If the prospect of getting lost in the woods doesn’t fill you with fear and panic, then set a few hours aside to explore the many trails of Rattlesnake Hill!
I don’t mean to scare you away from this trail, but this is one of the largest conservation areas (453 acres!) I’ve visited and has such a vast network of trails that even with plenty of ‘You are Here’ map signs scattered across the property, the possibility of getting lost is still high.
The map available here on the town of Bolton website is simply deceiving. It does not include the many cross trails. Main trails have yellow blazes, but that’s not very helpful when they criss-cross each other and the blazes sometimes feel few and far between. The ‘You are Here’ map signs are often at intersections of multiple trails so distinguishing which way goes where becomes something of a guessing game. At least to me it did. That being said, if you have the time and have faith that you’ll eventually find your way back to your car, it’s worth exploring.
A couple things to prepare for before hiking here: 1) BRING WATER! This is super important. Until you get to know these trails, expect that you can’t expect to find any water for your pups and it is especially dry in late summer. Better to be safe than sorry. You can follow up this hike with a swim at nearby Delaney or Bowers Springs but please bring water with you on the trail for both you and your pups. 2) Expect horses and bicyclists. These trails are popular with both. 3) Carry out what you carry in, which includes your pooch’s poop so bring poop bags. There is no garbage available or poop bags.
I won’t even attempt a turn by turn description but will try to make some suggestions. I’ve started my hikes from a trail-head located on Old Sugar Rd near the corner of Sugar Rd, Bolton (Google Map). There is a kiosk here with a map and some copies of the map that you can take with you. Take one, please, and return it when you’re done.
Rattlesnake Hill and the Boulder Trail are worth exploring. I challenge you to find this marker below somewhere among these trails (click on pics to enlarge). I’m not sure I could find it again if I tried!
I have not yet explored the Bob Horton Loop Trail or the Harris Farm Trail. The description provided on the Bolton website states: “An Interpretative Trail is found off the Main Street entrance. This 1.3-mile trail, known as the Bob Horton Memorial Trail provides information on botany, geology, history and early industry.” If you explore these trails, I would recommend keeping your dog on-leash.
Find your way around to the Atlantic Union Trail. Hopefully here you will find water for the dogs, but don’t rely on it, especially later in the summer. Keep heading straight to what is marked on the map as the Phillips Trail. These lead through an area that I can only describe as a dead pine tree forest. The trees here are mostly oddly bare, stripped of any greenery except at the very top of the trees.
The trail then leads up a short and modestly steep trail up atop some ledges with highway 495 roaring below. At no point on these ledges did I feel my dogs would be unsafe, but keep them close just in case. It’s a steep drop that I wouldn’t want to have to climb down for any reason. Here you’ll find Split Rock and a photo op!
It’s coming down off this trail where I get easily confused. I suppose you could keep heading straight along the trail until it leads out to the end of Old Sugar Rd and you could take the road back to your car (there’s a beautiful horse farm here – leash your dogs!).
All in all, we hiked about 6 miles. My Walk-for-a-Dog app stopped at some point and I didn’t notice right away so I’m not sure how much I missed. My first visit I totaled over 8 miles because I took many more wrong turns. It’s a fun hike, with many twists and turns, cool rock formations for climbing over, around and in between. If you’re prepared, as I have hopefully prepared you, you won’t be disappointed.