Racing the Weather: Carter Range and Wildcat Ridge

Date of Hike: 6/22/13

Route 16: 0.4 miles
Camp Dodge Cutoff: 0.4 miles
Imp Trail: 1.8 miles
North Carter Trail: 1.2 miles
Carter-Moriah Trail: 6.1 miles
Wildcat Ridge Trail: 2.8 miles
Ski Trails: 2.6 miles
Route 16: 2.5 miles
17.8 miles (6,500 elevation gain)

Trip Report:
- Unsettling summer weather in the Whites never seems to disappoint.  Days often can be broken up into quadrants of weather patterns: pre-dawn can be a drizzly mess, morning can bring on clearing with high puffy clouds and bright sun, in the afternoon those puffy clouds turn black and heavy rain pounds the mountains, only for night to bring on high winds, swiftly moving clouds, and infinite stars. 
- The forecast called for afternoon showers so I decided I'd head to Pinkham Notch and try to get some views on the Carter Range and the Wildcat Ridge.  It had been over a year since I was last up on the ridge that rises above the border of Maine to the east so I was looking forward to getting back up there.
- I parked at the Nineteen-Mile Brook Trailhead, which was almost full at 9:30 in the morning.  From here I did a short road walk up Route 16 to Camp Dodge, where I cut through the campground and used the Camp Dodge Cutoff to the Imp Trail.
- I thought I would be seeing a lot of other hikers on the trail but only saw a couple on the North Carter Trail as I approached the ridge.  The Imp and North Carter Trail never gets too steep and the footing for the most part is ok, much better than most of the trails of the Presidential Range across the street.
- The bugs were out in full force so stopping was not really an enjoyable experience.  Within minutes the bugs would find you and stick to you, luckily for me none were biting.
- The trail from North Cater through Middle and South Carter is a pleasant hike, there are some ledges with views east to the Wild River Wilderness and the Presidential Range to the west.
- The real gem of the first part of the hike is the summit of Mount Hight.  It's a short burst to get to the summit, 0.8 miles of steep and rough footing, it gets tiring, but the views from Hight are spectacular.  The wind was blowing just enough to hold the bugs at bay so I enjoyed lunch on the summit and watched as the clouds started to change from friendly to not so friendly off in the distance.
- From Mount Hight I made the quick hike over to Carter Dome and then dropped steeply down to Carter Notch.  Finally I started running into lots of hikers of all types and a few dogs along the way.
- When I reached Carter Notch I headed over to the Hut to restock on water and have a glass of lemonade for a dollar.  I usually carry a sport drink but recently I haven't because I've been using my ultra-light pack and traveling very light.  I must say I've enjoyed the light Camelpack back pack so far.
- Now was for part two of my hike, the Wildcat Ridge which rises steeply from Carter Notch to Wildcat 'A' Peak, 0.7 miles and elevation gain over 1,000 feet.  Luckily, I have been up this section probably a half dozen times and am used to the uphill punch in the face!
- I made good time to the summit and enjoyed the views down to Carter Notch and across to Carter Dome from the outlook before I headed over the ridge to Wildcat 'D' Peak. 
- The trail between 'A' and 'D' keeps improving every year I'm on it.  There are new bog bridges and the trail keeps getting trimmed back so it's not as scratchy.  It's still gets narrow in spots but not like before, what a pain that was.
- There are a series of 'hog-backs' the trails goes up - over - and down, once again I've been lucky to have been up here many times so it's not a slog anymore.  I used to think I was approaching the summit of Wildcat 'D' when it was just another bump along the way, very demoralizing.  Now, I know what is coming and made good time to the Wildcat 'D' Peak observation platform.
- On the platform I met Ryan and his two friends who are closing in on their 48 - 4,000 footers, they all only have a few more to go.  Nice to meet you and enjoy your finish, Ryan and friends!
- From the summit I took off down the polecat, smellycat, funnycat, deadcat ski trails to Route 16.  Of course it started to rain as I descended the slopes and the Presi's were now mostly in the clouds so no good ravine pictures were to be had.
- The rain picked up in intensity as I walked along Route 16 back to my car.  There were lot of cars zooming by and one nice girl offered me a ride but I was about five minutes from my car and the sun was out again by this point. (Looking back, I'm an idiot for turning down a ride from a pretty lady!).  Along the road walk I saw all the mini coopers out heading to the Mount Washington Auto Road.  There must have been one hundred of them!
- Back at the car I changed into dry clothes and headed to Gorham to stuff my face and have a beer at Mr. Pizza!

Start 9:30 a.m.  /  North Carter 11:10 a.m.  /  Middle Carter 11:30 a.m.  / South Carter 11:50 a.m.  /  Hight 12:25 p.m.  /  Carter Dome 12:55 p.m.  /  Wildcat A 1:55 p.m.  /  Wildcat D 2:30 p.m.  / Route 16 3:15 p.m.  /  Finished 4 p.m. 

Nineteen-Mile Brook Trailhead 
 Camp Dodge
 Camp Dodge Cutoff
 Mount Madison from an old clearing off the Imp Trail
 Imp Trail
 North Carter  /  Imp Trail Junction
 North Carter Trail
 Carter Moriah (A.T.) / North Carter Trail Junction
 North Carter Summit
 Bog Bridges on the Carter-Moriah Trail
Osgood Ridge with Mount Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Clay (R to L)
Mount Washington 
Mount Washington, Clay, and Jefferson
 Near Middle Carter's Summit
 Carter-Moriah Trail, looking back at Middle Carter
 Zeta Pass
 View into Maine from Mount Hight
 South and Middle Carter from Mount Hight
 Carter Dome from Mount Hight
 Storm's a coming!
 Wild River Wilderness and the Baldface Range
 Clouds turning bad over the Presidential Range
Clouds turning bad over the Presidential Range 
 Carter Dome Summit
 Carter Notch and Wildcat 'A' Peak
 Cater Notch Hut
 Rain in the valley of the Wild River Wilderness
 Cater Notch Pond and Wildcat 'A'
 Carter Notch Hut
 Carter Notch Pond
 Wildcat Ridge Trail
 Carter Notch and Carter Dome from Wildcat 'A' Peak
 Wildcat Ridge Trail
 On the summit Of Wildcat 'D' Peak
 Wildcat Ski Area
 Wildcat Ski Area
 Site of the former Wildcat Ski Building
 Who's up for a ride?
Polecat Ski Trail 
 Smellycat Ski Trail
 Deadcat ski trail
 This is where the building ended up
 Ski building junk
Route 16


  1. Yet another enjoyable report, Chris. It has been quite a while since I've hiked in the Carter Range. Your photos and narrative provided a terrific "virtual" experience. It's great to read that you included Mt. Hight. In my opinion, it's the star attraction for the entire Carter Range, but some hikers pass it by since it's not included as an NH 4K peak.


    1. Thanks John, it always means a lot that you like my report and pics! I agree with Mount Hight, it is one of my favorite peaks. The views are some of the best in the Whites. It reminds me of South Twin, a steep trail up on one side where you are rewarded with phenomenal views!!

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  3. Really enjoy your blog. You definitely know how to hit the trail. Whats up with the former wildcat ski building? I hope they get rid of that. Hiked the Carter ridge from the other side last fall and that bog bridge was ablaze color wise. Red yellow orange so different. Great to see the way the trail changes. Mt Hight did not disappoint but found the ridge a bit treed in.

    1. Hi Greg!

      The ski building is gone and I'm 99% sure they are not rebuilding it. The ridge is treed in for most of it, I agree, it's too bad it's not more open. If it was the views would be some of the best in the Whites. Mount Hight is the crown jewel of the range!