By Gordon DuBois
In Rumney, one can find some of the best hiking trails and rock climbing in New England. Yet it is an area few people are aware of, except the rock-climbing community and the locals. When I mention Rattlesnake Mountain, most people reply, "Oh ya, that short hike in Holderness, which has a beautiful view of Squam Lake." I say, "No the other Rattlesnake in Rumney." They then give me a puzzled look and respond, "Where's Rumney"? Usually, most outdoor adventurers are looking toward the summits of the Whites and speed up I-93 to tackle the "big mountains." Little do they know that Rumney, just west of Plymouth, holds great opportunities for hiking.
The cliffs on Rattlesnake Mountain, called Rumney Rocks, are well known by the rock-climbing community. During the summer months, the parking and camping areas on Buffalo Road are filled with enthusiastic rock climbers. It's one of the premier rock-climbing destinations in the country. Climbers from all over the world visit during the fall season. This area has become a focal point of sport climbing, which is a term used by climbers that refers to using permanent anchors fixed to the rock. It's truly amazing that there are over 40 different rock-climbing routes on these cliffs.
Rumney, just off the beaten path of Route 25, is the quintessential New England town. It was settled 1765 and was once the home of many mills and tanneries located along Stinson Brook flowing out of Stinson Lake. The town square is bounded by several colonial homes, churches, library, inn, pub and coffee shop. Not far from the center of town is a wonderful restaurant, The Rumney Rocks Bistro.
Four mountains dominate the area. Rattlesnake (1,594 ft.), Carr (3,453 ft.) and Stinson (2,900 ft.) can be climbed via well marked trails. The fourth mountain, Kineo (3,313 ft.), is trailless, but the base of the mountain is accessed following the Mt. Kineo trail to the height of land. One can then bushwhack to the summit. Both Stinson and Carr mountains were once the sites of fire towers and the remnants of these towers are still evident today. All four mountains rise at an angle between the Pemigewasset and Baker Rivers. The trail heads are all within a 45-minute drive from my home in New Hampton.
A few weeks ago, Steve Zimmer and I, along with our dogs Skipper and Reuben, headed off to climb Rattlesnake. We wanted to hike for half a day, knew that Rattlesnake was less than 3 miles round trip, and offered outstanding views of the Baker River Valley. The parking area for the trailhead is located off Buffalo Road about 3 miles from the town square in Rumney. As we were nearing the trailhead, we passed the large parking area for rock climbers, thinking that this was where we could park, but further on we found a small open area that marked the beginning of the Rattlesnake Trail.
We began the hike along a stream that was beginning to freeze with the coming of colder weather. There was still minimal snow and ice on the ground, so it made walking easy, with no need for micro spikes or other traction on the feet. We followed an old logging road that was probably used to haul timber off the mountain. We made our way along this well-defined path until it started to climb steeply to the ridge that would eventually lead us to the summit. Within less than a mile we came to a fork in the trail. This marked the section of trail that makes a loop over the cliff face of Rattlesnake. We chose to take the left-hand path and began out final thrust to the summit. It was a clear day with only a few wispy clouds in the sky. As we neared the summit, we viewed Mt. Stinson dominating the view to the east. We could also see the summit of Carr Mountain in the west. We made our way along the cliff edge for taking in the views and looking down at the cliffs below hoping to see rock climbers working their way toward us. There were none to see, so we began our hike down the mountain and back to the trail head. On our way off the summit, we noticed several dead trees still standing, with the scars of the forest fire that swept across the mountain several years ago. It appeared that the area was rebounding back to its natural state and reminded us how nature has a way of recovering from the devastating effects of fire.
When we returned to our car and headed back to town, we stopped at the café on the town square for a cup of hot chocolate and pastry. With the skimpy snow cover, climbing Rattlesnake would make for enjoyable day hike of about two to three hours for the entire family. The rewarding views and moderate hike to the summit offer a wonderful opportunity to explore an area that many people miss. You may also want to follow the rock climbing trails to the base of the mountain to watch rock or ice climbers scaling the cliffs. On the way back to the Lakes Region you may also want to stop at the Quincy Bog Natural Area for a one mile hike around the fen, which is located on Quincy Road, just off Route 25.
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