The Carter Creek valley is one of the most outstanding, beautiful and pristine locations we have visited in Colorado. Please keep this area that way. The difficulty of access will help keep out some of those that would destroy and leave litter and waste. While there are no 13ers to access directly from this drainage, there are several high 12ers that offer some nice Class 2+ and even Class 3 scramble routes.
For Carter Creek: Follow the approach directions for the Savage Lakes. Before arriving at the lowest Savage Lake, no more than a quarter mile back from the lowest lake, the trail to Carter Lake turns off with a small wooden sign as a marker for Trail #1944 at 11,000 ft. The trail heads back to the WNW and loses precious elevation of 640 feet as it drops back down to Cater Lake. The trail does little change in elevation the first .85 mile,, then it begins to drop on a series of four broad turns or switchbacks for an additional .65 mile. Total distance from the intersection near lower Savage Lake is 1.5 mile. An additional note: We found one internet report of someone who claimed to have followed a trail directly to Carter Lake from where Carter Creek crosses CR 4B. We did locate a trail there on the east side of the creek and there is some parking room there. That trail soon disappeared amid a myriad fallen logs within ten minutes of leaving the road. We never could find it again, if there even was one. What we did find was that it was possible to bushwhack generally north to NNE and intersect the trail#1944 coming in from Savage Lakes. This bushwhack gained about 1,000 feet in elevation and was difficult with full packs. It consisted of crossing numerous fallen logs, marshy areas, boulder piles, short cliffs and lots of vegetation. Not for the inexperienced or those with a poor sense of direction.
Once at Carter Lake, this is where we found major discrepancies with both the USGS map and the Trails Illustrated map. Both of these indicate that the trail circles around the east side of the lake, close to the lake shore. While we did find a trail heading that way for a short while, it eventually played out and we found ourselves in a major bushwhack to continue up valley. We later discovered on our exit hike out that the trail at Carter Lake, crosses the lake outlet. When you reach the lake coming from the Savage Lake trail, make a left turn to walk along the bank and then cross at the outlet on logs. On the other side is a wooded promontory that the trail circles around, to the right, then back left. There is camping on that promontory. Continue on the trail which is now on the west side of Carter Creek. The trail gains elevation up through a forested area, then moves out onto a more open slope through heavy vegetation. Right about where the Nast quad and the Mt. Jackson quad join, the trail up Carter Creek departs the Trail #1944 (aka: The Henderson Park Trail) and continues upstream, still on the west side of the creek. The Henderson Trail leaves at a switchback and heads SW. This is an important junction. If going up Carter Creek, do not turn back to the SW. Vegetation may make this turn difficult to spot. The Carter Trail is a primitive trail and may not receive any maintenance.
Past that intersection, continue north, then NE to a small pond marked on the map at 10,660 ft. Follow the trail on the SE side of the pond. The trail will lead toward the stream a little past the pond. There may be a trail that appears to continue on the west side of the stream and in the direction of a narrow, rocky gorge that the stream flows out of. Do not follow it. Instead, cross the stream at a not to evident crossing at these approximate coordinates: N 39° 22' 52.98" W 106° 32' 22.89". The trail will lead up onto an elongated rock outcrop with sparse trees that follows along the SE side of the creek. In a fairly short distance, this rock "fin" will end depositing you back to the creek and into some willows. This is the second critical creek crossing. The trail makes a path through willows for a short distance, then breaks out of those willows, heads uphill some and then continues up valley, now back on the NW side of Carter Creek. Coordinates for this second crossing are: N 39° 22' 59.71" W 106° 32' 08.58". From this point on, the trial becomes easier to follow and remains on the west side of the creek all the way to the first lake. Wanting to camp in or near some trees for hanging food, we found a nice campsite on the opposite side of the creek near these coordinates, approximated from Google Earth: N 39° 23' 05.42" W 106° 32' 01.54". Elevation 11,000 ft.
From the lowest lake, the trail continues all the way to the head of Carter Creek. Most of the time, you can follow it without much difficulty but patches of snow lingering into July may obscure the trail at times. When in doubt, just keep near the main watercourse. At the head of the Carter drainage, a short drop of less than 200 feet north deposits you into the headwaters of Cross Creek. Blodgett Lake is a short walk on easy terrain once you make the drop. It is certainly worth the visit and holds trout.
Campsites are few in the Carter drainage. If you prefer trees, you may want to try for the campsite we mention above. If you desire higher elevation camping, then you will likely need to create your own spot farther up valley. If you make it all the way to Blodgett Lake, there is some nice tundra camping there.