West Rattlesnake Mtn.
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)
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Five Finger Point and The Rattlesnakes