Rattlesnake Mountain

February 5, 2023


North Bend / I-90 Corridor, WA

Rattlesnake Ledge is Seattle’s equivalent to Vancouver’s Quarry Rock. The only difference is that one does have to hike a short ways (roughly 1 hour each way) to the viewpoint on Rattlesnake Ledge whereas Quarry Rock requires minimal walking. Rattlesnake Ledge is a prominent landmark seen from the valley bottom but itself isn’t a peak. The high point of Rattlesnake Mountain lies a few kilometers further and requires another hour of hiking to get to. Unlike the popular ledge, the true summit of Rattlesnake Mountain is forested and occupied by communication tower structures, and offers minimal view. A hike to the true summit (aka. “East Peak”) of Rattlesnake Mountain falls into that category of “dumpster diving” and is only for the peak-baggers or the locals seeking exercise. Very few would come up with the idea to drive 3 hours all the way from Vancouver do bag this objective, but I had been considering that for a number of years.

My plan had always been to hike this objective in the morning so that I could rush home afterwards for work in the afternoon and evening, but it didn’t pan out that way. The forecast for Sunday was shitty literally everywhere with 10-20 mm of precipitation but I must go out to bag a peak since that’s my day off-work. It took me a while to pick an objective but Rattlesnake Mountain was such a no-brainer choice. The forested coverage would be a natural shelter from the weather. I convinced Nikita to join as she’s one partner of mine who doesn’t pick-and-choose my objectives nor the weather. The forecast actually improved at the last minute that we might actually get a brief weather window in the morning. The forecast on Meteoblue showed nothing but high clouds in the early morning. I wanted to get some views from the Ledge if possible, so made the call to leave home in the previous night and car-camp at the trail-head. Again Nikita had no problem with that and showed up at my home at 10 pm on time. The drive southwards down I-5 corridor and then eastwards down I-90 went without event. We arrived at the trail-head at around 1 am and went to sleep right away. I drove the Corolla this time and we simply just slept on the front seats.

Rattlesnake Mountain hiking route from Rattlesnake Ledge. GPX DL

The plan was to get up at 6 am to watch sunrise from the Ledge but when the alarm went off I decided to snooze for another half an hour. The sky was completely overcast so there wouldn’t have any sunrise view. A few more groups of hikers started to show up and some had started earlier than us. At least one party had already descended and I assumed they weren’t happy about the “sunrise” views. Nikita and I started hiking at around 7:20 am and made to the ledge in under an hour. The views were actually quite dramatic and I understood right away why the Instagram influencers loved this spot. We too spent at least 20 minutes playing with the cameras. I opted to scramble around the edges to get better pictures. There’s also one gigantic cleft for a leap-of-faith jump. I could also see why there’re frequent death reports from this spot. The edges were very exposed, down-sloping and slippery.

Nikita starting the plod with Rattlesnake Ledge ahead
The typical trail to Rattlesnake Ledge
A family of four was already there when we arrived.
Nikita arriving at the Ledge with snowshoes for training weight…
Nikita checking out Rattlesnake Lake after doing that leap of faith jump..
Mailbox Peak and “Dirtybox Peak” by Middle Fork Snoqualmie River
Nikita on an obvious Insta-rock..
Me checking out that same Insta rock.
I down-scrambled a short step of 3rd class to find some unusual perspectives
Me on the edge of the exposure with Mt. Washington behind
I even found climbing bolts…
Nikita was taking pictures for me from above
One last picture from Rattlesnake Ledge looking into the Middle Fork

We now had to shift the focus to get this objective done. Again, the Ledge isn’t the summit and bagging the true summit is a mandatory requirement for us peak-baggers to claim a trip’s success. The trail brought us passing the middle and the upper ledges and we didn’t bother to check them out. From around 700 m elevation we started encountering compact snow and ice. The trail had seen way more traffic than I imagined and it seemed like the snowshoes would become training weight on this day. I thought very few would go beyond the ledges for the summit but it turned out that the trail’s hard-packed all the way to the top. Without the tracks one would definitely need the snowshoes. The weather had also collapsed within half an hour after we left the Ledge and turned into a snow blizzard when we reached the summit. Needless to say we didn’t linger any longer than absolutely needed for taking a victory shot.

Started to encounter snow and ice
The trail was compact so the snowshoes weren’t needed
Nikita and I on the true summit (east peak) of Rattlesnake Mountain

Nikita then set a blistering pace on the descent and I struggled to keep up. Nikita had also brought microspikes which helped quite a bit. There’s one icy stretch for about 1 km where I had to descend very slowly and carefully without traction devices. We didn’t bother to check out the ledges on the descent as the weather had completely collapsed and it was actually raining quite heavily. There was still at least 50 hikers on their way up (to the ledge I assumed) and I was sure that none of them would get any view. My original plan was to hike Cedar Butte afterwards but given the weather I abandoned that plan. Instead, we drove to a Mexican restaurant in North Bend and had a great meal. It rained continuously for the entire drive back home and we got back at around 2 pm.

Nikita descending the slippery trail in rain
The mood was very misty and soggy
Jalapeno wraps with creams and meat.. mmm… Looks interesting…