Is it too much to ask for perfection? We Northeast backpackers want hikes that involve woods and mountains. We don't mind tough climbing if an unobstructed summit vista is waiting for us. Water is nice -- a pretty cascade, a murmuring brook will do. We like solitude, too. Oh yeah, and the trail should loop back to the car so there's no backtracking. Unreasonable? Impossible? Then you haven't hiked up and around Carter Dome in the Carter-Moriah Range.
Start your trip on the Bog Brook Trail, where you'll traverse color-splashed meadows (watch for deer and black bear) and cross several brooks before reaching the huff-and-puff Rainbow Trail that climbs the steep slope to Carter Dome's summit. You'll gain fine views there, but the best vistas lie a short 1-mile jaunt away at Mt. Hight, where rocky peaks and ledgy outlooks offer spectacular panoramas of the Wild River Valley and the Carter and Presidential ranges. Complete the 12.4-mile loop by heading to Carter Notch to cool your heels in Carter Lake before hiking back to the car along the gentle Wildcat River Trail. If you have time and energy left, several interconnecting trails invite exploring.
Where: 170 miles northwest of Boston. The trailhead is about 6 miles north of Jackson, on Carter Notch Road, just off NH 16B.
Maps: Check out The AMC White Mountain Guide ($21.95, Appalachian Mountain Club, 800-262-4455) for trail descriptions and maps.
Trail Info: AMC, (603) 466-2727.