If you like a view, expansive and inspiring, then the hike to Rattlesnake Ledge will do it.
We were looking for a short day hike over Labor Day weekend, and The Ledge came highly recommended. “It’s not too terribly steep, not too terribly long, but definitely crowded” paraphrases most of the commentary. And indeed, virtually every trail guide we researched said the same thing. Rattlesnake Ledge is, according to almost every source I found, the most heavily hiked trail in all of Washington State. Since we had the luxury of hiking on either the holiday, or the day after, we opted for an early Tuesday morning start. This paid off nicely. As you can see, the trail starts out wide, but can get a little narrow.
We arrived at the ample parking lot near the trail head at 8AM, with our choice of every parking spot but one. We took a short walk to the bathrooms, and when we returned a few minutes later there were already 10 or so more cars there. Better get started! So off we trekked. The trail head is a short walk from the parking lot, and has plenty of bathroom space available, testimony to the heavy usage.
It’s about 2 miles to the Ledge, with the trail winding back and forth up the front of the mountain in 4 large switchbacks. The first half is mildly challenging, but it just leads you to the much steeper second half, which was quite a huffer. You get some peeks through the trees back down to Rattlesnake Lake where you started, but very quickly loose sight of the monster cliff you are hiking. My mind wandered from “This isn’t so tough” early on, to “Geez, I wonder where the top went?” in the middle, to “Holy crap, when is this going to end?”. But, all of a sudden, there we were! And everyone was right, the view is spectacular!
What nobody mentioned is that you also get spectacular cell phone reception from the top. So, while you were struggling up the front side of the cliff, you phone was also struggling to get reception. But once you break out on top, all the emails, texts, phone messages, and everything else that makes a beep, come flooding in. It sounds like a carnival on top with everyone’s phone dinging and chirping away. And of course, when one dings, everyone reaches for theirs!
You would think a place named Rattlesnake anything would be crawling with the vipers. But, and I’ve been told this many times, there apparently aren’t any rattlesnakes west of the Cascades. I’m not a total believer in this, understand. Even so, the closest we came to any kind of snake was this tree root.
The trail is very scenic, but also pretty rustic. Lots of tree roots (we call them toe killers), rocks, some washed-out places, and lots of general wear-and-tear. I always remind myself to look up and see the beauty around me (including my lovely bride, which is going to buy me a lot of points!). This gets easier when you have to stop a lot to get your breath. Unfortunately, we still had quite a bit of wild fire smoke in the view, and this doesn’t help with the breath-catching either. This view can only improve as that smoke goes away.
We highly recommend this hike. It’s kinda steep in many places, so if you have bad knees you will pay for it going up and coming down. But if you take your time, this is a high effort, high reward deal. And Tippy agrees!