This 3-4 day, 41 mile scenic loop climbs the Baldfaces, Carter Dome, South Carter, Middle Carter, and Mount Moriah, before looping back to Evans Notch through the Wild River Wilderness. It begins in Evans Notch and passes through the Wild River Wilderness, climbing Carter Dome at the southern end of the Carter Moriah Trail. From there, it runs along the top of the Carter Moriah ridgeline, passing over South Carter, Middle Carter and Mount Moriah, before looping back down the Moriah Brook Trail and the Black Angel Trail to Evans Notch from the north. The route includes approximately 6 miles of above-treeline travel across open terrain and is best hiked in dry and clear weather. It features several best-in-class views and swimming holes in a wilder, less-travelled portion of the White Mountains National Forest.Carter-Moriah-Long-Way-Loop
E5 - Toggle Open for Key
A: Less than 15 miles in distance
B: 15-20 miles
C: 20-25 miles
D: 25-30 miles or less
E: more than 30 miles
1: 3000 ft or less
2: 4000 ft or less
3: 5000 ft or less
4: 6000 ft or less
5: over 6000 ft
41.4 miles w/10,500′ of cumulative elevation gain
White Mountain 4000 Footers
- Middle Carter
- South Carter
- Carter Dome
June thru October
Backcountry Camping Regulations for the White Mountain National Forest, specifically no camping above treeline where trees are less than 8′ in height (except on two feet of snow.)
A substantial portion this route passes through the Wild River Wilderness Area. Please observe all wilderness area restrictions.
The Baldface Trailhead Parking Lot is located on NH 113 in Chatham, NH at Lat/Lon (44.238373, -71.016777).
MapsThe Appalachian Mountain Club publishes the best maps for the White Mountains and I’d recommend buying the complete AMC White Mountain Waterproof Map Set. It contains three waterproof maps (2 regions per map) although you only need carry one or two on any trip. I also use GPS apps for navigating, but these maps contain relevant trail, shelter and topographic information that is often not included in electronic maps. More detailed trail descriptions can also be found in the AMC White Mountain Guide, which is considered the hiking bible for the region. It includes detailed driving directions to remote trailheads and is indipensible for navigating to them, especially when you're out of cell tower range. Take photos of the pages you need using your phone for easy reference, instead of carrying the entire book with you on hikes.
Navigation AppsI also recommend purchasing a GPS Phone App such as Far Out's White Mountain National Forest Guide, which lists most of the trails, trailheads, shelters, campsites, views, and water sources in the White Mountains National Forest. GaiaGPS is another GPS Phone App, which is stronger in terms of topographic map coverage for the White Mountains but does not have as much information about trailheads, shelters, campsites, views, and water sources. I use both frequently.
The route follows the following trails in sequence
- Baldface Circle Trail – 6.1 miles
- Eagle Link – 2.7 miles
- Wild River Trail – 3.0 miles
- Rainbow Tr – 2.5 miles
- Carter Moriah Trail – 7.9 miles (northeast to Mount Moriah)
- Carter Moriah Trail – 1.4 miles (back to Moriah Brook Trail Junction)
- Moriah Brook Trail – 5.2 miles
- Highwater Trail – 2.6 miles
- Black Angel Trail – 2.3 miles
- Basin Rim Trail – 1.4 miles
- Meader Ridge Trail – 2.0 miles
- Baldface Circle Trail – 3.1 miles
The following list provides cumulate distances on the route to each view or landmark.
- 0.7 miles – Emerald Pool (short .1 mile spur trail)
- 2.5 miles – Baldface Shelter
- 3.7 miles – South Baldface Summit (3570′)
- 4.9 miles – North Baldface Summit (3610′)
- 11.0 miles – Perkins Notch Campsite
- 13.3 miles – South Carter Dome Knob (4274′)
- 14.3 miles Carter Dome Summit (4832′)
- 15.1 miles – Mt Hight (4675′)
- 15.7 miles – Zeta Pass
- 16.5 miles – South Carter Summit (4430′)
- 17.8 miles – Middle Carter Summit (4610′)
- 20.3 miles – Imp Shelter and Tent Platforms (3350″)
- 21.0 miles – Moriah Brook Trail Junction
- 22.4 miles – Mount Moriah Summit (4049′)
- 23.8 miles – Moriah Brook Trail Junction
- 31.6 miles Black Angel River Crossing
- 33.9 miles Blue Brook Campsite
- 34.4 miles Rim Junction
- 37.9 miles Eagle Crag
- 40.7 miles Emerald Pool
- 41.4 miles Baldface Trailhead Parking
- USFS Baldface Shelter (Free) – Lean-to, heavily used
- USFS Perkins Notch Campsite (Free) – Tentsites, water from nearby pond
- AMC Carter Notch Hut ($$$) – Advance reservations recommended
- AMC Imp Tentsite and Shelter ($) – Tent platforms and a primitive shelter, caretaker in summer, water from nearby stream, fills up fast on summer weekends, first come – first served
- USFS Wild River Campground ($) – Advanced reservations recommended. Host on-site. Accessible by gravel road and a good place for car spot at the adjacent trailhead parking lot, parking fee required.
- USFS Spruce Brook Campsite (Free) – Tent sites, water from the nearby river
- USFS Blue Brook Campsite (Free) – Tent sites, water from a nearby stream
- USFS Basin Pond Campsite ($) – Advanced reservations recommended. Accessible by gravel road and a good place for car spot at the adjacent trailhead parking lot. There is parking at Basin Pond. (I think).
Natural water sources are plentiful in the White Mountains although you may need to descend to them from ridgelines along side trails if you run short. The only sustained dry stretch on this route is between the Perkins Notch Campsite and the Imp Campsite, a distance of 9 miles. Carry a detailed topographic map with you and don’t rely on the overview map provided with this trip description to find water sources.
On the Trail
This trip starts at the bottom of Baldface Circle Trail and climbs South and North Baldface, two bald summits at the south end of Evans Notch. The trail is marked with signs and stone cairns, which should be followed with care above treeline. It’s recommended that you postpone your hike if thunderstorms are forecast, as there is a very real danger of being struck by lightning on these peaks, which are devoid of vegetation.
The trail runs past the Baldface Shelter at 2.5 miles, ascending over a series of open ledges, which are slippery when wet or icy. You can bypass the ledges by taking the Slippery Brook Trail and the Baldface Knob Trail, which join the Baldface Circle Trail below the South Baldface summit.
The trail climbs across 3 miles of open ledge over South and North Baldface with incredible views of Evans Notch, before descending to the well-marked Eagle Link trail junction at 6.1 miles. Turn west (left) onto the Eagle Link Trail, passing the Wilderness Boundary. Please adhere to Wilderness Regulations. Portions of this trail can be quite wet and muddy. Continue for 2.7 miles through the forest to the Wild River Trail. This area was once clear-cut by logging but has recovered fully, one of the miracles of the White Mountains.
Turn south (left) at the Wild River Trail, continuing past the East Branch Trail junction at 1.5 miles. Continue for an additional 0.7 miles until you come to the Perkins Notch Tent site at No Ketchum Pond, the source of the Wild River. This is a good place to call it a day and relax for the evening.
Continue west on the Wild River Trail for 0.8 miles and turn onto the Rainbow Trail which climbs to Carter Dome. After 1.5 miles you’ll come to the open summit of a sub-peak that has a great view of Mt Washington. Continue on the Rainbow Trail to the summit of Carter Dome.
Turn north (right) on the Carter Moriah Trail and follow it to Mt Hight, which is one of the best viewpoints in the White Mountains. Mt Hight is a good place to stop for a snack and enjoy a rest break.
Continue north on the Carter Moriah Trail which descends to Zeta Pass and reaches a trail junction with the Carter Dome Trail. Be sure to continue north on the Carter Moriah Trail headed toward South Carter Mountain, which is 0.8 miles away. After South Carter, continue north for another 1.3 miles to Middle Carter Mountain. Continue north for approximately 3 miles, passing the North Carter Trail on your left, until you reach the Imp Campsite Spur Trail, which has a good water source, tent platforms, and a shelter. This is a good place to stop and claim a tent platform for camping. Time permitting, you can drop most of your gear and go watch the sunset from Mount Moriah before returning to the campsite.
Mount Moriah is approximately 2 miles north of the Imp Campsite Spur Trail. From the campsite, turn north (left) onto the Carter Moriah Trail, passing the Moriah Brook Trail junction on your right, before continuing to the summit. After you’ve climbed Moriah, backtrack south to the Moriah Brook Junction, turning east (left) onto the Moriah Brook Trail.
Follow the Moriah Brook Trail 5.2 miles east to the Highwater Trail Junction. The top of this trail can be muddy and hard to follow in places, particularly in June before the trail crews can get to it and clear out any winter debris. The trail runs adjacent to the stream that runs down the middle of this narrow valley, past numerous pools and cascades. This is considered one of the prettiest trails in the Whites and is a fine place for a swim.
Turn south (right) when you reach the Highwater Trail. Follow it for 2.6 miles as it runs along the Wild River until you reach the Black Angel Trail where you’ll ford the river. Your feet are probably going to get wet in the process. Once across, look for the Black Angel Trail which climbs uphill. The signage on the far side of this crossing can be confusing, so make sure that you’re headed east (toward Blue Brook) and climbing uphill.
Follow the Black Angel Trail for 2.3 miles, passing the Blue Brook campsite on your left, before reaching Rim Junction. Find the sign for the Basin Rim Trail and head south (right) for 1.4 miles passing the minor summit of Ragged Jacket. Continue south (bearing right) where the trail ends and the Meader Ridge Trail begins. Follow it for 2 miles passing Eagle Crag, just before reaching the Bicknell Trail junction. This is a gorgeous stretch of open ridgeline walking, the perfect coda to a wonderful walk.
Turn left and head down the Bicknell Ridge Trail which descents from the ridge back to the floor of Evans Notch. The top of the trail has good views of South and North Baldface before dropping down below treeline. In 2.3 miles, you’ll come to a short 0.1-mile trail leading to Emerald Pool, a popular swimming hole. From here it’s just 0.7 miles back to the trailhead parking lot and the end of the route.
About the author
Safety DisclaimerThis trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on SectionHiker.com, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code.
Click for More Free 4000 Footer Backpacking Trip Plans
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- Bonds Traverse
- Twins/Bonds Traverse
- Kilkenny Traverse
- Carter Wildcat Traverse
- Southern Presidentials Loop
- Moriah Loop
- Kate Sleeper Loop
- Howker Ridge Loop
- Isolation Loop
- Mad River Notch Loop
- Thirteen Falls Loop
- The Desolation Loop
- Willey Range Loop
- Firewardens Loop
- Carter Moriah Loop
- Cannonball Loop
- Tunnel Brook Loop
- Carter Dome Wild River Loop
- Mt Carrigan and Mt Nancy
Everybody’s comfort level is different, but that ford really isn’t bad. I’ve done it at least a half dozen times and never had an issue. I put the crossing there because it’s a much easier ford than at the Shelburne crossing downriver. It’s high enough upriver that the flow is greatly decreased, but you have to use common sense in a heavy rain and wait a day for the water to drop or simply hike upstream to the Eagle Link Trail and complete the loop back to the Bicknell Ridge Trail there. But in summer, the Wild River flow rate drops way down.
Dead. Perfect time to hike.
Very nice write up. Your trip plan is very helpful. We just did the presidential traverse followed your suggestions and am thinking about doing this loop in late September. Have following questions for you.
1. As we will be driving from NJ, we would be arriving at trail head around 1:00 pm. Is there alternative campsite between boldface circula trail head and Perkins notch?
2. For September, do you think the river water level will be fine to cross?
Thanks a lot for your suggestion
2) no idea. the weather is always unpredictable.
Thanks. We have a group with about 9 tents. Do you think whether Perkins botch site and blue brook site will have enough tent space?
Thanks for the feedback
Both sites are in the Wild River Wilderness Area where group size is limited by law to 10 people. Maybe you should reconsider your plans if your group size exceeds that. Even if not, consider the other people who will want to use those sites when you are there.
Am hoping to do a three night loop hike in the whites. I see you have lots of experience and written about different options for loops. Was hoping to chat about what you think would be least crowded this time of year.
Please let me know if you have suggestions.
Your best bet for uncrowded will be between Hannover, Nh and Mt Moosilauke. Unfortunately, I’m rarely on the grid during summer, so unavailable to chat.
Thank you for this great backpacking trip! My friend and I went Oct 3-7 and it gave us the opportunity to explore an area of the Whites that I had never been before. It was gloriously remote- we saw only 3 people until we got to Blue Brook tent site. Almost unheard of during prime leaf peeping season. (Of course the rain probably helped a bit too!)
Because of rain, we opted to go up Bicknell Ridge instead of Baldface Circle Trail, which was challenging enough! The Moriah Brook Trail was difficult to follow in places because of all the leaves and blow downs. At one point we got off trail, but we were able backtrack and find it again after a bit of searching. The river crossings were manageable without taking our shoes off, but I can only imagine what they must be like in the spring or after a big rain.
While this hike doesn’t have the “wow factor” of the Pemi Loop, the old growth forests, waterfalls, and solitude are spectacular. And, for me at least, much more preferable.
Glad you had a great time. The more remote trails like Moriah Brook do get a little trickier to follow when the leaves come down. Part of the fun!
Hi Philip! We are thinking of going in late June, but heard that black flies may be an issue–any idea if this is true/tips to avoid?
Come later in July.
Keep reading about Highwater Trail becoming unhikeable. Would you recommend going to Wild River campground to ford and then on to Basin or other side of river on Wild River trail? Thanks
I would just go up the Highwater trail. The bank is erroding away, but you just walk alongside it keeping the river in sight. It’s been that way for 10 years and isn’t that big of a deal. Fording the Wild is trivial at the moment because the water levels are historically, unbelievably low. You should be able to ford it at the campground if you want.
Appreciate the quick response.
Visiting family in Boston metro area and picking up a friend across river from Hanover on way up. Not sure we’ll make it to Perkins Notch campsite. Do you know if there’s any good legal stealth spots before there?
Also wondering if Imp Shelter has overflow? Using xmid 1p and lending a friend a copper spur. (Might just buy the fishhooks you recommend).
Lastly, is there an alternate 2 night loop you’d recommend for less than good weather? My window is pretty tight. Got super lucky last August on Pemi loop with perfect weather. Not expecting that twice.
Appreciate the content.
There are plenty of good places to camp legally just before Eagle link. Not much between there and Perkins Notch. The vegetation and terrain are prohibitive. I don’t think Imp has overflow. I wrote all the other trip plans because I do recommend them. :-) take your pick.