Fun Hikes in the Squam Lake Region

A single granite post stands near the summit. Mount Livermore’s summit offers another fine view of Squam Lake.
A single granite post stands near the summit. Mount Livermore’s summit offers another fine view of Squam Lake.

Amy Patenaudeby Amy Patenaude
Outdoor/Ski Writer

Mount Percival, Mount Morgan, Rattlesnakes and Mount Livermore

The Crawford-Ridgepole Trail begins near Cotton Mountain, just north of the Science Center and traverses the summits of the mountains that make up the Squam Range before ending at the Sandwich Notch Road.

From the top of Mount Percival’s ledges are big views of Squam Lake. The two bumps below and in front of the Lake are East and West Rattlesnake Mountain and Red Hill is on the other side of the Lake on the left.
From the top of Mount Percival’s ledges are big views of Squam Lake. The two bumps below and in front of the Lake are East and West Rattlesnake Mountain and Red Hill is on the other side of the Lake on the left.

Smack in the middle of the Squam Range are the ledgy summits of Mount Morgan and Mount Percival. These two peaks are the most popular in the Squam Range for their beauty and that they can be hiked via a scenic 5 mile loop. Their summits are connected by a segment of the Crawford-Ridgepole Trail and the half mile long Morse Trail connects their trailhead parking lots (on Rte 113, five miles from Rte 3 in Holderness). The hike can be made in clockwise or counter-clockwise direction beginning from either trailhead.
I started up the Mount Morgan Trail a short distance before taking a right onto the Morse Trail, I like leaving my car where I plan to end. I turned left up the Mount Percival Trail; it is less than two miles to the summit. The trail is mostly mild with decent footing and climbs gradually until the trail becomes steeper for the last third of a mile. The trail reaches a fork with just a tenth of a mile from the summit. Here is where you must decide which path you will take—go left up over and through the ledges or go right to the easier route bypassing the excitement and danger! IMG_20150715_164836433

Just below Mount Morgan’s summit there is an option to take a challenging path that requires climbing these ladders and crawling through a boulder cave that pops outs on a cliff-top with great views.
Just below Mount Morgan’s summit there is an option to take a challenging path that requires climbing these ladders and crawling through a boulder cave that pops outs on a cliff-top with great views.

I opted for the ledge route and it is seriously difficult, but the reward is well worth it if you like the thrill of clinging to a cliff. There are painted blazes and arrows leading the way up and over large rocks and through a narrow boulder cave. After crossing a flat ledge the paths rejoin for a short climb to the summit, elevation 2, 212 feet.
From Percival it is a quick hop of 8/10th of a mile on the Crawford-Ridgepole Trail to Mount Morgan’s summit, but I skipped the spur to the summit and continued down the trail. When I reached an intersection similar to the one on Percival just below its summit, I decided to follow it back up to the top of Mount Morgan. This spur trail is fun. Not far after leaving the main trail there is a series of steep ladders and at the top of the ladders is a tight boulder cave to climb through before reaching a nice view ledge. This trail is less difficult than the ledge trail on Percival but it is still a challenge—kids will dig it.
I head down the spur trail and repeat the section of trail that I took down to the rocks and ladders trail. Definitely worth the effort to descend the trail to ascend the ladders! Please don’t be foolish and attempt either of these steep challenging paths in wet weather and it is best to only go up these trails. The trails are unmarked on the top to seriously discourage their use for descending. The extra tenth of a mile of hiking to do these challenging routes is well worth the extra effort and fun.
The walk through the woods back to my car was pleasant and it was nice to visit these summits once again.

Charlie and I hiked Rattlesnake Mountain following lesser used trails to reach its peaks.  Here is Charlie at the intersection of Ridge and Col Trails.
Charlie and I hiked Rattlesnake Mountain following lesser used trails to reach its peaks. Here is Charlie at the intersection of Ridge and Col Trails.

A few weeks ago Charlie and I decided to stop by Rattlesnake Mountain on our way north. West and East Rattle is a big hill on Squam Lake. East is the highest peak at elevation 1,289 feet but West has the more impressive ledges high above Squam Lake. Most people ascend from the easiest trail, the Old Bridle Path and on a nice day there can be hundreds of people enjoying the grand view from its wide ledges.
Since it was a late Friday afternoon with the sky threatening rain, we didn’t meet anyone on the trail plus we decided to do a loop of using less popular trails. At the gate at the end of Pinehurst Road there is limited room to park in a small area off the dirt road on the right. We went up the East Rattlesnake Trail; there is a nice view ledge just below the summit. There aren’t good views from the top of East. We then followed the Ridge Trail down and then up to West Rattlesnake. There were two people bird watching when we arrived just in time to scare off a woodpecker they were admiring. The clouds were high enough so we could see Squam’s water and the closest mountains.
We returned down the Pasture Trail. These trails are steeper but the foot bed is softer since they are less traveled. All the Rattlesnake paths are lovely and relatively short, just less than a mile one way.
From the East Rattlesnake Trailhead there is a path that leads to the Five Finger Point Trail and right down to the water’s edge of Squam Lake. I ran it not long ago and I hope to go back on a hot sunny day. The approach to the loop on Five Finger Point descends just under a mile to loop trail along the point’s water. The path passes by several sandy beaches that must be wonderful places to picnic and swim. If it weren’t for my map I would have never learned of this area.

A short distance south of Old Mountain Road on the Old Highway is the Prescott Cemetery.
A short distance south of Old Mountain Road on the Old Highway is the Prescott Cemetery.

I made one more journey yesterday afternoon; yes I have made four trips to the Squam Region since the snow melted. I decided to make a loop over Mount Livermore on the south end of the Range. My route followed Old Mountain Road, Crawford-Ridgepole Trail, Prescott Trail and back to my car via the Old Highway. I walked up washed out roads framed by old stonewalls. I have a high regard for our early settlers and I pondered how they farmed these hillsides as I passed by the old Prescott Cemetery. On Livermore’s grassy summit a lone granite post stands and I set my hand on the cool stone as I soaked up the view.
Livermore is only a couple hundred feet higher than the Rattlesnake but it has a bigger vista. I saw Squam’s water dotted with islands, I could see West Rattlesnakes ledges and its wooded East summit and far behind it I could even see Mount Chocorua’s ragged outline.
By the time I got back to my car a thunderstorm had moved in and I felt lucky. I hope you have a chance to visit the Squam Lake Region and take a little hike.
Have Fun.

Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: amy@weirs.com.