Visiting New Hampshire's Biodiversity


West Rattlesnake Mountain: Rocky Outcrops & Rare Plants



Description: This very scenic hike leads up a mile-long trail to open, pink granite outcrops with twisted pine trees that overlook the island-speckled body of Squam Lake. The sweeping view from West Rattlesnake Mtn. is classic New Hampshire, encompassing the lake and its many forested islands, bald eagle roosts, and mountains in the distance.

Douglas' knotweed (Polygonum douglasii) grows in the thin soil on and to the sides of the dry 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 the remaining patches. 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 plant species that can be seen growing on these ledges are ground juniper (Juniperus communis), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), rock spikemoss (Selaginella rupestris), and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). 

While the views from the red oak - pine rocky ridge community that occurs on the open outcrops of West Rattlesnake Mtn. are reason enough to visit, 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. These can be seen by descending a short way down the Ramsey Trail. Slightly 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, which has 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). 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. intercedens) and rock sandwort (Minuartia michauxii) grow on some of the ledges here.



Directions: From Holderness, take Rte. 113 north about 4 miles to a parking area on the left. Trailhead is across the road. Take trail about a mile east to the top of the ledges of West Rattlesnake Mtn.

Landowner: University of NH (trails managed by Squam Lakes Association)


Site Guide and Map

Images (hold mouse over image for caption)

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) An Arabis species in flower near the summit in early May (photo by Ben Kimball for the 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) Rubus odoratus (purple-flowering raspberry) in bloom along the Ramsey Trail in late June (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

View from West Rattlesnake of Squam Lake in March  (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) top of the ledges at West Rattlesnake in spring  (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) Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac) on the ledges at West Rattlesnake in late June (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

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) View from the top of the ledges at West Rattlesnake

Ascending the Old Bridle Path in early May Wild columbine in flower near the trail in early May (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)

The view from West Rattlesnake's ledges (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)

Five Finger Point and The Rattlesnakes. Photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau.
Five Finger Point and The Rattlesnakes

West Rattlesnake Map (USGS topo quad)

West Rattlesnake Mtn trail guide
site guide

Link: www.squamlakes.org/

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