Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Mount Carrigain via Desolation Trail

Summits: Mount Carrigain (4,700')
Trail route: Signal Ridge Trail, Carrigain Notch Trail, Desolation Trail
Trail conditions: Dry and damp trails with wet and muddy sections
Weather: Cloud cover with cool and mild temps
Total miles: 13.8
Total time: 8:30

There was blue sky, sunshine and tolerable Fall temps in the weather forecast. I've learned not to put a lot of faith in the weather forecast for good reason, this is New England and the weather is always changing regardless of what the forecast may be. I would be joining Jill and Larry for a hike to Mount Carrigain. We would be doing a loop hike using the Desolation Trail, a trail that none of us had done before.

We met at the Signal Ridge Trail parking area and started our hike just after 7:30. After a clear sky on the drive to the trailhead and some early sun the clouds started to move in, that was not in the forecast. The temps were cool and it was a refreshing hike along the lower section of the Signal Ridge Trail. We then turned onto the Carrigain Notch Trail. It was along here that we met three hikers, one of them Ben doing Mount Carrigain for his final 48 4,000 footer.

We continued on and after 6.6 miles we reached the Desolation Trail. The description of this trail is rather ominous. I think we were all quietly, mentally preparing ourselves for the climb up. It's a 1.9 mile climb to the summit. I would have to say it is exactly as described. It is an initial gradual climb then comes to a very steep and rocky section. Some places requiring handholds to get up over the large rocks. It then gets better further up before eventually reaching the summit. Met many hikers coming down as we went up.

Up on the summit there were many hikers as expected. We went straight up to the top of the tower but there was not the usual spectacular views. The weather forecasters got it wrong today. Clouds covered the summit and there were brief limited views revealing spectacular Fall foliage colors. There was a cool breeze blowing and after a few photos we dropped down to the bottom of the tower for some lunch. The clouds never departed and after a break we started our 5.3 mile descent back to the trailhead.

Down from the summit and across Signal Ridge the clouds hung tight. As we descended there were many hikers still coming up. It was an enjoyable hike down but also tiresome. We reached the Carrigain Notch Trail junction and completed the loop. There was still two more miles of hiking on the Signal Ridge Trail to get back to the parking lot.

Just as we returned to the trailhead parking lot a light rain started. That's what I call good timing. We completed 13.8 miles in 8.5 hours. Even though the weather was not ideal with the summit clouds and no views it was still a very enjoyable hike. The Desolation Trail lives up to its name as it is in a very desolate location. Always nice to experience a new trail that we haven't done before. It was a fun and adventurous hike with Jill and Larry!

Enjoy the photos and video!

 Crescent moon above Wildcat on the drive to the trailhead

 Whiteface Brook

 Water crossing


Turning onto the Carrigain Notch Trail

Log full of mushrooms

Dry stream crossing

Into the wilderness

Log crossing

Sunshine before the clouds move in

The leaves brightened the way

A beautiful walk through the woods

Lots of color on the ground

Cleared blowdowns

Water crossing at the start of the Desolation Trail

An area that sees a lot of stream erosion in high water

The first of many piles of moose poop on the Desolation Trail

Unexpected clouds that were not in the forecast

There is old telephone wire along the trail providing a trip hazard

There are occasional views along the trail

A steep section of trail

A tricky set of rocks to get up and over

Another view

This gray jay was looking for a handout

Still being followed by the same gray jay

The summit is in sight

Jill coming up onto the summit from the Desolation Trail

Arriving at the summit

A view toward Vose Spur

Larry and Jill eating lunch below the tower

Starting our descent

Crossing Signal Ridge

Pausing on a cloudy Signal Ridge

A view from the trail

Going down Signal Ridge Trail

Hobblebush leaves 

Hiking the final 2 miles after hiking 11.8 miles


Final water crossing of the day

The hike ends here after 13.8 miles in 8.5 hours

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. Replies
    1. You really need to join us sometime, Jon!

    2. Definitely an interesting and fun hike, Jon!

  2. Replies
    1. An enjoyable hike Jill, on a trail less traveled to a familiar summit.