Monday, October 25, 2010

The Elwell Trail (Newfound Lake to Mt. Cardigan)

On the bucket list of every trail runner should be a mid-October run somewhere in NH-VT-ME area. Last week, I was vacationing in NH and bagged a sweet run in the famous fall foliage. About a week before we left, I found a write-up of the Historic Elwell Trail. My parents live on Newfound Lake, so it was a perfect run that I didn't have to drive far to reach.

The Elwell Trail summits many small peaks (Little Sugarloaf (948') & Big Sugarloaf (1360'), Bear Mtn (1835'), Oregon Mtn (2301'), and Mt. Mowglis (2400'), before connecting to the Mowglis trail and heading up Firescrew Mtn and Mt. Cardigan (3155').

When comparing them to the peaks in the Rockies, they're tiny. But string them together with plenty of bouncing up & down, a trailhead situated around 600', and I finished with close to 5000' of climbing. I'm confident that when these trails were blazed 85 years ago, they had never heard of switchbacks. Every ascent was almost a straight shot up!

My folks dropped me off at the trailhead at 7:30am. Immediately, I disappeared into a thick forest. They had received ample rain in the days prior to our arrival, so my Wildcats were soaked through within the first mile. With that said, it didn't bother me much as they seem to drain & dry well. It was a windy & cool day, but I thought it was next to perfect for an autumn run. Enjoy the pics!

Newfound Lake from atop Little Sugarloaf

Newfound Lake from atop Big Sugarloaf

Newfound Lake...again...from atop Bear Mtn.

Example of why NH is called the "Granite State"...and why I "ran" 15 min miles. Yes, that is the trail.

Ah...running alone in black bear country...during hunting season. I did my best to be seen and heard. From atop Oregon Mtn....Firescrew is above my right shoulder.

There were several spots to open it up and fly. Although, a few surprises were hiding under those leaves...puddles, roots & rocks.

Even with decent signs, the trails were sometimes a challenge to follow. Can you tell which way the trail goes?

Mt. Cardigan summit from atop Firescrew Mtn. I learned quickly that was ice glistening on the granite.

The fire tower on Cardigan's summit

I ducked behind the concrete shed underneath the fire tower to get out of the 25-30 mph winds and sub-freezing windchills.

Coming down Cardigan on the Holt trail.

Had to do some "road" running at the end to meet up with my family at an apple orchard. I could run all day on roads if they looked like this!

The stats on the day were about 16.3 miles in 4:03. Tack on an additional hour for breaks (pics, food, bathroom, rocks in the shoes, etc).


  1. Wow. Nice "trail" and awesome foliage. Sometimes I miss Midwestern autumn, because of the forests of sugar maples. Absolutely amazing yellow, orange, bright pinkish-red(!), dark red. Too bad I didn't run trails back then, I would have hit the local woodland parks.

  2. That is pretty dang beautiful. I could see some of these pics in runners world. ..except that they would probably use some sexy hot chick instead of you. Nothin but love though.

    Awesome post Woody!

  3. I smiled when I saw the elevation stats of the "mountains" there. But, you're right, the elevation gain adds up quick! Always good to explore some new terrain, eh? Welcome home.

  4. James - ya know, "hunter orange" is the latest in cutting edge fashion. I think I look quite studly in the glow.

  5. Looks like some incredibly beautiful runs you got in out there...good stuff.

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