Rattlesnake Ledge and Rattlesnake Mountain

Rattlesnake Mountain, spied here from neighboring Mount Washington, reclines along the Snoqualmie Valley below. Mount Washington Trail,
Olallie State Park, Washington.

Rattlesnake Mountain is the easternmost in the range of low mountains known as the Issaquah Alps, which also include the other similarly ominous-sounding peaks Cougar Mountain and Tiger Mountain.  Don’t worry, this one’s name is a misnomer – there are no rattlesnakes west of the Cascades.  Rattlesnake Mountain is traversed by an 11.00-mile/17.70-km trail along its spine, with trailheads on either end.  Its highlight is Rattlesnake Ledge, which is actually the first of three stone benches that jut dramatically from the mountain’s eastern end, and, as a worthy destination, is a more moderate round-trip hike of only 4.00 miles/6.40 km from the Rattlesnake Lake trailhead.  On a clear day, the ledges afford magnificent views down the several mountain valleys and ridges that converge below.  Farther west, the mountain’s dense forest opens to sweeping northward views at East Peak, Grand Prospect, and Stan’s Overlook and, where logging has felled the forest on the mountain’s far side, southward to Mt. Rainier.  Because the mountain is subject to routine logging operations, the trailside beyond Rattlesnake Ledge is a patchwork of clear-cuts, tangled thickets, and more mature woodland.  Wildflowers flourish in the new-found sunlight of the recently logged areas, whilst fungi thrive on the detritus left behind.

Because the trail’s full round-trip distance to and from either trailhead may be excessive for most (22.00 miles/35.40 km), this profile is divided into two more manageable hikes, each just under 10.00 miles/16.00 km round-trip, one beginning at the east end’s Rattlesnake Lake and attaining the ledges and East Peak, and the other beginning at the west end’s Snoqualmie Point Park and reaching Stan’s Overlook and Grand Prospect.  For those wishing to go further in either direction, East Peak and Grand Prospect are separated by approximately 1.10 miles/1.80 km of dense forest and clear-cut.

Given the mountain’s proximity to Puget Sound and relatively low elevation, it is generally hikeable year round.  However, it can receive significant snowfall in winter, which, even if not present at the trailheads, accumulates and deepens quickly as the trail climbs, often trodden to ice by the many foregoing visitors.  Be sure to check recent trip reports at the “Additional Trail Info” links below before setting forth and take appropriate footwear.  And, given their relative ease of access, the ledges are often thronged with hikers throughout the day.  Try arriving early to enjoy the views without the distracting crowds, especially those inevitable few who teeter on the literal brink of disaster at the ledges’ edges. The western route crisscrosses the Raging River State Forest Mountain Bike Trail System. Intersections are clearly marked, but do watch for bikers while crossing.


Trail Highlights:Panoramic and mountain views
Round-trip Distance:4.00 miles / 6.40 km (Rattlesnake Ledge)
8.80 miles / 14.16 km (Rattlesnake Ledge and The East Peak)
Location:Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area,
Issaquah Alps / Snoqualmie Valley

Ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie
  • East- or westbound on Interstate 90, take Exit 32
  • Turn right from the eastbound freeway ramp/left from the westbound freeway ramp onto 436th Ave. SE (which becomes Cedar Falls Road SE)
  • Continue 2.70 miles/4.30 km to the Rattlesnake Lake parking lot on the right
  • The trailhead is at the north end of the lot, indicated by signage
  • Required Pass:Discover Pass or equivalent for state recreation sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    Washington State Department of Natural Resources

    From the trailhead at the edge of Rattlesnake Lake, the ledges loom dramatically above.
    Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    The trail wends through a pleasant woodland of fir and hemlock. Here and there, oddly placed boulders dot the forest floor, fenced by the columns of later-sprung trees. Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    Even the downward views from the Rattlesnake ledges are impressive — and demonstrate the need for great caution along their abruptly precipitous edges. Here, the third ledge peers down upon the first two, as well as upon Rattlesnake Lake and the trailhead on its far shore. Beyond the ledges, the view sweeps past Rattlesnake Lake and up the Ceder River Valley, where dams on the Cedar River form Chester Morse Lake and Masonry Pool to provide water for Seattle, Washington. Mount Washington anchors the valley on the far left. Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    Directly across the Snoqualmie River Valley from Rattlesnake Mountain, Mount Si and Mount Teneriffe dominate the bird’s-eye view from the Rattlesnake ledges. Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    At the East Peak, the trail crosses a service road that accesses an antenna tower. No views are to be had at the tower, but a bench at the intersection offers a keyhole view of Mount Teneriffe and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.


    Trail Highlights:Panoramic views; wildflowers; fungi
    Round-trip Distance:5.00 miles / 8.00 km (Stan's Overlook)
    9.80 miles / 15.80 km (Stan's Overlook and Grand Prospect)
    Location:Raging River State Forest and Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area,
    Issaquah Alps / Snoqualmie Valley

    Ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie
  • Eastbound on Interstate 90, take Exit 27; westbound on Interstate 90, take Exit 25, turn left under the freeway and immediately turn left onto the freeway to reach Exit 27
  • From Exit 27, turn right onto Winery Road (road name is not visible from the ramp)
  • Take the third right into the parking lot, approximately 0.50 miles/0.80 km from the exit
  • Required Pass:Discover Pass or equivalent for state recreation sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    Washington State Department of Natural Resources

    Because of routine clear-cut logging on Rattlesnake Mountain, the trail passes through woodlands in various stages of destruction and recovery, from airy, deciduous lowland forest (upper left), to seedlings so dense the earth is barren beneath them (upper right), to more mature forest with a balance of understory and middlestory plant life (lower left), to vast, newly levelled swaths (lower right). Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    Crisscrossing an extensive mountain biking trail network, the hiker-only path is marked by stiles and signage.
    Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    Stan’s Overlook (2.50 miles/4.00 km from the Snoqualmie Point trailhead) and Grand Prospect (shown here, 4.90 miles/7.90 km from the Snoqualmie Point trailhead) afford similar views of the Snoqualmie River Valley, Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, and the North Cascades beyond. The prominent peaks on the distant horizon are Mount Index (center) and Whitehorse Mountain (left). Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    Logging operations in 2016 have marred the landscape between Grand Prospect and East Peak. For most of that distance, the trail has been rerouted onto a gravel logging road through the resulting clear-cut. However unfortunate, the logging has opened expansive southward views that, on a clear day, reach as far as Mt. Rainier. In summer, purple foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) (non-native) and oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) (non-native) teem the newly sunlit slope.
    Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    A diverse array of spring and summer wildflowers can be found across Rattlesnake Mountain, including, top row, left to right, largeleaf avens (Geum macrophyllum), Siberian springbeauties (Claytonia sibirica), Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum), red-flowering currants (Ribes sanguineum), western starflowers (Lysimachia latifolia), arctic sweet coltsfoots (Petasites frigidus), osoberries (Oemleria cerasiformis), and star-flowered false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum stellatum); center row, left to right, salal (Gaultheria shallon), Pacific bleeding hearts (Dicentra formosa), and orange honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa); and lower row, left to right, wood roses (Rosa gymnocarpa), harsh paintbrushes (Castilleja hispida), thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus), trailing blackberries (Rubus ursinus), red elderberries (Sambucus racemosa), pioneer violets (Viola glabella), evergreen violets (Viola sempervirens), and salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis). Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    Curiously formed and fancifully named fungi abound on the plentiful dead wood produced by logging and regrowth on Rattlesnake Mountain. Keep an eye out for spots of color created by various species of jelly fungi, commonly referred to as witches’ butter (here, likely, orange witches’ butter, Dacrymyces palmatus) (lower left), and the distinctive, humorously named poor man’s gumdrops (Guepiniopsis alpina) (upper left). On the many tree stumps and snags, look for divers types of shelf, or, bracket fungi, also known as wood conks, ranging from delicate to grotesque (upper center, lower right center, and right), as well as bizarre little cup fungi resembling human ears (lower left center).
    Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.
    Deceptively mild-mannered in comparison to others of their raucous kindred, Canada jays (Perisoreus canadensis) wait at the mountain’s overlooks to snatch snacks from unwary visitors. Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, Washington.

    © 2014-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.

    2 thoughts on “Rattlesnake Ledge and Rattlesnake Mountain

    1. Amanda says:

      Your photos and accompanying captions/descriptions are fantastic! I was trying to identify a yellow fungi I found in the North Cascades, and Google brought me to your page… it was the poor mans gumdrops that I was trying to identify!

      Beautiful work.

      1. HesperosFlown says:

        Wonderful – glad it was a useful resource! The poor man’s gumdrops really are one of my favorite forest finds – and who can’t help but enjoy the humor in their name!

        ~ HesperosFlown



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