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Rattlesnake Ledge

Posted by joeabbott on July 29, 2012

P7280004When I’m in need of a quick hike, am looking for a high effort-to-exertion reward, or just looking for an easy outing that the unprepared might enjoy, I start driving toward Rattlesnake Ledge.

Rattlesnake Ledge is a trail that starts at Rattlesnake Lake, elevation ~900’, and meanders a casual 2 miles to the top of an outcrop in a gain of ~1150’. At the top, the trail deposits you on a rocky bluff above a steep face, allowing sweeping views from the north, out east, and then south. It really is one of the easiest hikes you can do for the views you get! As a result, this is a very popular hike. In addition to the virtues noted above, you can get to the trailhead in roughly 45 minutes from downtown Seattle, making it unusually attractive to hikers of all stripes.


From Seattle, head east on I-90 to Exit 32 (436th Ave SE/Cedar Falls Rd).

Turn right at the end of the off-ramp and you’ll be on Cedar Falls Rd. SE.

Follow Cedar Falls Rd SE approximately 3 miles to the Rattlesnake Lake Recreational area. The area includes a boat launch, picnic facilities, and parking for a lotta cars!

Park and walk back toward the maintenance road near the entry to the parking lot. Follow the maintenance road to the Rattlesnake Ledge Trailhead. It’s well-marked, provisioned with a half-dozen porta-potties, and a large lawn with access to the lake. The path from the trailhead is exceptionally marked and there’s bound to be a lot of other people heading up or down the trail, so finding your way from there should be easy.

P7280001P7280014My motivation for returning to this chestnut was Heath, a friend and coworker who I hadn’t seen in a while. He was looking to stretch his legs and had the side motivation of very recently taking up geocaching as a hobby … and there were two caches on the Ledge trail that he was looking to bag! So, with our mutual acquaintance Eric, we decided to enjoy a morning stroll.

We met at the trailhead and within a couple hundred yards both Eric and Heath took an abrupt left off the trail down what appeared to be an animal track. As I heard families in the background debate following us, my two friends spoke of their “geocache sense tingling”! And, sure enough, Heath stooped to remove a non-descript bit of vegetation and whatnot from an otherwise unremarkable spot beside a large, moss-covered rock, and out came a cache!

They jotted their names into the enclosed booklet and busied themselves with their GPS units and shortly thereafter we were back in the race up the trail.

I say “race” with only a minor bit of misgiving that I chose inappropriate word. I was in front and set a reasonable pace, but one that was slowly winding me. All the while, Eric was behind me keeping up a moderate conversation and, when I chanced to look back, Heath was following close on Eric’s heels enjoying the same conversation. And so I kept my eyes forward, threaded the line of people before us, and kept moving.

P7280010It wasn’t until we were well on our way to the top that Eric mentioned Heath had fallen behind. Gratefully I slackened the pace but was loath to stop: quite a number of people we’d recently passed were just behind us and I really dislike playing “leapfrog” on the trail. That is, passing someone, stopping or slowing once you’re passed so they feel compelled to pass you, and then passing them again. Mostly I don’t like it when people do that to me, so I avoid doing it to others. And so it was that Eric and I found ourselves just below the summit block, waiting just a few minutes for Heath … who had got stuck behind a number of groups and was less pushy than I was at passing other parties!

P7280007From the sign (a picture of it is above), you turn right to ascend the “Ledge”; going left will put you on the track for the “Rattlesnake Ridge Trail”, or, as the sign proclaims, the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail. It’s roughly 9 miles to the far side, Snoqualmie Point, with 4-5 places to stop for good views along the way.

We headed to the Ledge and enjoyed views, took pictures, and while I snacked on a nut bar of some sort, Heath and Eric headed into the scrappy trees nearby in search of another cache. They took longer than I did, so I went in search of them, discovering them just as Eric was pulling the cache from another non-descript hiding place beside the average looking tree in the area. They did their thing, re-cached the cache, and we headed back up to the trail to begin our descent.

While I didn’t think I was pushing the pace very hard, Heath did catch my attention and said, “you know, you do hike fast!” My reputation appears to have preceded me. It wasn’t a conscious choice and we didn’t need to be in a big hurry, so I cut the pace and we ambled down the mountainside and back to the cars.

Rattlesnake Ledge is a pleasant hike and a fine way to spend the afternoon. Our trip took us four hours, but we were messing around looking for caches and the motivated hiker could knock it out in under three without problem. But, the views are lovely so if you have the tolerance for this hike (that is, the many many people on it … I’ve yet to hike this trail in the afternoon and not see someone pushing a stroller along the rocky path), make sure you have time and enjoy yourself.

I hope you had as nice a Saturday as I did! Thanks for reading.


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