An Arabis species in flower near the summit in early May (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)



West Rattlesnake Mountain

Mountain:  West Rattlesnake Mtn. (1260')
Trails:  Old Bridle Path, Ridge Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
Lakes Region
Location:  Holderness, NH
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Summit, ledges, rare plant species
Distance:  2.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  Approximately 450 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 1:10  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 2:15  
Season:  Variable
Last Updated:  05/17/2011  
Author:  New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau

This information has been reproduced (with permission) from New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau. Below you'll find trail information as well as detailed natural information.

The view from West Rattlesnake's ledges (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Route Summary   

This hike goes to the summit of West Rattlesnake Mountain and offers fantastic views of Squam Lake and its many islands at the foot of the mountain.

  • Follow the yellow-blazed Old Bridle Path for 0.9 mile to its end which will lead you to rocky outcrops with fantastic views.
  • Shortly before the end of Old Bridle Path, Ramsey Trail will leave to the right. Then a bit farther along, Pasture Trail will veer to the right and Ridge Trail will go to the left. Go left to reach the summit of West Rattlesnake in less than 0.1 mile.
  • Return via the same route or read the text and map below for options on making a loop and/or extending the hike.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Old Bridle Path Trailhead on Rt. 113 (810') 0.0 0.0
West Rattlesnake Mtn. summit (1260') 1.0 1.0
Old Bridle Path Trailhead on Rt. 113 (810') 1.0 2.0

Rich Red Oak Rocky Woods   

View from the top of the ledges at West Rattlesnake The views from the open outcrops at The Rattlesnakes are reason enough to visit, but the forest below the steep ledges is special as well. The dripping overhangs right below the cliffs support a variety of moisture-laden mosses and lichens. Lower down, a mix of medium-size trees grow among the mossy boulders of the talus slope.

The community here is rich red oak rocky woods, with a thin canopy dominated by red oak (Quercus rubra), white oak (Q. alba), red pine (Pinus resinosa), and maples (Acer sp.), with occasional white pine trees (Pinus strobus), basswood (Tilia americana), and hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) throughout.

The understory flora is diverse as well, containing rich soil indicator species such as rock cresses (Arabis sp.), hepatica (Anemone hepatica), and flat-leaved sedge (Carex platyphylla).

rock sandwort is a rare plant species that grows on and below the ledges at West Rattlesnake (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Some other common plant species in this woodland include wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis), marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis), harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), Solomon's seal (Polygonatum pubescens), false Solomon's seal (Maianthemum racemosum), pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).

The rare plants fern-leaved false foxglove (Aureolaria pedicularia var. pedicularia) and rock sandwort (Minuartia michauxii) grow on some of the ledges here. Below the talus, the forest thickens and becomes less rich as it nears Pinehurst Road at the bottom.

Due to its size and condition, this community occurrence is considered exemplary by the NH Natural Heritage Bureau.

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Map of Rattlesnake Mtn. (map by Ben Kimball for NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Lilium philadelphicum (wood lily) in bloom near the Pasture Trail on West Rattlesnake in late June (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
 

Wild columbine in flower near the trail in early May (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Ascending the Old Bridle Path in early May (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Polygonum douglasii (Douglas' knotweed) is an inconspicuous rare plant that grows right at the edge of the open ledges on West Rattlesnake. It's habitat is very fragile, so please be careful! (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)


Leaves of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi on top of the ledges (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
  Trail Guide   

Rubus odoratus (purple-flowering raspberry) in bloom along the Ramsey Trail in late June (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) This guide primarily describes the biodiversity seen along the Old Bridle Path and at the pink granite outcrops near the top of West Rattlesnake Mountain. The ledges on East Rattlesnake are quite similar however (usually with fewer visitors), and a well-maintained network of other hiking trails can also be explored in the vicinity.

Entering the woods at the Old Bridle Path trailhead, look for a wide mix of tree species indicative of a forest recovering from past management. The natural community here is hemlock - beech - oak - pine forest, one of the most common upland forest types in southern and central parts of the state.

As you approach West Rattlesnake’s outcrops, the forest thins out and red pine (Pinus resinosa) becomes a common tree. Red oak (Quercus rubra) appears as well. Look left for a shrubby wetland filled with highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and moss hummocks.

Douglas' knotweed (Polygonum douglasii) grows in the thin soil on and to the sides of the outcrops here. This small, wispy herb is rare in New Hampshire, known from only about a dozen locations. The habitat for this species has been heavily disturbed in the past, and several dirt "islands" have been marked off with stone rings in an effort to protect it. Great care should be taken to not step or sit on the vegetation or soil here. Foot traffic should be limited to existing trails and bare rock.

Several other species growing on the dry outcrops of the red oak - pine rocky ridge community include ground juniper (Juniperus communis), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), rock spikemoss (Selaginella rupestris), and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).

The sweeping view from West Rattlesnake is classic New Hampshire, encompassing Squam Lake and its many forested islands, bald eagle roosts, and mountains in the distance. The actual summit of the mountain is a few hundred feet to the north in the woods along the Ridge Trail.

View from West Rattlesnake of Squam Lake in March  (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Aureolaria pedicularia var. intercedens (fern-leaved false foxglove), a rare plant found at West Rattlesnake Mtn. (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)


Descending to the east of the ledges, the Pasture Trail immediately enters the woods and briefly passes through a small but exemplary red oak - ironwood - Pennsylvania sedge woodland. This uncommon natural community type is notable for the “grassy” lawn of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) that carpets the ground and the park-like nature of the tree canopy. Herbaceous species such as rusty woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis) are indicative of dry, rich soil conditions. Several other species you may see here include brightly colored wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum), hepatica (Anemone hepatica), and several species of rock cress (Arabis sp.).

From the west side of the outcrops, the Ramsey Trail drops steeply to the south. Along with the mostly flat Undercut Path, it provides a possible loop route back to the parking lot. This is also the best way to see the exemplary rich red oak rocky woods (see description above) that occurs below the ledges. In late summer, look for the bright yellow flowers of fern-leaved false foxglove (Aureolaria pedicularia var. pedicularia), a rare plant which grows in profusion along this trail.

top of the ledges at West Rattlesnake in spring  (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) The Armstrong Natural Area encompasses the open outcrops of West Rattlesnake as well as much of the surrounding vicinity. Named after the original owners when they donated the land to the University of New Hampshire, the site is intended for recreation and education. There are currently very few property designations like this in the state. Hopefully this inspiring site will serve as a model to encourage protection of others in the future.

Five Finger Point   

Connected to the Rattlesnakes trail network is the loop trail around Five Finger Point, a scenic peninsula that juts out into Squam Lake. On this trail you pass through a diverse and exemplary hemlock - beech - oak - pine forest, a portion of which is virgin old growth. The trail also passes close to several other interesting natural communities, including pristine rocky lakeshore, several small, sandy beaches in sheltered coves, and a boggy black gum - red maple basin swamp.

This is one of the northernmost occurrences of black gum (black tupelo), a tree species at the northern edge of its range in New Hampshire. Biologists value these populations since the individuals growing in them typically possess significant genetic variations from the ones growing closer to the center of the species’ range, and as such they are important elements of biodiversity.
 
Ledges on top of West Rattlesnake Mtn. (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

 


NH - Central East



Trailhead for Old Bridle Path up West Rattlesnake (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Ledges on top of West Rattlesnake Mtn. (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)



Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac) on the ledges at West Rattlesnake in late June (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
  Driving Directions   

The trailhead for Old Bridle Path is located in Holderness, New Hampshire along Route 113.

  • From I-93, take Rt. 3 east to Holderness.
  • From Holderness, follow Rt. 113 (a slow, curvy road) northeast for about 5.5 miles.
  • At the top of a hill, just past Pinehurst Road on the right, park in the small lot on the left side of the road and then cross the road to the trailhead for the Old Bridle Path. You may also park on the right-hand side of the road.

Note that there is no parking at the trailheads for the Ramsey Trail or the Five Finger Point Trail. If parking in this vicinity, vehicles should park off the road before the gate on Pinehurst Road (about 1/4 mile east of trailhead), taking care to not block the gate.

Other Notes   

Note that this trail may be closed during mud season.

Property Use Guidelines   

This property is open to the public for recreation and education. Please, for the protection of the area and its inhabitants, and for everyone’s enjoyment:
  • Foot travel only; please stay on the marked trails
  • No horses, bicycles, or motor vehicles allowed
  • No camping or fires
  • Do not collect or disturb plants or animals
  • Please respect private property
  • Carry out all trash and litter

Credits   

This property owned and managed by The University of New Hampshire Office of Woodlands and Natural Areas.

The University of New Hampshire owns and manages a portion of this site as a natural area. In keeping with the educational and research goals of the University, natural areas are intended to remain kept in a natural state for the purpose of study. Recreational activities are promoted on all UNH lands. The trails at the Rattlesnakes are maintained by the Squam Lakes Conservation Society. For more information, contact the UNH Office of Woodlands and Natural Areas: woodlands@unh.edu

This brochure was created by the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau as part of a series designed to educate the public about the state’s special plants and natural communities. For more brochures, visit: New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau.

NH Division of Forests & Lands - DRED
172 Pembroke Road - PO Box 1856
Concord, NH 03301-1856
Tel: (603) 271-2215
Fax: (603) 271-6488
The DFL is an equal opportunity employer and educator.

This brochure was paid for with funds from the NH Conservation License Plate www.mooseplate.com

More Rattlesnake Reports   


Five Finger Point and The Rattlesnakes (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

  Locator map (map by Ben Kimball for NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Locator map (map by Ben Kimball for NH Natural Heritage Bureau)



 

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