Occasional closures of the trail are possible while we are working on Old Bridle Path. We will do our best to notify the public prior to these closures. Click the button at the bottom of the page for alternative hike suggestions.
Repairing the Squam Region's "Over-Loved" Trail
The Squam Lakes Association (SLA) is excited to announce that over the course of 2022 and 2023 we’re partnering with the University of New Hampshire (UNH) to tackle much-needed trail maintenance on Old Bridle Path up to West Rattlesnake!
When you're seeking a stunning vista in the Squam Region, either for personal enjoyment or to share the beauty of Squam with visiting friends and family, West Rattlesnake is usually the first hike that comes to mind. Here at the Squam Lakes Association, we love how the accessibility of Old Bridle Path creates an opportunity for new hikers to experience the beauty of the Squam region—and that the incredible view still makes the trail a go-to for seasoned hikers. Due to this wide appeal, Old Bridle Path is hiked annually by upwards of 30,000 people. Few realize just how much of an impact the tens of thousands of boots that meander up the trail have on the surrounding ecosystem.
WEAR & TEAR
The wearing down of the soil, known as erosion, is one of the biggest impacts on our ecosystem that arises on trails. As we walk along a trail, the tread of our feet dislodges soil, rocks, and roots. When it rains, all of this loose organic material is carried with the water as it runs down the trail into surrounding waterbodies, which can negatively impact the health of our streams, rivers, and lakes. Erosion also damages the plant life adjacent to the trail corridor as roots are trampled and essential soil washes away.
Here at the SLA, we conduct annual trail work to mitigate these impacts. This involves clearing trees and branches that have fallen or grown into the trail and maintaining existing drainage structures that redirect water off of the trail. These efforts minimize the impacts of erosion and encourage hikers to stay within the trail corridor. However larger projects, such as building any structures on the trail, involve significantly more time and effort—and Old Bridle Path is in serious need of new drainage structures, steps, and retaining walls.
In partnership with UNH, we plan to replace, rebuild, and install new structures along much of Old Bridle Path. As you've hiked the trail, you may have noticed that many of the wooden steps are rotting, some have been worked out of the ground, and others have the dirt washing out from underneath them (see image on right). Additionally, the steps are frequently placed in a way that requires you to take an enormous step to get up! We’re going to rebuild this section to replace the rotten structures and install more steps with the goal of shortening step height. This will reduce erosion by better controlling water flow from rain events and make the trail more manageable for hikers. Where possible we’ll also replace and install drainage structures to keep water from rushing down the trail.
Closer to the summit we’ll focus energies on installing retaining walls on the side of the trail to keep vegetation from sloughing off into the trail or down the side slope. We'll also replace an old wooden stair structure with a wider longer-lasting rock or wooden structure. The image to the right shows the current state of the trail near the summit with repair plans indicated and a mock-up of what the structures will look like.
Much preparation goes into getting all this work done, so over the winter and spring the SLA will find and schedule crews, coordinate materials needed, and apply for additional sources of funding. Work on the trail is scheduled to begin in June and wrap up in October. Due to the magnitude of the work there may be days here and there where we will need to close the trail for larger projects, but when possible we will keep the trail open and make reroutes available.