Carters and Wildcats Traverse

We saved the Carters and Wildcats Traverse until the second to last hike of our 48. It’s reputation held up: steep and rocky sections, lots of mileage, and not necessarily as exciting as the Presi Traverse or Pemi Loop. However, with the end of the 48 in sight, we pressed on and tackled this traverse, minus Moriah, in one day.


Elevation Gain
0 ft


Segment Distance

Total Distance

Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at Imp Trailhead
3.2 mi3.2 miImp Trail (south fork) to North Carter Trail
1.2 mi4.4 miContinue up North Carter Trail to Carter-Moriah Trail
0.6 mi5 miCarter-Moriah Trail to summit of Middle Carter Mountain
1.3 mi6.3 miContinue to summit of South Carter Mountain
1.2 mi7.5 miContinue to summit of Mt Height (take spur loop to the left)
0.7 mi8.2 miContinue to summit of Carter Dome
1.2 mi9.4 miDescend to Carter Notch (the hut is a short distance off the traverse) (steepest descent ever!)
0.7 mi10.1 miWildcat Ridge Trail to summit of Wildcat Mountain (steep ascent)
2 mi12.1 miContinue to summit of Wildcat D
2.5 mi14.6 miDown Wildcat Ski Trails


Wildcats Carters Map

Hiking the Carters and Wildcats Traverse

The Carters and Wildcats Traverse is notoriously challenging, both in terms of logistical planning and terrain. Located approximately 3 hours from Boston, it was too far for us to drive to, hike, and drive home from in one day. On a Friday afternoon, we drove up to White Lake State Park in Tamworth, NH to camp for one night. The campground was beautiful ($25 per night or $30 per night with a water view)! While we did not book a water view campsite, the beach was just a short 5-minute walk away and was equipped with grills, picnic tables, and playgrounds. We got to the campsite just in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the mountains. 

White Lake State Park Tamworth
Sunset at White Lake State Park Tamworth

Just outside of Boston we realized we forgot our sleeping bags, making hammock camping impossible – daytime temperatures were comfortable, but it would be in the 40s overnight! We considered turning back and saving the Carters and Wildcats Traverse for another day, but we were so close to finishing the 48 and we did not want to pass up a weekend of great weather. What did we do? Stopped at Target, bought a cheap blanket, and turned our Prius into an RV by collapsing the rear seats and laying our camping pads out. We rolled down the windows just a bit for ventilation and while it was not the best night of sleep, Prius RV did the trick.

Carters Wildcats_Car RV
Car RV

The next morning we woke early to get started on the long 14+ mile day. Traditionally, Mt. Moriah is included in the Carters and Wildcats Traverse, but we intentionally hiked it separately to save us about 4 mi of hiking. If you want to do this hike in one day and are concerned about miles and elevation, potentially consider our route. With a different start and endpoint, you either need a carspot or some creativity and flexibility to make sure you can get to your vehicle at the end of the hike. Without a second car, we decided to use a bike spot, which was surprisingly easy. Kevin dropped me off at the Imp trailhead, drove about 4 miles to the Wildcat Mountain Ski Resort, parked the car in the parking lot (open all year-round) then biked to the trailhead. Kevin locked his bike to a tree tucked away just off the trail and we picked it up at the end of the hike. If you are considering a bikespot, hike from north to south so that the bike ride is completely downhill!

We started up Imp Trail in the early morning fog and loved the light peeking through the trees. Climbing towards our first peak, we popped above treeline for a brief moment and saw our first undercast ever! Perhaps it was not as spectacular as other undercasts, but for us, it was enough to jump for joy and to move quickly to the summit of Middle Carter to see the Presis poking out of clouds flowing over the ridge (Read about this feeling in the poem Mountain Waves).

Carters Wildcats_Imp Trail
Morning Light on the Imp Trail
Carters Wildcats_Presis Undercast
The Presis Above an Undercast
Carters Wildcats Traverse_Undercast
Waves of Clouds

With our spirits soaring, we continued 1.3 mi to the summit of South Carter Mountain, pausing briefly for a quick rest. From there, we went through Zeta pass and up Mt. Height – not a 4,000 footer, but supposedly a great view. It was totally socked in with cloud cover for us, so we’ll have to find out for ourselves another day. After another 0.8 mi of quick down and up we summited Carter Dome, still in the clouds, and paused to rest at the large cairn.

The descent from Carter Dome into Carter Notch may have been the steepest 1.2 mi downhill stretch we’ve hiked. Once in the notch, we had lunch by the larger of Carter Lakes. We walked the short 0.2 mi over to Carter Notch Hut, but didn’t find public bathrooms. If you are passing by and want a place to sit and rest, head over there, but if you don’t need to be inside, hang by the lakes and then move along.

Carters Wildcats_Carter Notch
Carter Notch

The 0.7 mi climb out of Carter Notch up to summit of Wildcat A was also pretty steep and we passed many hikers traveling the opposite way ready to be done with their descent. We blew by the small viewpoint area on Wildcat A that was crowded with a large group and kept trucking along the forested path.

Carters Wildcats_Climbing Wildcat D
Climbing Wildcat D

2 mi more along the ridge brought us to the summit of Wildcat D at the top of the ski slopes. There is a platform at the top that offers sweeping views of the Presis across the valley. The peaks were still in the clouds, but there was enough sun to brighten the landscape beautifully for us.

Carters Wildcats Traverse_View of Presis from Wildcat D
View of Presis from Wildcat D

Here, we were joined by a few groups and families who took the chair lift up for the views. This provides a great opportunity to have non-hiking family or friends meet you at the end of one of your hikes, or maybe for your 48 finish if you so choose.

We hiked down the ski slopes of Wildcat Mountain staying to the right when possible to take the most gradual descent down the Polecat trail, a green dot ski trail. This was easy to follow and really, every ski slope will take you to the base. Just follow the areas that aren’t covered with waist-high grass, keep walking downhill, and you’ll be fine.

Carters Wildcats_Ski Slope Hiking
Hiking Down the Wildcat Ski Slopes

When we got down, we were able to go into the ski lodge, open in the off-season for ziplining and such, to get a refueling drink and use the facilities. Always a nice bonus at the end of a long hiking day.

Wildcats and Carters (minus Moriah) Traverse Tips

  • Hike down the ski slopes – this will save your knees a bit. It isn’t the most scenic of “trails,” but it gets you there after a long 12 miles already
  • Hike Mt. Moriah separately – this makes the traverse a lot more manageable in 1 day.
  • Wildcat D chairlift – if you are finishing the 48 on this hike, have your family and/or friends meet you at the top of Wildcat D! There is a chairlift that takes you there. Sorry, you have to walk down for it to count for your 48 list.
  • Bike spot – if you decide to do a bike spot, park at the Wildcat Mountain Ski Resort and bike to start at Imp Trail (hike from north to south) so that the ride is completely downhill!

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  1. Terry Blackburne-Lee
    April 8, 2020

    It was so creative of your to turn your Prius into a make shift tent for the night. I like your advice to hike down the ski slopes because you know there will probably be a lodge or something at the base. Love your posts!

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