Not all trails are easy to get information on, especially if you are looking to do just one section of a trail that starts in Meriden and goes all the way to New Hampshire. Many people do Pinnacle Rock and Rattlesnake Mountain as part of a car spot hike. They put one car at the start at the southern end of the trail in Plainville, CT and another at a lot on the northern end in Farmington, CT. Since I was hiking by myself and scoping it out to do with a larger group I needed one place to park. I know my Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s Walk Book is out of date (2006) so I tried searching the internet for more details and hopefully more parking suggestions. The best I could come up with was to do Rattlesnake Mountain first by parking at the Farmington Reservoir. The plan was to park at the reservoir and walk up Route 6 until I got to the trailhead. Not ideal, but also not terrible. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is now a parking lot for the trail about a tenth of a mile down Route 6 from the trail.
Starting from the parking area there is a blue and white blazed spur trail leading to the blue-blazed Metacomet Trail. Right away I noticed that the trail was very muddy. There had been some snow and ice earlier in the week, but now it was in the 40s and everything was defrosting and melting. Otherwise this first section of trail was very nice. Mostly smooth and fairly wide. I would consider this section to be very run-able. Once you get to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain the trail becomes more rocky, but that also meant less muddy. There is not much of a view at the top other than the NBC30 signal antenna.
Continuing south you come across some pretty cool glacial erratics. This area is known as Warren’s Den. Legend has it that Will Warren tried to burn down Farmington in the 17th century after he was flogged for not going to church. He than ran up Rattlesnake Mountain and hid in the caves formed by the erratics with the help of some local Native Americans. It’s defiantly worth taking some time to walk around and check out the erratics and all of the possible caves that Warren could have hidden in. From Warren’s Den it is a very short hike to Rattlesnake cliffs and the best view you will have on Rattlesnake Mountain looking north, south, and east. Many people hike up to here and turn around. It’s a great 2 mile round trip hike that includes views, history, and huge boulders.
Unlike most people I continued south on the Metacomet Trail toward Pinnacle Rock. Right away you drop down off the Rattlesnake Cliffs for some fairly steep descending. The trail also takes you under part of the cliff through a rock tunnel. Passing through the tunnel the trail then does some switchbacks to get down to the power lines. Once you cross the power lines it is time to go back up to start making your way on to Pinnacle Rock.
Pinnacle Rock stretches for almost two miles. Along the way there are multiple overlooks and remnants from the past. One of the more interesting things along the trail is an old radar platform from the former Nike military site. Some of this area is also private property that the owners have been kind enough to let the trail go through. You will see fences at places. Do not try to go over these fences. Two and a half miles into my hike I found a nice overlook where I stopped for a snack and some water. Even though I had not gone the entire length of Pinnacle Rock I decided to turn back around and head to my car.
Generally I am not a fan of out and back hikes. There really need to be some good views, a great waterfall, or awesome rock features to make me want to do an out and back. Rattlesnake Mountain to Pinnacle Rock provides the views and the rock features. So, for me, it was worth it. I decided on the way back I would run all the downhills and flats that I could. This turned out to be a fair amount of the 2.5 miles back. The end, heading down Rattlesnake, was even more muddy as more people had come along and more snow melted. I was very happy that I wore my The North Face Ultra MT GTX shoes which kept my feet clean and dry. The outsole also did very well transitioning from rocks to mud. As you can see the mud managed to make its way up my leg pretty high from the running. My Marmot softshell pants, that are more meant for snow, had no problems with the mud.
If you’re looking for a shorter fun hike that is suitable for many abilities head up to Rattlesnake Mountain. Want more, continue on to Pinnacle Rock. Either way you will enjoy this section of the Metacomet Trail.
For more information and to see how Rattlesnake Mountain looks on a beautiful summer day check out this great video from Farmington Alternative High School students.