Three Sisters and Carter Ledge

Mountains:  Middle Sister (3340'), Third Sister, First Sister (3354'), Carter Ledge (2420')
Trails:  Piper Trail, Nickerson Ledge Trail, Carter LedgeTrail, Middle Sister Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Chocorua Region
Location:  Albany, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summits, views, ledges, rock scrambles, loop hike
Distance:  8.1 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2800 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 5:40  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 8:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  08/11/2007 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  01/23/2008  
Weather:  Clear and sunny
Author:  Sue Murphy
Companion:  Eight SDHers and two dogs

Route Summary   

Mt. Chocorua (photo by Mark Malnati) This is a loop hike that goes across Nickerson and Carter Ledges, traverses the Three Sisters, and then decends via an alternate trail. There are great views from the ledges as well as from the summits of the Three Sisters.

  • Start on Piper Trail in the parking lot behind Davies General Store.
  • At 1.2 miles bear right onto Nickerson Ledge Trail (ignore Weetamoo Trail to the left at 0.6 mile).
  • Nickerson Ledge Trail heads uphill from Piper Trail for 0.2, reaching Nickerson Ledge where there's an outlook, and then runs fairly level for its remaining 0.6 mile to Carter Ledge Trail.
  • Turn left onto Carter Ledge Trail and follow it for 1.7 miles where it ends upon bumping into Middle Sister Trail. This section of the Carter Ledge Trail is rougher with ledge scrambling but offers great views.
  • Turn left on Middle Sister Trail and follow it for 0.8 mile. First you'll pass over Third Sister, then go down a small dip, then ascend to Middle Sister. After descending from the summit of Middle Sister, and 0.4 mile along this trail, bear left at the junction with Champney Falls Cutoff to stay on Middle Sister Trail. Finally, climb over the top of First Sister and you will shortly reach the end of Middle Sister Trail where it meets with Champney Falls Trail coming in from the right.
  • Continue straight for another 80 yards, then turn left onto Piper Trail. Follow Piper Trail all the way back to the parking lot which is a descent of 3.6 miles.

Sue, Claudette, and Mary on the trail (photo by Mark Malnati)

Place         Split
Piper Trailhead (780') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Piper Trail/Nickerson Ledge Trail (1320') 1.2 1.2
Jct. Nickerson Ledge Trail/Carter Ledge Trail (1740') 0.8 2.0
Jct. Carter Ledge Trail/Middle Sister Trail (3150') 1.7 3.7
Middle Sister (3340') 0.3 4.0
Jct. Middle Sister Trail/Piper Trail (3200') 0.5 4.5
Piper Trailhead (780') 3.6 8.1



Map of hike route to Carter Ledge and the Three Sisters (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

Sue climbing (photo by Mark Malnati) What a beautiful day for a hike. There were 8 hikers and 2 dogs who happily headed up the Piper Trail at about 9:15 a.m. All of us chatting about the "perfect day for a hike"! At 1.2 miles we turned right and picked up the Nickerson Ledge Trail where we climbed 0.2 mile to the Nickerson ledge. It was there that Claudette announced the first (of several) "snack" breaks. We enjoyed the reprieve from climbing the steadily steep Nickerson Ledge Trail.

From there we continued on and picked up the Carter Ledge Trail. At the Carter Ledges Claudette insisted on another snack break (or was this lunch)? From there we had a spectacular view of Chocorua and the ridge from Blue Mountain to Mount Chocorua.

Deb and Mary climbing (photo by Mark Malnati) The troupe then continued on toward the ridge and Middle Sister Trail. When we reached the ledgy steep slope of Third Sister, Sure-footed Jack and mountain-goat Diane were already there to help us with our footing and give encouragement to Midas (dog!) who was having a hard time on the steep ledges. We successfully crossed the ledgy summit of Third Sister after another brief snack break called by... Claudette, of course.

The summit of Middle Sister has the remains of an old stone fire tower and was a perfect place for... another break. This was a beautiful spot with 360-degree views. We finished our lunches and Claudette even got in a short nap on one of the rocks. We continued on down a small col and back up to First Sister and the junction with the Piper Trail.

Mt. Chocorua (photo by Mark Malnati)

No one seemed too enthused about doing a quick run up Mount Chocorua which was a mere 0.6 mile from the junction so we continued down the 3.6 miles of the Piper trail to the parking lot. It was a wonderful hike and all agreed a "repeater".

Group at fire tower remains on Middle Sister (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trailhead is located on Rt. 16 in Albany behind Davies Campground and General Store. It is 6.1 miles south of the junction between Rt. 16 and Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Highway).


Davies Campground and General Store

More Three Sisters and Carter Ledges Trail Reports   

Hats (photo by Mark Malnati) Claudette on break (photo by Mark Malnati)


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