Mount Carrigain in Winter

Hiking Mount Carrigain in Winter

Hike Date: March 14, 2021

Snow, sun, wind, clouds––we walked through it all during this 14.2 mile hike to Mt. Carrigain.

Stats

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Route

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Total Distance

Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at the end of Sawyer River Rd
2 mi2 miSawyer River Rd to Signal Ridge Trailhead
5.2 mi7.2 miSignal Ridge Trail to summit of Mt. Carrigain
5.2 mi12.2 miSignal Ridge Trail back to Sawyer River Rd
2 mi14.2 miSawyer River Rd back to parking lot

Map

Note: Map mileage does not match stats because Gaia GPS tends to undercount it. Mileage stats were calculated using the White Mountain Guide and Trail Maps.

We woke up to snow falling steadily in New Hampshire. Undeterred by the weather, we kept to our plan to hike Mt. Carrigain. At around 9am, we parked in the large lot by the locked gate of Sawyer River Road (closed in winter due to snow) to begin our two mile road walk to Signal Ridge Trailhead. This road walk goes slightly uphill, but overall really easy and quick as it’s a packed down snowmobile highway. We turned right onto Signal Ridge Trail and began the 5.2 mile ascent to Mount Carrigain.

Parking lot at Sawyer River Rd
Snowmobile tracks on Sawyer River Rd
Signal Ridge Trailhead

The first couple of miles were really pleasant. The trail stayed relatively flat and we enjoyed a leisurely walk in the woods before the climb began. The sun peeked in and out of the trees and we were surprised by how warm it was. We walked beside a large stream and crossed a couple of smaller ones along the way. The only challenging part was avoiding the post holes that were often hidden by a fresh coating of snow. The last thing we wanted was to twist an ankle from stepping in one by accident!

Lower section of Signal Ridge Trail
Stream crossing

We will be honest, the climb felt pretty long. There were no incredibly steep sections or treacherous areas, but just consistent incline skirting the side of the mountain up to Signal Ridge. We moved steadily, but definitely felt tired during this section! It snowed lightly for most of our ascent, which made the gray day much more beautiful. About a mile from the summit, the wind blew and covered the trail with fresh snow, making us break trail for a fair amount of the ascent.

Signal Ridge Trail ascending
Unbroken trail

When we got to Signal Ridge, the wind picked up significantly. We clung to our hoods and moved quickly across the short exposed area. The clouds and snow obscured most of the views, but we could still see the tower at the top of Mt. Carrigain in the near distance. The visual of the summit gave us a little more motivation and energy for the last stretch.

Approaching Signal Ridge
View of Carrigain from Signal Ridge

The trail in between Signal Ridge and Mt. Carrigain gradually skirts the side of the mountain before turning right towards the viewing tower on the summit. For the first time since early morning, we saw some intermittent sun shining through the trees. Despite the strong wind at the top, we were pleasantly surprised by the views. The summit photo below really captures the moodiness of the weather that day!

Sunny trail close to the summit
Tower on Carrigain's summit
View from Mt. Carrigain

After leaving the tower, the weather changed drastically and remained unpredictable for the rest of the day. The sky changed from gray to bright blue and sun shone through the trees, warming us up and making us shed layers. Then, out of nowhere, once we reached the flat section, it started snowing heavily. Snow accumulated on our hats, bags, and even eyebrows. By the time we made it back to Sawyer River Road, the snow stopped and it was partly sunny again for our walk out on the snowmobile tracks. Feeling really good about this long hike, we knew we would be ready to tackle the Wildcats and Carters Traverse in a couple of days for our last winter hike of 2021! 

Sunny trail descending
Steady snow on the way out
Finishing on Sawyer River Rd

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