Carter Range Overview
Nobody knows about the Carter-Moriah Range. Compared with the towering adjacent Presidentials, the Carters get a small fraction of the attention. The Moriah Range, the northern extension, recieves even less attention. In some respects, this is a shame, but it means that the cognoscenti have the place entirely to themselves.
The Carter-Moriah Range runs from Hall's Ledge at the south end of Pinkham Notch along fifteen miles ridge to Howe Peak above the Androscoggin River at the Maine border. Along the way, the ridge crosses six official 4000'er peaks and another two which top 4000' but do not meet the 200' saddle criterion. Carter Dome, the 9th-highest peak in New England at 4832', features stunning views of the Presidentials to the west and the wilds of the Wild River basin to the east. The very best views in the range, though, are arguably to be seen from the bare summit of Mt. Hight, a sometimes-overlooked "unofficial" peak just north of Carter Dome.
A shot of Carter Dome, the highest peak in the range, from Mt. Hight
By far the most spectacular feature in the range is Carter Notch, a deep gash between rocky bluffs between Carter Dome and the northernmost of the Wildcat summits. From the south, the trail drops over 1000' to the boulder-strewn floor of the notch. Two small ponds hang here and provide a wonderful setting for the Carter Notch Hut. The climb up the other side of the notch is equally challenging.
Wildcat Ski Area
Most visitors to the Carter-Moriah Range experience it at Wildcat Ski Area
on the western slopes of Wildcat Mountain. This historic ski area (site of the first enclosed 'gondola' lift in North America) rises 2100' from the crest of Pinkham Notch to the 4000' saddle between Wildcat D and E. Runs of all difficulty get skiers to the base including the famous, mellow Polecat run (rated easy). In the summer, people ride to the top of the mountain to take in the spectacular views of the Presidentials across the Notch and to hike in the high forest terrain of Wildcat.
Mountains, Lakes, and Notable Features
Here are the major features of the main range along with milages and camping options from the perspective of a south-bound AT hiker.
|Androscoggin River/US2 || 700'|| 0.0|
|Rattle River Shelter || 1400'|| 1.7||shelter, campsite|
(side trail, +1.3 miles)
| 3755'|| 5.2|
|Imp Mountain || 3730'|| 7.8||shelter, campsite|
|North Carter||4530'|| 9.7|
|Imp Face |
(side trail, +0.9 miles)
|Zeta Pass || 3800'||12.4||no camping|
|Carter Notch || 3400'||15.0||AMC Hut, no camping|
|Lost Pond || 2200'||19.0||no camping|
|Pinkham Notch/US16 || 2100'||20.0||AMC Hut, no camping|
Trails and Trailheads
The Appalachian Trail traverses most of the range from Pinkham Notch to the Androscoggin River in Shelburne, a distance of 21 miles. Almost any hike in the range, particularly anything that summits the major peaks, will include a segment of AT.
Notable spur trails north/west of the range:
- Nineteen Mile Brook to Carter Notch (Nineteen Mile Brook TH)
- Carter Dome Trail to Zeta Pass (Nineteen Mile Brook TH)
- Imp Trail to Middle Carter (Imp TH)
- Carter-Moriah Trail to Mount Moriah (Carter-Moriah TH)
- Rattle River Trail to Middle Moriah (AT segment, Rattle River TH)
Notable spur trails from the east/south:
- Black Angel Trail to Carter Dome (Wild River CG)
- Wild River Trail to Carter Notch (Wild River CG)
- Rainbow Trail to Carter Dome (via Wild River trail)
There are various camping options in the Carter Range. There is one established campsite along the crest of the range; the Imp tentsite and shelter. Bunks at the AMC Carter Notch Hut are available for a hefty fee (up to $98/night for Saturday nights in June-Sept; $30 in the off-season, slightly less for AMC members). There are also trail shelters at Rattle River (AT), Ketchum Pond, and Blue Brook (both along Wild River Trail). Camping is generally allowed in elsewhere in the area with the following exceptions:
no camping in Zeta Pass, Carter Notch, or above treeline (where trees are less than 8' tall)
no camping within a quarter mile of established sites and ponds, or within 200' of the trail.
no wood fires (stoves only)
Winter camping relaxes the above-treeline prohibition, but only if the site is under 2' or more of snow.
Please practice low-impact camping. Bears are active in this region and hanging food in a tree is recommended.
Trailhead ConditionsHere are two websites that will provided you the best information on conditions in the White Mountains.
Appalachian Mountain Club
Current Trail Conditions
Current ConditionsIf you are planning on heading up to the higher summits of the Carters, you should check this link to a weather forecast for Higher Summits of the White Mountains .