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Rattlesnake Lake / Rattlesnake Ledge Trail


Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area sign
Rattlesnake Lake sign at the bottom of the lake

Nestled within Washington's Cascade Mountains, Rattlesnake Lake and the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail stand out as one of the Pacific Northwest's top-tier destinations. Before I moved to Seattle, I visited often since 2014. Before I visited for the first time, my coworker was telling me 'how great it was out there' and how his buddies took a trip out to WA and went hiking to this place called Rattlesnake Ledge. He said he it was 'like a religious experience' getting to the top and looking over the ledge. I never forgot our talk, and now I'm able to finally visit!

Where are all the Rattlesnakes at Rattlesnake Lake?
"No rattlesnakes live here. However, the lake, ledge, and mountain all carry the name of this powerful reptile. Why?

For thousands of years, Native American travelers crossed the Cascade Mountains. Did the name travel with them from dry Eastern Washington where rattlesnakes do reside? Or could the name reflect more recent times, when a team of surveyors in the nineteenth century ventured east from Seattle? Startled by the rattling of dried camas seed pods in the wind, did they leave the name behind?

Today we find that the true story eludes us, locked in the past, leaving us with only guesses"

Rattlesnake Lake

A very foggy day at Rattlesnake Lake
We almost didn't come because of how foggy and drizzly it was, but man I'm glad we did. Foggy hiking is now something I'd highly recommend! 

At Rattlesnake Lake, as water levels drop, a curious sight is revealed: an ancient forest of tree stumps. These stumps harken back to an era when a dense forest dominated the region, only to be transformed by logging operations in the early 20th century.

The saga continues with the creation of a dam, altering the water levels and submerging the forest. Though the trees met their end, their stumps endured, shielded beneath the water. On days when the lake retreats, these aged remnants emerge, bearing silent testimony to the delicate balance between man and nature.


Low water levels at Rattlesnake Lake
Look at how low the water was at Rattlesnake Lake! So much exposed lake bed, and look at all the tree stumps in the background!


Set against the backdrop of crystalline waters, these time-worn stumps are both a photographer's delight and a contemplative spot for visitors, merging natural allure with a touch of history. In fact we saw both that day. Some people set up some lounging spots by the stumps closest to the water. Another couple hired a photographer and were taking engagement photos on one of the tallest stumps. I noped out of there. The photographer's commentary was mega cringe.

The Journey Up Rattlesnake Ledge Trail

Big Boulder Rock Rattlesnake Trail
It's a cool big rock, what else can I say.


Starting at the tranquil waters of Rattlesnake Lake, the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail immediately immerses hikers in the characteristic damp, mossy environment of the Pacific Northwest. Spanning approximately 4 miles in total, the trail winds through dense forests where towering Douglas firs and ancient western hemlocks create a cathedral-like canopy overhead. The understory is rich with ferns and other vegetation, their vibrant green hues even more pronounced after a rain.

Mossy green tree arch Rattlesnake Ledge
How nice and welcoming! AND GREEN!


As one progresses, the trail offers teasing glimpses of the lake below, its serene waters reflecting the surrounding forest and sky. These moments, where nature's beauty suddenly reveals itself, compel many to halt their journey momentarily, pulling out cameras or simply pausing in admiration.

Foggy but Green Rattlesnake Ledge Trail
The fog made this hike otherworldly!


The trail's ascent, while moderately challenging, is made enjoyable by the enveloping greenery and the soft, earthy aroma that fills the air. Reaching the summit, one is rewarded with expansive views of the surrounding landscape, making the effort to get there feel deeply gratifying.


Spooky Foggy Hike Rattlesnake Ledge
What a great hike to get us in the mood for Halloween! Incredible the entire way up!


Triple the Views: Three Ledges

One trail, but three killer viewpoints:

First Ledge: This is where most folks stop. And for a good reason. The views of Rattlesnake Lake, those fascinating tree stumps, and the enveloping forest? Pure magic. Unless of course it's a brutally foggy day...!

Foggy Rattlesnake Ledge -- No Lake
Uh oh! No Lake to Be Seen from up here! Way too foggy. It was okay though. What a crazy sight to see.

Second Ledge: Push a bit further and you're rewarded with an even wider canvas of the Cascades. Plus, it's usually less crowded.

Foggy Ledges of Rattlesnake
I'm not sure if this is from the second ledge but we still couldn't see anything from there! We trekked onward and upward!

Onward to the third ledge
Onward to the third ledge. Can we get higher than the fog and see above it???

Third Ledge: For the adventurers who like to go the extra mile, this spot delivers with the most panoramic views. You'll feel on top of the world, literally.


Died and went to heaven on the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail
WE DID IT!! We just made it above the fog. Just enough to see the tops of the mountains in the distance. 30 seconds after taking this picture the fog blew in and covered up the view, but we saw it, and I have proof! What a crazy view! Makes up for not seeing the landscapes below.


Moncton's Silent Echo

The town of Moncton, in its prime, was a bustling community fueled by the logging industry, with residents deeply connected to the rhythm of the forest. However, the relentless march of progress and unforeseen consequences of human actions soon took their toll. As the waters rose, swallowing homes and memories, residents were forced to abandon their way of life, leaving behind a legacy now submerged beneath the tranquil surface of Rattlesnake Lake. The visible tree stumps, poking through the water's surface (or obviously apparent when the water is low, which is how its been lately) are poignant reminders of nature's power and resilience, as well as the sacrifices made in the name of development. For visitors today, these stumps serve not only as a glimpse into the past but also as a cautionary tale about the balance between man and nature.

Sun peaking in through the fog Rattlesnake Ledge
Some sun started to burn through the fog near the higher ledge to really pop these autumn colors!


When's the Best Time to Visit

While the beauty of Rattlesnake Lake and its trail is evergreen, each season paints it with its own colors. Fresh blossoms in spring, the fiery hues of fall, and bright, sun-soaked days in summer. Winters might be chilly, but a snow-laden landscape is worth every shiver. I'd love to come back and see it, fogless next time, although the fog was awesome in its own right!

In a Nutshell

Rattlesnake Lake and its trail are the kind of spots that stick with you. Whether it's the blend of history, the allure of nature, or just the pure joy of exploring something epic, this destination is a win-win. So gear up and let the adventure begin!


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