Carter Dome is the southern most peak of the Carters. It is the highest in elevation of the range and is ranked as the 9th highest of the New Hampshire 4,000 footers. There are various routes to approach its scrub-treed summit where there are views to the west and north. It is another former fire tower mountain but today little remains the old structure. It is a nice day hike when done in combination with Mt. Hight (4,675). While Hight has a lower elevation and is not officially on the 4,000 footers list it does offer much better views in all directions from its bare, treeless summit. In fact some of the best views in the entire Carter-Moriah range are found here.
The dogs and I approached Carter Dome from the 19-mile brook trail located on NH 16 about 1 mile from the Mt. Washington auto road. It has a small parking area that is also a shuttle stop for the AMC. There are no facilities at this parking area and it is right on the road so be mindful of your dogs. The trail follows the bank of the Nineteen Mile Brook at an easy to moderate grade. At 1.9 miles it intersects with the Carter Dome Trail, a viable option for gaining the summits of both Hight and Carter Dome, however we chose to continue on 19-Mile Brook Trail for another 1.7 miles to the junction with the Carter-Moriah Trail and the impressive scenery in Carter Notch.
Carter Notch is a deep cleft between Carter Dome and Wildcat Mountain. It offers some spectacular scenery of both mountains as well as the two Carter lakes. This is also a good opportunity for wildlife viewing as animals such as moose sometimes congregate in the high elevation lakes. If you need water the AMC Carter Notch Hut is located here at 3,288 feet or water can be obtained from the lakes if treated properly before consumed. From the shore of Carter Lake the Carter-Moriah (Appalachian Trail) trail climbs up steeply at first and them moderately gains the ridgeline leading to the summit of Carter Dome in 1.2 miles.
After enjoying the vistas from the top of Carter Dome continue north on the Carter-Moriah trail to the unencumbered views from Mt. Hight. Caution is advised on the summit of Mt. Hight because the trail makes a sharp left turn and is visibility is poor it can be easy to wander off a side trail that soon vanishes. The Carter-Moriah trail descends quickly to rejoin the Carter Dome Trail at 2.4 miles and then at 2.6 miles the Carter Dome Trail goes left towards NH 16. The Carter-Moriah trail continues to follow the ridgeline of the Carter Range North toward Mt. Moriah and Gorham, NH.
Depending on your objectives for distance hiking, you can continue on the Carter-Moriah trail, we however chose to descend the Carter Dome trail and reconnect with the 19 Mile Brook Trail back to the parking area on NH 16. The Carter Dome trail follows another old service route to the former fire tower on the summit of Carter Dome. It is a steady and moderate grade the entire way either up or down. Watch your footing upon descent, this trail is less exposed than the Carter-Moriah trail but can also stay wetter for longer periods of time, thus making for a slippery descent at certain times of year. At mile .08 (from Careter-Moriah) there is a spring with a readily available source of water. Then you descend seven switchbacks and at the bottom there is a small waterfall that offers both water and some scenery. At mile 1.4 (from Carter-Moriah) the trail crosses a tributary of the 19 Mile Brook and at 1.9 mi it rejoins the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. From here it is an easy descent back to NH 16 in another 1.9 miles.
Over all this was a nice loop hike with a variety of scenery, from the Carter lakes in the notch, to the unencumbered views of Mt. Washington valley and surrounding mountains from Mt. Hight. It was not overly challenging for the dogs and there were no sections of the trail that were worrisome. The ascent to Carter Dome from the Carter Notch was the steepest and most exposed section of the trail but it was not overly dangerous for an experienced dog and hiker. There are ample opportunities for water in this area, so that never became an issue. Use caution on the 19 Mile Brook Trail at cold times of year because the water can freeze and make for icy trail conditions. The Carter-Moriah section of this trail is also exposed so be prepared with an exit strategy if the weather changes.
Distances From Parking on NH 16:
Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to Carter Dome Junction 1.9 Miles
Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to Carter-Moriah Junction 3.6 Miles
Carter Dome Summit 4.8 Miles
Mt Hight 5.6 Miles
Carter-Moriah to Carter Dome Trail 6.2 Miles
Carter Dome to Nineteen Mile Brook Trail 8.1 Miles
Nineteen Mile Brook Trail To Parking Lot 10
Entire Loop Trail= 10