Rattlesnake Ledge a Popular Winter Hike
If you’re looking for a winter hike with views without having to trudge through snow, Rattlesnake Ledge fills the bill. The hike is well within reach of hikers in Seattle, North Bend, Enumclaw and short enough that you should have time to finish the Sunday paper before you drive to the trailhead. If you get a late start be prepared to share the trail with other hikers. The trail is popular and dog-friendly.
The trail to the ledge lies within the City of Seattle Cedar River Municipal Watershed Ecological Reserve. The Rattlesnake Mountain Trail is a continuation of the ledge trail – parts of the Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area are managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the City of Seattle.
The trail to Rattlesnake Ledge begins at Rattlesnake Lake and climbs through forest to the ledge in just under two miles. While the airy top of Rattlesnake Ledge is the usual objective, don't miss out on the delights of the journey. After skirting the lake the first mile is a walk through a fairy garden of moss-covered boulders, stair-step mosses, ferns, mushrooms and lichen. On a gloomy day when other hikers are few and far between don’t be surprised to spot a troll or fairy peeking out from the licorice fern-topped boulders.
A short spur leads to a good view of Rattlesnake Lake at about one mile, a good spot for a snack before resuming the climb. Another mile or so through the forest brings you to Rattlesnake Ledge with an array of trail-signs at a T-junction. Bear right for Rattlesnake Ledge, a few feet further, the ultimate Zen spot at 2,079 feet. The main trail continues (left) to the East Peak at 3,500 feet, the highest point of the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, about 2-1/2 miles from the T-junction at Rattlesnake Ledge.
Rattlesnake Ledge is large enough to accommodate several hikers. Families with small children need to exercise caution since there is no fence or guardrail at the ledge. A fall would be fatal.
Bring a map to identify the surrounding peaks including Mount Si and Mount Teneriffe. On a clear day there are also views of North Bend and the upper Snoqualmie Valley (north). Further east you may be able to see some of the Snoqualmie Peaks leading to Snoqualmie Pass. You can also see a sliver of Chester Morris Lake above the forested foothills.
If you hike to Rattlesnake Ledge on a regular basis notice how the color of the lake varies from visit to visit in hues ranging from Prussian blue to turquoise-green. We’ve even seen white-caps on the lake during storms.
There are two higher ledges within reach a little further along the main trail though these are not as roomy and visitor-friendly as the first. These ledges are precipitous but do offer good views and a better chance of solitude.
On our most recent visit the water levels in the lake were low so we stopped to ponder the gigantic stumps in and along the lakeshore. With the stumps’ springboard notches resembling eyes and exposed roots resembling the claws of mythical monsters these stumps can appear startling to those with vivid imaginations. The stumps give mute testimony to the size of these giants before they were felled; note the length and width of their roots.
Here's a little history: In the early 1900s the town of Moncton lay where the lake is today; the lake was originally called Rainy Season Lake. Railroad workers lived there when the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company was granted right of way through the Cedar River watershed. A dam raised the level of the lake and flooded the town site in 1915.
Thanks to the work of volunteers these trails are user-friendly today. Among the volunteers that worked on the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail (and the Rattlesnake Ledge trail) were trail crews from Washington Conservation Corps, EarthCorps and Washington Trails Association. The work was jointly managed by the Department of National Resources and the Mountains-to-Sound-Greenway.
Strong hikers can continue from Rattlesnake Ledge to the (west) Snoqualmie Point trailhead. The Rattlesnake Mountain trail system is well-signed. Snoqualmie Point is located off Exit 27, west of Exit 32 on I-90 (see additional information below).
Views are not all Rattlesnake Lake has to offer. Stop by the Cedar River Watershed Education Center for interpretive displays, maps and field guides. Tours of the Cedar River Watershed are offered a few times over the year; visit their website for dates and additional information.
Getting to Rattlesnake Ledge/Rattlesnake Lake: From the west head east on I-90 and get off at Exit 32. Go south (right) on 436th Avenue SE – it turns into Cedar Falls Road SE and continue about three miles to the parking area/trailhead for Rattlesnake Ledge. The trail is signed and begins near trailhead parking and portable restrooms. A Discovery Pass is required.
The hike to Rattlesnake Ledge is about four miles round-trip with about 1,150 feet of elevation gain. The map is Green Trails No. 205S Side A, Rattlesnake Mountain.
Additional information: The Rattlesnake Ledge/Mountain trail is dog-friendly but closed to bicyclists. Walking around the lake is prohibited. For further description of the Rattlesnake Ledge trail, Rattlesnake Mountain and other nearby trails visit Washington Trails Association at www.wta.org . For additional information on the Cedar River Watershed Education Center, including tours visit their website at www.seattle.gov/util/crwec/ . For details/dates on tours or to register, call 206-733-9421 (register early for tours!).