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White Mountain National Forest: Carter Range and Wildcat Range

A two-day peak-bagging trek in the White Mountains, this 15.4-mile shuttle traces the spines of the Carter and Wildcat Ranges, cresting five 4,000-foot peaks.

Rating

Set aside two days for this shuttle hike across two iconic White Mountain National Forest ridgelines: you’ll crest five 4,000-foot peaks, gain over 7,300 feet of elevation, and spend the night at a classic Appalachian Mountain Club hut at Carter Notch (reservations required). After dropping a shuttle car at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center (in the shadow of Mount Washington), begin hiking from the Nineteen Mile Brook Trailhead (about 3.8 miles up the road). Soon after leaving the state route, pick up the Imp Trail South near the beginning of a 4.3-mile, 2,800-foot climb up Middle Carter Mountain.
Traveling south along the Carter Moriah Trail (also the Appalachian Trail), the route wanders up and down Carter Range peaks on a mostly tree-covered path with limited views. Approaching Carter Dome, the route affords overlooks east to Mount Washington and Tuckerman’s Ravine, as well as back north across the Carter Range itself. After 8 miles, begin a steep descent to Carter Notch and shelter for the night.
Day 2 begins with a stiff, 1,100-foot climb up Wildcat Mountain; at the summit, take in views east back to Carter Dome before a second wooded ridgeline trek through the Carter Range. Upon reaching Wildcat Mountain Ski Resort, descend to Pinkham Notch on green and blue ski trails. Summer hikers may opt to continue down the Wildcat Ridge Trail on the descent to NH 16 and Pinkham Notch.
Note: This is a strenuous hike all year long, but winter hikers should be prepared for difficult and icy trail conditions. Crampons are strongly recommended.
-Mapped by Michael Blair

PLAN IT

Click to PRINT AND GO

MAP Trails llustrated Presidential Range/Gorham, White Mountains National Forest ($12, natgeomaps.com)
GUIDEBOOK White Mountain Guide, Centennial Edition ($25, amcstore.outdoors.org) includes extensive planning info and maps.
PERMITS Recreation Pass, $5/week per car. White MountainNational Forest Office: (603) 536-6100, fs.fed.us/r9/forests/white_mountain/passes. Reserve a spot in Carter Notch Hut up to 60 days in advance. Self-service (Jan. 1 to May 29, Sept. 10 to Dec. 31) $43/night (non-members). Full-service (includes meals and bedding) $106/night. (617) 523-0655; outdoors.org/lodging.
SEASON Winter is key for solitude—and a stay in the fire-warmed hut ensures a toasty night—but navigation and conditions can be tough. In summer, this high route is easy to follow. Check for conditions at fs.fed.us/r9/forests/white_mountain.

LOCAL LINKS

GEAR

Ragged Mountain Equipment
279 NH 16/302
Intervale, NH
(603) 356-3042
Lahout’s Country Clothing
127 Main St.
Lincoln, NH
(603) 745-6970
GAS/GROCERIES

Cumberland Farms
60 Main St.
Gorham, NH
(603) 466-2157

GROCERIES

Waynes Market
173 Main St.
North Woodstock, NH
(603) 745-8819

RESTAURANTS

Mr. Pizza
160 Main St.
Gorham, NH
(603) 466-5573
 
Notchview Country Kitchen
437 US 3
Lincoln, NH
(603) 745-2043

MULTI-DAY GEAR LIST

Backpack
Three-season tent
Down bag, sleeping pad
Compass, map, GPS unit
Gas stove and fuel bottles
Lighter and matches
Cookset, bowl, insulated
mug, eating utensils
32 oz. water bottle (2)
Water treatment
Multitool/knife
Headlamp, batteries
Fleece and down jackets
Waterproof/breathable
jacket and pants
Synthetic pants
Midweight baselayers
Synthetic T-shirt (2)
Hat and gloves
Hiking boots
Camp footwear
Wool/synthetic socks (3)
Crampons and ice axe
Sunscreen (SPF 15+)
First-aid kit
Stuffsacks/zip-top bags

To Trailhead

From North Conway, NH, take NH 16 north. Pinkham Notch Visitor Center (end of hike shuttle location) is on the left about 10.5 miles north of Route 302/Route 16 junction in Glen, NH. Nineteen Mile Brook Trailhead (start of hike) is on the right about 3.8 miles up NH 16.

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