Staying on the Signal Ridge trail you cross Carrigain Brook right away. This brook never seems to be high, but it can be a tricky rock hop to keep dry. Then we jump into some birches along the trail. Now it is up, up, up we go. This part of the trail always kicks my butt for some reason. This is where most of the elevation gain happens for the hike.
When you get to Signal Ridge the views are awesome. The first thing you notice is the view of Mount Lowell with its scarred face across Carrigain Notch. Then the rocky outcrop on Vose Spur comes to mind. You can look up to Mount Carrigain and see the fire tower platform for your final destination. Signal Ridge is actually my favorite part of the hike, even more than the summit.
Continuing on the trail you enter the woods again for your final climb of Carrigain. Just before the last up in elevation there was an old fire warden's cabin. When you get to the summit the first thing you notice is the fire tower platform. If the fire tower was not there Mount Carrigain would not be as popular as it is, because the views would be very limited. When you climb the stairs to the tower the views are pretty darn good though. Mount Carrigain is a favorite mountain for many people, but for me it isn't. I know it is a personal thing. The views are plentiful though. On a clear Winter day the views would be outstanding.
The five mile hike down is easy going, especially when you get back to the Carrigain Brook crossing. On a hot day jumping into the Whiteface Brook can be refreshing cool down. Of course I get cold too easily and never jump in.
Another possible way that I want to climb Mount Carrigain is to to a loop hike. Start on the the Signal Ridge Trail, then go on Carrigain Notch Trail, hook up on the Desolation Trail to the Summit of Carrigain, and then finally down the Signal Ridge trail to the parking area on the Sawyer River road where you started. This hike would be 13.5 miles instead of the regular 10 miles, and definitely more than the 3250 elevation gain with the standard route. Other routes up can be done with more than one car or a bike, but you will have to figure that one out.
Mount Carrigain seems like one of the most popular mountains to finish a hiking list on. I have seen four people finish their Northeast 111 and someone finish there New Hampshire 48 four thousand peaks.
I have personally hiked up Mount Carrigain three times. Once in the Winter of 2006, the Summer of 2003 and finally the Fall of 2004. The funny thing is I have not done it solo, which surprises me.
Mount Carrigain is a bit harder to do in the winter as the Sawyer River Road is gated, so it adds two miles each way for a trip of fourteen miles. Even though the Sawyer River road has an easy grade. The wind on Signal Ridge the day I did it were strong and cold. I was sure glad I had goggles to wear for that stretch of the trail. The two stream crossings can be problematic also if there are not any snow bridges or the streams are running high. This is one of the more remote winter ascents out there.
Overall I like Mount Carrigain a bunch. It is a good hike and mountain, but not an absolute favorite as many people find it. But it is a mountain I will continue to hike in the future.