Kids Combo: West Rattlesnake Hike & Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

West Rattlesnake Summit View of Squam Lakes

Distance: 2 miles (round trip)
Time: 1.5 to 3 hrs (depending on length of legs and picnic)
Difficulty: Family Hike

Looking for a fun-filled family adventure? The Old Bridle Path trail on West Rattlesnake Mountain is a short but oh-so-sweet hike for kids of all ages. Tag team it with a trip to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, home to black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles and many other animals native to New Hampshire, and there won’t be any haggling over bed time…adults included.

West Rattlesnake Hike
Chances are the kiddos will be most looking forward to the Squam Lakes Science Center visit, so the best bet for trail civility is to start the day with a hike and picnic on West Rattlesnake Mountain in Holderness. The Old Bridle Path Trail is extremely popular so it’s a case where all the trail wear helps make the walk easy for little legs. Aside from an occasional rock and a bunch of log steps, which are small enough for children to conquer, the trail is mostly free of roots and other tripping debris.

West Rattlesnake Old Bridle Path

There are a lot of steps on the Old Bridle Path hike, but they’re just right for little legs.

With approximately 450 feet in elevation gain on the mile-long trail, the ups are gradual and short lived. There’s also a healthy dosage of flattish terrain to keep the little engines running. Most of the hike occurs in thick hardwood forest, which presents many opportunities to observe nature (there’s a good writeup on the plant life here). We saw several lady slippers on our trek.

West Rattlesnake Old Bridle Path Flat Stretch

See, easy peasy.

A short distance before the summit is a scenic lookout on the right side of the trail. The view isn’t much different from that of another lookout just prior to the summit, but it’s still a fun diversion with a large, climbable rock outcropping for older kids.

The first viewpoint on the Old Bridle Path shortly before the summit.

The first viewpoint on the Old Bridle Path shortly before the summit.

West Rattlesnake Old Bridle Path View

The view from the first lookout isn’t much different from further up the trail, but who can pass this up?

Kids will love climbing the outcropping. It helps to have a leaf sweep to brush away debris.

Kids will love climbing the outcropping. It helps to have a leaf sweep to brush away debris.

A couple different trails come in near the summit, including the Ridge Trail that splits left from the second outcropping and goes for 0.1 mile to the summit. The second viewpoint/rock outcropping serves as the “good enough” summit for most and the best spot for a picnic with magnificent views of Squam Lakes and the many islands that polka dot the landscape.

West Rattlesnake Summit View

Close enough to the summit to count. Break out the picnic!

The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
Get ready for a great time. As the carrot you can dangle for good behavior throughout the morning hike, and at least a couple of days in advance, the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center doesn’t disappoint. There are a variety of nature trails to go along with the animal and educational exhibits, so it’s possible to get a healthy dose of hiking in here alone. Before visiting, New Hampshire residents should check with their local library, as it’s very possible the library will have discount passes available.

Squam Lakes Science Center Boardwalk

A boardwalk along the main loop trail at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Trail.

While there are a variety of nature walk opportunities at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, there’s a main loop that leads visitors through the educational and animal exhibits. The boardwalk above crosses a wetland where we were able to get a close-up view of a large turtle in its natural habitat. Overall the educational pieces are extremely well done for children of all ages with many hands-on, interactive learning opportunities; kids can learn what it’s like to be a chipmunk by crawling through a tunnel, test their four appendages on a spider’s web, and see how they measure up to a moose and white-tail deer.

Squam Lakes Science Center Deer Measurement

Growing like a sprout, but not quite white-tail deer height yet.

As a very big kid, one of the many things I learned on our visit is that loons migrate to the ocean in the winter. I never knew! I was also very impressed with the animal exhibits. Unlike traditional zoos where the animals are in a cage and often hiding out of view in their “den,” the Squam Lakes exhibits are designed to showcase the creatures in their natural habitats (as close as possible, anyway) and they’re always visible. If there’s an animal you can’t see, keep looking, it’s their natural camouflage doing its duty.

Red-Shouldered Hawk at Squam Lakes Science Center

The red-shouldered hawk striking a pose.

A Bald Eagle at Squam Lakes Science Center

A young bald eagle stretching its massive wing. On our visit we learned that bald eagles don’t get their white feathers until 4-5 years of age.

A Black Bear at Squam Lakes Science Center

This black bear was busy using a tree trunk as a back scratch. Good thing, too, because I wasn’t about to lend a hand.

A Mountain Lion at Squam Lakes Science Center

One of the mountain lions playing it cool. It was hard to say who was watching who.

Directions
Both the West Rattlesnake hike and the Squam Lakes Science Center are located on Route 113 in Holderness, a short distance from I-93. Take exit 24 on I-93 and follow Route 3 for about four miles to the intersection with Route 113 on the left. From the intersection, Squam Lakes is 200 yards up 113 on the left and the West Rattlesnake parking lot for the Old Bridle Path Trail is 5.5 miles on the right.

Tags
Posted in
Family Hikes, New Hampshire
Related Posts
    Wow! You made it all the way to the bottom. If you enjoyed this article, please check out my book, Open Season: True Stories of the Maine Warden Service on Amazon or at www.wardenstories.com. You can also follow Northeast Hikes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as contribute to our sponsored Google+ Community.

    What do you think?

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    *