Table of Contents

These notes are written to help you compare the various routes that are commonly used to hike to the peaks. They are written on the assumption that you have a guidebook and a set of maps, so no directions are given to trailheads, and the trails are not described in any detail. I have omitted hikes that are substantially longer or more difficult than the standard ones, or that are simply less often used. The fact that a trail is not mentioned here does not imply that it is unsuitable.

Mountain Weather Forecast

The Recreation Report for New Hampshire and Western Maine gives a two day forecast for higher elevations (separate forecasts for elevations of 2,500 to 4,000 feet and for above 4,000 feet). There is also a point forecast for South Carter.

Online Map

If you do not have a printed map handy you may want to look at a Topozone map of this section of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The main trails are marked, but not labelled.

Huts and Established Trailside Campsites

The AMC operates one hut and one campsite in the area. Fees are charged at both, reservations are required at the hut, but not accepted at the campsite.


Mount Moriah

There are two routes up Mt. Moriah. One is the fairly gentle climb up the Carter-Moriah trail from Gorham (rt: 9.0 miles, 3,550 feet, 6:15). The other, by the Stony Brook and Carter-Moriah trails (rt: 10.0 miles, 3,150 feet, 6:35) includes a steep section. Both offer great views (and blueberries in season) from open ledges, and the views from the summit are excellent. They can be combined as a loop ascending by Stony Brook (lp: 9.5 miles, 3,300 feet, 6:25), this requires a second car or a road walk. Fortunately there is a pedestrian bridge over the Peabody River that allows a shortcut that reduces this walk by about a mile.

Middle and South Carter

Middle and South Carter are often done together, going up the Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter Dome trails to Zeta Pass, then North along the Carter-Moriah trail over both peaks, and down by the North Carter and Imp trails (lp: 10.8, 3,500 feet, 7:10). With one car only you can either retrace your steps, or (if you are comfortable navigating off-trail) bushwhack from the Imp trail, where it is close to Cowboy Brook, to the Nineteen Mile trail near the trailhead.

If doing Middle Carter alone, use the Imp, North Carter and Carter-Moriah trails (rt: 9.8 miles, 3,500 feet, 6:40). If doing South Carter alone take the Nineteen Mile and Carter Dome trails to Zeta Pass, then the Carter-Moriah trail to South Carter (rt: 9.2 miles, 2,950 feet, 6:05).

Carter Dome

The easiest route is by the Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter Dome trails (rt: 10.0 miles, 3,350 feet, 6:40). This has good footing and easy grades almost all the time. Mount Hight, which has better views, can be added by climbing it by the Carter Moriah Trail from Zeta Pass, and following that trail to the summit of Carter Dome. Descent is then by the Carter Dome Trail. This will add 0.2 miles and 150 feet, for an extra ten minutes of hiking time. Note, that the ascent from Zeta Pass to Mount Hight is steep with very rough footing.

A more challenging approach is to take the Nineteen Mile Brook trail to Carter Notch, then the Carter-Moriah trail over Carter Dome and Mt. Hight to Zeta Pass, then descend by the Carter Dome and Nineteen Mile Brook trails (lp: 10.2 miles, 3,600 feet, 6:55). While Carter Dome has good views, those from Mt Height are even better.

Using either of these routes South Carter can be added for an extra 1.6 miles and 550 feet adding 1:10 to book time.

The Wildcats

Normally done by the Wildcat Ridge and Nineteen Mile Brook trails (lp: 8.7 miles, 3,150 feet, 5:55), a second car is required. The Wildcat Ridge trail is substantially more strenuous than the distance and elevation gain would suggest. The crossing of the Ellis River at the start of the Wildcat Ridge trail may be difficult, if so return to Pinkham Notch and take the Lost Pond trail to the Wildcat Ridge beyond the crossing, this adds 0.9 miles and 100 feet.

It is possible to add Carter Dome to this hike, taking the Carter-Moriah Trail from Carter Notch over the summit of Carter Dome to Zeta Pass, and then taking the Carter Dome Trail to the 19-Mile Brook Trail (lp: 11.3 miles; 4,850 feet; 8:05).