Middle Carter: 4610 Feet
South Carter: 4430 Feet
Middle Carter and South Carter are two of the official N.H. 4000 footers, located in the Carter Moriah Range, which includes Moriah, the Carters, Mt. Hight, Carter Dome
, and the Wildcats. The Appalachian Trail runs along these peaks. Middle Carter is the 15th highest peak in N.H. South Carter ranks 19th.
Neither peak affords great views, but the views along the approach trail--particularly from the face of Imp Mtn.--as well as along the ridges between the peaks, are spectacular. To the west lies the Presidential Range; to the northwest, the most northern N.H. high peaks, including Cabot and Waumbek; to the east, great views of the foothills of the White Mountains on the Maine border, and a great deal of Maine itself.
The trailheads lie along Route 16 between North Conway and Gorham, N.H., about 15 miles north of North Conway. There is plenty of free roadside parking for the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail, the South and North Imp Trails.
The Carter-Moriah Trail
traverses these peaks. The trail runs from Carter Notch to the south (over Mt. Hight and Carter Dome), and from Gorham to the North. Several shorter loops are available from Route 16, as follows.
Nineteen Mile Brook Trail
leads from Route 16 to the trail junction with the Carter Dome Trail
, and then to the Carter Notch, south of Carter Dome.
Carter Dome Trail
leads from the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to the Carter-Moriah Trail, about one mile south of the summit of South Carter.
The Imp Trail
leads from Route 16 to the North Carter Trail. The Imp Trail is actually a loop trail, with both ends just a few tenths of a mile apart along Route 16. The trail passes just above the Imp Face, which is a wonderful lookout towards Mt. Washington, and which would make an easy family day hike.
North Carter Trail
leads from the Imp Trail to the Carter-Moriah trail between North Carter and Middle Carter.
(works best with two cars): Start at the Imp Trial, preferably the northern trailhead so you can get the views from the Imp Face. Travel along the side of Imp to the North Carter Trail, traverse Middle Carter and South Carter, descend on the Carter Dome Trail to Nineteen Mile Brook Trail back to Route 16. The Imp trailhead is about 1.5 miles to the north. The loop is about 10.8 miles, with about 3700 feet of climbing.
Parking is free along Route 16 for the Nineteen Mile Brook and Imp Trails, the easiest approaches for day hikes to Middle and South Carter. Most of the Carter-Moriah Range lies within the White Mountain National Forest. There are Forest Protection Zones near the trailheads and at certain trail junctions, where camping is most restricted.
You may wish to check on the other Forest Service rules
which govern activities in this area.
When To Climb
As with the other White Mountains, the Carters are a four season experience. Spring brings mud and high water; early summer means bugs; winter means bring snow shoes and crampons and the rest of your usual winter gear. As always, prepare for changing weather. In particular, the ridges are fairly exposed to weather even though they are not above treeline.
Although there is abundant water along this trail, precautions should always be taken to filter or treat the water. The many stream crossings may prove challenging during high water.
There are no established campsites along the trails to Middle or South Carter, and camping near the trails and streams is governed by the USFS (see Red Tape, above).
The AMC Carter Notch Hut, which is open all year, lies several miles to the south across Carter Dome. Check for availability and reservations.
The AMC also maintains the Joe Dodge Lodge at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center for those who are looking for a less demanding experience. More info.
The USFS maintians Barnes Field on Rt. 16, Pinkham Notch. 6 mi. S of Gorham. 11 group sites. Camping, fishing, hiking. Open all year round. Mid-May to mid-Oct. by reservation only. Fee based on number of people in party. Call 603-466-2713. Limited winter service. Right next door is the USFS Dolly Copp Campground, with 176 sites.
Additonal camping lies not far away in the Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines on Mt. Washington. More info.
Current conditions are available from the Mt. Washington Observatory, which is just a stone's throw across the Pinkham Notch. Check the Higher Summits Forecast
Current New Hampshire Trail Conditions: Views From The Top
Numerous White Mountain resources: Appalachian Mountain Club