If you’re looking for some serious mountain therapy near Seattle, consider a classic Pacific Northwest hike, the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail. Found just 40 minutes away from the city, this trail will take you through a lush rainforest and to a spectacular lookout, offering jaw-dropping views of the surrounding Cascade mountains. So lace up those hiking boots and let’s hit the road– here’s everything you need to know about the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail.
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About the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail
Yes, but you’ll need to keep your fur-baby on a leash. There’s also lots of deep cracks and crevices at the final ledge where it would be super easy for a pupper to fall into and hurt themselves (or worse!), so I’d recommend keeping a super close eye on them along this trail.
Pass or permit?
Nope, it’s totally free!
How to Get to the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail
The trailhead for the Rattlesnake Ledge hike is located here, in the charming mountain town of North Bend (the filming location of the ‘90s cult classic, Twin Peaks, and home to a downtown with cute businesses, like Volition Brewing).
While there’s plenty of incredible hiking trails in the Puget Sound area, there’s a limited number of super iconic trails within an hour or so from Seattle, including the Lake 22 trail, Dirty Harry’s Balcony, and of course, Rattlesnake Ledge (although, it’s worth noting that there are plenty of stellar hiking trails that are just a bit more under-the-radar!).
It’s an easy drive to get from Seattle to the Rattlesnake Ledge trailhead, just a short 40 minute drive east of the city along I-90. The parking lot has a big ol’ sign that’s hard to miss and unlike some of the parking lots around Washington, it’s pretty humongous and well-maintained.
Although the parking lot is massive, you still very well may have a tough time finding a spot here if you arrive later in the morning on a nice weekend day. I adore this hike because it’s super beautiful and close to Seattle—but, unfortunately, so does everyone else that lives here.
Accordingly, if you don’t want to be vulturing for a parking spot or simply don’t want to be sharing the hiking trail with all of Seattle, I’d suggest hitting the trail early, especially on weekends in the summer and fall or unseasonably nice days in the winter and spring.
Once you’ve successfully snagged a parking spot, there’s a few porta potties and an information trailhead sign near the start of the trail if nature calls before your hike.
Tip: There’s unfortunately been a slew of mass break-ins at the Rattlesnake Ledge parking lot. While there’s not too much you can do to eliminate this kind of risk, I’d strongly recommend not leaving any kind of valuables in your vehicle.
What to Expect along the Rattlesnake Ledge
As you walk to the trailhead from the parking lot, you’ll spot Rattlesnake Lake to your left. The lake has a kind of spooky quality to it (at least, to me!), especially when there’s low-hanging fog, due to the stumps of old-growth trees that were cleared long ago. These ghostly monuments of the past were only recently revealed when the lake’s water levels dropped significantly.
You’ll also have head-on views of the rocky face of Rattlesnake Ledge in front of you, soaring over one thousand feet overhead.
These intimidating views won’t last for long, though, as the trail quickly cuts into the lush forest. The elevation gain is gentle, but steady throughout, with a series of switchbacks cut into the mountain.
While your thighs may be a-burning, there’s plenty to take your mind off them in the forest– there’s areas with mossy trees that look straight out of a Dr. Seuss book and several points along the trail with peekaboo views of Rattlesnake Lake and the surrounding Cascade Mountains through tree clearings.
After climbing for 2.3 miles, you’ll reach a sign for the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail. Immediately beyond the sign, there’s a little dirt overlook area, with excellent views of the nearby Cascades. But don’t get too comfy here, the best views are found just a few hundred yards to your right up a set of stairs to the eponymous rocky outcropping, Rattlesnake Ledge.
From here, you’ll have panoramic views of Rattlesnake Lake below and the surrounding towering mountains, including Mount Si and Mount Washington.
As alluded to above, there’s some really intense crevices and cracks on the ledge (as in, you may or may not die if you accidentally fell into one) and steep drop-offs to the forest floor a thousand feet below. So be mindful with each step you take on the rock and be extra cautious if you’re hiking with children or you happen to be visiting if the rock is slippery from rain or ice.
After you’re done taking in the views here and want more of a hike or you just want to escape the crowds, you can continue up the trail 0.4 miles to the Upper Ledge. Here, you’ll have an awesome vantage point of the crowds down at Rattlesnake Ledge below and more stellar mountain vistas to the northwest. You can continue to hike even further, like 2.4 miles (one-way) to East Peak.
When to Visit Rattlesnake Ledge
Beyond how close it is to Seattle, one of the best things about Rattlesnake Ledge is that it’s open and easily accessible year-round. In fact, it’s the very first hike that my husband, Justin, and I did when we moved to Seattle in the winter of 2019, because it was one of the only “mountain” trails that we could find that wasn’t buried in snow.
That being said, Rattlesnake Ledge does occasionally get snow and ice in the coldest months (usually December through March), so you may want to consider bringing along some microspikes if you’re visiting during that period.
And, since it’s the rainy Pacific Northwest, expect there to be plenty of muddy sections along the trail, especially if you’re visiting in late fall, winter, or spring. The last time we hiked Rattlesnake Ledge, we passed a hiker wearing what appeared to be brand new white Nikes that were now absolutely caked in mud. Don’t be that dude– instead, wear waterproof hiking boots, like this pair of boots for men or this pair for women.
I hope you love the Rattlesnake Ledge trail as much as I do (and the rest of Seattle!). Do you have any questions about the hike? Let me know in the comments below!
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