I am constantly surprised by how close I live to some of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m sure Tahiti is fantastic, Bora Bora is magical and Fiji is breathtaking, but just 32 miles East of Seattle sits a ledge with a view that reminds me there is incredible landscape in every part of the world. Rattlesnake Ledge near North Bend sits about 1,100 feet above a glistening aqua lake surrounded by mountains and hills for as far as your eye can see. Pack a lunch, lots of water and stretch your hamstrings because this hike will leave you sore and hungry, but it’s well worth it.
A quick 55 minute drive East on I-90 toward North Bend takes you to the trailhead. I’d recommend going at any other time and on any other day than we chose to go on because everyone and their mom, two kids and dog will be there too. We hiked on a sunny, hot Saturday around 1pm…like I said the busiest time to go, but still worth every crowded turn. The hike starts out near that aqua lake I mentioned earlier where sweaty post hikers sit with their lunches watching people paddleboard on the calm water of the lake. Veering away from the lake, the trail begins its ascent. Starting out wide and windy through large boulders and tall trees you can make your away around hikers moving slowly and secure your position with the pack. For the most part the trail is wide enough to fit hikers going up and coming down. Even on a busy sunny day we only had to stop to let people through a few times, which was actually a nice break to catch your breath. For the next 1.9 miles, you’re going up. Ascending 1,100 feet in less than two miles is a challenge, but entirely doable. Watch your step for rocks on the trail, but make sure you look up and around and enjoy the fact that you’re inside a beautiful green forest that sits on the side of a tall peak. From time to time you’ll get a glimpse of the lake between the trees getting smaller and smaller as you ascend. Although your butt burns, your calves are getting tight and there’s nothing but uphill ahead, keep going. It’s only steep for two miles, then it’s all downhill.
At the top you’ll break through the trees to a rocky bluff. Straight ahead begins the first incredible panoramic view of green hills and blue skies. I’m the kind of person who tends to stop at one spot and think, “wow it can’t get any better than this” while around the corner there’s a unicorn and a dragon frolicking through a field of daisies as fawns drink from a golden pond. You know what I mean? The point being, this view is incredible, but turn right and it gets better. Atop this rocky peak is where you get your reward from pushing through the steep climb. With friendly, and might I say ballsy, chipmunks at your feet, you’re high enough to feel like if you squint hard enough you could see the Pacific Ocean. You can’t, but the distance you can see in every direction is remarkable. Unending hills, trees, mountains and skies. If you’re brave enough to walk toward the edge, the aqua colored lake sits directly below. The paddleboarders look like little waterbugs on the surface leaving ripples in their wake. Like a beautiful sunset, you won’t be able to stop taking pictures. Sit, eat and enjoy. When you’re ready, head back down the way you came. Bend your knees, tuck in your abs and climb down in about a third of the time it took you to hike up. I’m always surprised by how quickly I reach the bottom when the ascent seemed like an eternity. Mark this hike as a must do more than once. As the skies and the seasons change, this hike can only get better and more magnificent.
Random things we noticed on our hike:
1. Couples hiking were all wearing matching colors; ourselves included. Pretending to be on the Amazing Race (the only reality show I would do in a heartbeat), we beat the green and blue teams, but the gray team killed us. Next time gray team….next time.
2. People who decided to run on the way down don’t take into account their speed, nor will they get out of your way if you’re going up.
3. Chipmunks can scale steep, rocky cliffs while holding 1-3 nuts in their cheeks. Chipmunks just got cooler.
4. The presence of children on a hike that seems difficult instantly makes you feel like you’re out of shape.
5. People think throwing their banana peels off of the cliff isn’t littering because it will eventually compost. PACK IN PACK OUT. There aren’t banana trees in the Cascades for a reason.
Good to know: I didn’t see a single rattlesnake on this hike. So unless you’re afraid of chipmunks or toy poodles, this hike is nothing to fear!