Mowglis and Oregon Mountains Cardigan Mountain Area
by Amy Patenaude Outdoor/Ski Writer
Not far from the north shore of Newfound Lake is Sculptured Rocks Natural Area, a glorious geological site carved out of rock by the Cockermouth River. This area has been a favorite place to sightsee and swim for generations. Nearby are hiking trails that were established and once maintained by the boys and staff of Camp Mowglis.
There are a good number of camps for boys and girls based near the waters of New Hampshire’s mountain lakes. Imagine long ago when a camp’s popular activities were woodmanship and trail building. I have wondered about the comradery and perhaps rivalry between Camps Mowglis and Camp Walt Whitman—names that I have come across in old guide book’s trail descriptions.
From my 1976 AMC White Mountain Guide, “The Mowglis Trail was turned over by the State in 1921, to be maintained by the Mowglis camp for boys on Newfound Lake.” These trails offer good hiking and near solitude can be found on these lightly used trails to many nice summits.
Becca and I left met at the Sculptured Rocks parking area and we left her car there. We rode in my car a mile further north up Sculptured Rocks Road and then left on Orange Road, otherwise known as the beginning of the Mowglis Trail. I didn’t drive far up the old narrow dirt road before pulling off to park and this is where we started hiking.
By the looks of the extreme ruts that 4-wheel drive rigs had left behind perhaps occasionally one of them made it over the pass to Canaan but more than likely most got stuck.
We hiked up the old road about 3 miles to the height of the land where the Mowglis Trail turns off the road and continues southbound. We hiked a short distance past the intersection of Elwell Trail before finding the herd path to Cilley’s cave. You won’t find this curiosity marked on newer trail maps and the herd path is unmarked. Many people follow it to the ledges and enjoy the view but we continued following the ledge where the herd path continues off the cliff. Only fools continue from here and concern for hiker’s safety is why it was abandoned.
Certainly we continued slowly and carefully down to the cave. The cave is large enough to stand in and has a splendid cliff side view. Supposedly the cave is named after a local man that lived here a short while as a hermit after coming home from the Civil War. He picked a heck of a place to hide away.
We retraced our steps back and went right on the Elwell Trail. This trail is named after Colonel Alcott Farrar Elwell of Hebron, NH. Elwell was the camp founder’s, Mrs. Holt’s assistant and became owner/director of Camp Mowglis formed a relationship with the camp that spanned half a century. We followed the trail down and then up past a nice view point and up higher to the top of Mowglis Mountain. The ledgy mountaintop is tree covered but there is a large boulder with a historical marker honoring the camp.
Next up we headed to Oregon Mountain from Mowglis Mountain on the soft footing of the lightly used but well maintained Oregon Mountain Trail. We decided we were going to eat when we got to the top of Oregon and I think it is funny how longer a trail becomes when you’re waiting to eat.
The sun felt good sitting on the ledgy summit and we enjoyed the views of Cardigan’s ledgy summit and the hills far beyond as we munched our sandwiches. Becca shared her Junior Mints with me. We discussed how it was smart to avoid the still icy summits of the higher elevations and more about how wonderfully the volunteers are maintaining the trails here.
We hatched a plan to come back and hike the full length of the Elwell Trail, from Newfound Lake to the intersection of the Mowglis Trail and then down to Sculptured Rocks Road, about 14 miles of fun.
After our break we continued down the Oregon Mountain Trail and connected back to the Elwell trail and we made a smaller loop by connecting to the Old Dicey Road and the Carter-Gibbs Trail up and over Oregon’s south summit.
We followed the Carter-Gibbs Trail down and much of it has been rerouted and the trail is well blazed but the foot bed of the trail is sometimes hard to follow since it is yet to become well worn. The middle section of the trail follows closely along the open ledge and cascades of Dane Brook. A hike to just visit these cascades would be a worthwhile outing (about 1.5 miles above beginning of the trail on Hardy County Road).
We walked down Hardy County Road and then we turned left onto the snowmobile trail which led us right back to Becca’s car.
The Cardigan Mountain State Forest is comprised of nearly 6,000 acres, the adjacent 1000 plus acres of the AMC Cardigan Reservation and further combined with private conservation lands this is a special place to hike and to explore.