Mt Hight (4675′) has the best views of any peak in the Carter Moriah Range of the White Mountains. Located a short distance from the summit of Carter Dome, you can see the summit of Mt Washington and the Northern Presidentials to the west, and the entire Wild River Wilderness, including the Baldfaces to the east.
My friends, Ken, Lisa and I climbed Hight on a sparkling clear day when we were forced to postpone an ascent of Huntington Ravine because the winds were too high. Gusting to 70 mph, we could have been blown off the top of the Huntington Ravine Trail, which climbs up the headwall of a glacial cirque below the summit of Mt Washington.
We opted to hike a less frequented route up to Mt Hight, climbing to Carter Dome from the west via the Bog Brook and Rainbow Trails, before hiking down to the Carter Notch Hut, looping back to our cars via the Wildcat River Trail. Most people who climb Carter Dome do so from the east via the 19 Mile Trail, but we’ve all hiked that trail so much in the past, none of us wanted to go up that way again.
The Bog Brook Trail is wet and muddy, with numerous stream crossing, a fact that should be evident from its name. Nevertheless, it’s a very fun trail to hike passing through verdant forest along old logging roads up to the junction of the Rainbow Trail.
The Rainbow Trail, as I was to learn, is a fabulously scenic way to climb Carter Dome and quite a gradual climb, making it a good alternative for groups needing a mellower route up to the mountain top. Hiking towards Carter Notch from the back way, the east rather than the west, is also an interesting change and sets up all kinds of views, seldom seen. The Rainbow Trail is also one of Ken’s favorites in the Whites and one that he was eager to show Lisa and I.
The Bog Brook trail head is accessed via Carter Notch Road in back of Jackson, NH. The trail head has recently been relocated about 100 yards with a new parking lot and access trail. There are numerous stream crossings, some easy, some very wide, at the beginning of the trail, making it impossible to keep your boots or trail shoes dry. I wouldn’t recommend taking off your boots/shoes and socks and hiking across them in your bare feet – that would be inviting injury on the rock strewn stream bottoms.
Lisa was not too thrilled about getting her leather boots wet, the same Asolo boots that I wore before I switched to mesh trail runners after being baptized by wet boots in Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness. She’s been wavering on making the switch to trail runners and I believe this hike might finally push her over the edge!
After all of the stream crossings and trail mud, the Bog Brook Trail winds through an area that’s been flooded by beaver activity. The trail is a bit sketchy to follow through this area, but is flagged with tape (if you can find it). There are a lot of herd paths which peter out where people have gone down the wrong way…so remember which compass direction you need to follow to get to the Rainbow Trail and you’ll head in the right direction.
The Rainbow Trail Junction occurs shortly after the beaver dam and runs through an open area filled with berry bushes and mostly dead, topped birch trees. Ken reckons that this would be a great place to spot a bear in late July when the berries start to ripen.
While this section of the Rainbow trail is very pleasant, the best is yet to come.
Because you quickly pop out on an open sub-peak of Carter Dome which has tremendous views of its parent peak and Mt Washington. Ken’s fascination with this trail became readily apparent!
The remaining climb up to the viewless summit of Carter Dome is a short distance.
From there, Mt Hight is a 0.8 mile descent north along the Appalachian Trail. If you climb Carter Dome and don’t stop at Mt Hight to take in the incredible views from its open summit, you’re missing out big time.
Twisted is the trail name of a thru-hiker I met at a shelter in Virginia last April on the multi-week Appalachian Trail section hike I took last spring. He sat down next to me on Mt Hight while Ken, Lisa, and I were lounging on the summit and taking in the views. I asked him when he started hiking the AT this year and what his trail name was and we quickly recognized each other. Small world. Fate, if you like.
Running into one another like this was a bit of Trail Magic on this perfect day. Twisted had started hiking the AT on February 1st, which is quite early, and had struggled to hike through deep snow drifts without snowshoes at the beginning of his thru-hike. He showed pictures of his ordeal to Lisa and Ken, as I’d already seen them down south in April.
We caught up on the whereabouts of the other thru-hikers he’d been hiking north and I’d met in April, including Redfeather and Lucky. They’d all been the earliest hikers to reach Harper’s Ferry this year and will probably finish their thru-hikes by mid-July.
We parted ways with Twisted as he headed north through Zeta Pass and we hiked back toward Carter Dome, climbing down to Carter Notch and the AMC Hut to resupply our water and have a snack out of the wind. It’d been a long and glorious hike so far, but we still had a substantial hike out to get back to our cars.
Leaving the hut, we hiked out the Wildcat River Trail which is 4.3 miles back to the Bog Brook trail head. This is also a pretty hike along the cascades of the Wildcat River.
Partway, we encountered some fresh avalanche damage on the trail below the hut. There’s also a much longer avalanche path on the back of Wildcat “A” visible from the Carter Moriah Trail above the hut which must be related to this damage. It was a really a tough winter with a lot of snow.
By now, Lisa was really getting dejected about her wet boots and had to be coaxed across the final stream crossing. All was well however by our second round at the Shannon Door in Jackson over dinner.
The full route for this fantastic loop hike is as follows:
- Bog Brook Trail to Wild River Trail Junction (2.8 miles)
- Wild River Trail to Rainbow Trail Junction (0.7 miles)
- Rainbow Trail to Carter Dome Summit (2.5 miles)
- Carter Moriah Trail to Mt Hight (0.8 miles)
- Mt Hight to Carter Dome Summit via Carter Moriah Trail (0.8 miles)
- Carter Dome Summit to Carter Notch via Carter Moriah Trail (1.2 miles)
- Carter Notch Hut to Bog Brook Trail Junction via Wildcat River Trail (4.3 miles)
Total distance: 14.1 miles w/3650′ of elevation gain.