrigain Loop - 4000 footer and more

View of Mt. Carrigain summit as you approach from Signal Ridge Trail

A perfect fall day was improved by a White Mountain hike with two of my favorite girls.  We started the adventure with a plan to summit the 4700 ft Mt. Carrigain as an out-and-back hike.  Once on the summit, the ideal weather made us long for more, so we continued down Desolation Trail to Carrigain Notch Trail - making a sweet 13.5 mile loop.  It was a great way to enjoy the mountains, views, and friends.

Adventure: Mt. Carrigain Loop

Trailhead across from parking lot.
Getting There: From southern New Hampshire, we took Highway 16 north to North Conway.  Here we took Rt 302 North/East towards Crawford Notch State Park.  Just after the town of Bartlett, take a left on Sawyer River Road (closed in winter).  The road is across from Fourth Iron Tentsite and if you enter Crawford Notch State Park, you've gone too far.  Drive up Sawyer River Rd about 2 miles.  A signed parking lot is on the left and the trail is on the right.  There are no bathrooms and no cell service at the trail head.

Trail:  The adventure starts with Signal Ridge Trail.  The trail parallels a brook and is relatively flat for the first couple miles.  It winds through beautiful hardwood forest.  At 1.7 miles, you reach the junction for Carrigain Notch Trail.  Stay left to summit.  As we continued, the trail rapidly changed to a steady uphill climb.  The hiking isn't difficult (no slab or boulders), but the constant up can be very tiring and strenuous.  From the junction, continue 3.3 miles until you reach the summit.  Hikers can climb the fire tower for a 360 degree of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

Summit of Mt. Carrigain
After enjoying our lunch in the sun, we decided to continue our adventure by making our hike into a loop (adds 3.5 miles to the previously planned out-and-back).   Desolation Trail was a steep grade - narrow, mossy rocks made for a slow and cautious decent.  At 1.9 miles Desolation reaches Carrigain Notch Trail.

Continue along Carrigain Notch Trail over a relatively flat path.  We crossed streams and were surrounded by more hardwood forest.  There were few other hikers on the remote trail and we enjoyed the solitude and easy hiking.  After 4.1 miles on Carrigain Notch Trail, you meet back with Signal Ridge Trail.  Take the 1.7 flat trail back to the parking lot.   It was a wonderful long loop and I highly recommend it!

Difficulty: Moderate - Difficult.  The trails themselves aren't too bad (although Desolation had it's difficult moments), but the long trail and sustained hiking makes this day hike for experienced hikers only.

Descent on Desolation Trail
Distance:  13.5 miles for complete loop.  10 miles for an out-and-back to Mt. Carrigain.


- Even though half of this loop is on flat ground, two of us ran out of water on the last couple miles.  Bring over 2 liters when traveling over ten miles.

- There was no cell service at the parking lot or along the hike.  Make sure loved ones know where you have gone and when to expect you back.

- There are no water or bathroom facilities at the trailhead nor along the hike.  Plan ahead and be prepared.

- Sawyer River Road is closed in winter.  Be aware of road conditions if planning your hike for late fall - early spring.

Summit the Dog on Carrigain Notch Trail

I LOVED this hike with my friends Courtney and Ingrid.  I'm so grateful to have friends who share my love of nature and the great outdoors.  Consider this for your next big day hike!

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Best of Friends on the Mt. Carrigain Fire Tower!

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