I have no idea why this is called Rattlesnake Mountain. We don’t have rattlesnakes in this part of the state and there’s nothing whatsoever that makes me think of a Rattlesnake here. But, that’s the name of this well known area in North Bend! Described below is a trail description for a one way hike for the entire Rattlesnake Mountain Trail. This is a long and challenging hike at 10.5 miles with 2500 feet of elevation gain. Doing it one way involves two cars (see logistics below). If you want to do a shorter hike with less elevation gain (or if you want to start and stop at the same trailhead), you could try the very popular Rattlesnake Ledge hike or the much less crowded Stan’s Overlook hike on the other side. If you’re game to do the whole Rattlesnake Mountain hike, read on!
Is the Rattlesnake Mountain Hike right for me?
The Rattlesnake Mountain hike is very challenging. It’s long and gains 2500 feet of elevation. Even though the elevation gain is relatively spread out, it’s steady climbing for about two thirds of the distance. I really enjoyed the novelty of traversing a ridge I see all the time from the freeway and doing something challenging that was super close to home (30 minutes from my house in South Seattle), which made it a good adventure for me. The trail is in very good condition. It is definitely a long forest hike, so if you get tired of many miles of forest walking this would not be a good choice! There are four nice viewpoints of various parts of the valley and mountains around North Bend, but most of the time you’re in the forest without a view. There’s also about a mile along the ridge that goes next to a recent clear cut.
When is a good time for the Rattlesnake Mountain Hike?
I did this in late November which seemed like a good time. The trail had some mud, but not bad for November! I think late fall, winter and early spring would be the best time. While the middle 6 miles of the trail has almost no one on it, the trailheads on both ends are extremely busy during the spring, summer and early fall. I’ve also heard that there are a lot of bugs here in the summer. It took me 6 hours to complete this hike, so keep that in mind on our short winter days and make sure to bring your headlamp!
Where is it?
I started at the Rattlesnake Mountain hike at the Snoqualmie Point trailhead, which is between Issaquah and North Bend (Exit 27 off I-90 East). When you get to the end of the off ramp, turn right and it will take you straight to the parking lot. I finished the hike at the Rattlesnake Ledge Trailhead, on the other side of North Bend.
One way Rattlesnake Mountain hike logistics
To do the one way Rattlesnake Mountain hike, you’ll need to either have two cars, or get picked up at the end (this is what I did), or you could get an uber or lyft to take you back to your car at the other trailhead. I did this hike by myself and started at Snoqualmie Point and had my spouse pick me up at the Rattlesnake Ledge trailhead. If you were hiking with another person and you had two cars, you could leave one at the end and then drive back to the starting point in the other vehicle (the Snoqualmie point trailhead requires a Discover Pass while the Rattlesnake ledge trailhead does not, something to consider if one car has a pass and one doesn’t). I chose to go from Snoqualmie Point to Rattlesnake Ledge mostly because my spouse was more familiar with that area so it was easy to make a plan to meet (my cell phone is iffy at that location). I also knew that it might get dark before I got there and even though I had my headlamp (and my other 10 essentials), I wanted to be on the part of the trail I was more familiar with if it got dark. Going this way the climb was spread out over a longer time with the descent a bit steeper than the ascent. Based on your preference, you might want to go the other way and do the steeper section uphill.
I started the Rattlesnake Mountain hike at the Snoqualmie Point Trailhead (Discover Pass required). Don’t be put off by the crazy number of mountain bikers in the parking lot! The first time I came here I almost left because there were so many bikes. I think mountain biking is great, but I don’t like sharing the trail with bikers (unless it’s super wide) and I’m sure they don’t like sharing the trail with hikers either! Rattlesnake Mountain has an extensive (and apparently awesome) mountain bike trail system, but this is entirely separate from the hiking trails. After the first 100 feet of trail, you only encounter mountain bikers where the trails cross or there are intersections. Sharing this space between hikers and mountain bikers is absolutely no problem so don’t worry about that in this location.
The Rattlesnake mountain hike is very well signed at all the junctions, I still recommend having a map with you.
You’ll start off climbing through the forest and in about 2 miles you’ll come to a junction with the mountain bike trail and a sign for Stan’s Overlook (just 50 feet or so away). This is the first viewpoint and you can see over to Mt Si and surrounding mountains. There’s also a picnic table and two benches.
Back on the trail, you’ll continue climbing through the forest about three more miles and then you’ll arrive at Grand Prospect, the second viewpoint, which has a view similar to Stan’s Overlook, just higher.
Continuing on, there’s a bit more climbing in the forest, and then you’ll go along the edge of a clear cut on top of Rattlesnake Mountain for about a mile.
Leaving the clear cut into the forest again, you’re nearing the highest point! In another half mile or so (about 6.5 miles from your starting point) you’ll arrive at East Peak, the highest point on the route. East Peak is forested, but there is a bench and lookout just before it.
As you approach East Peak, you’ll see a radio tower to the left and the trail goes right (there’s a sign) and you’ll begin descending. At this point you have about 4 miles left to go and it’s all downhill from here. The first two miles are again through the forest without views. Just before you get to the extremely popular and probably crowded Rattlesnake Ledge, don’t miss a short (20 feet) trail to the left to some rocks above Rattlesnake ledge. There’s a great view here (the same as from the ledge, but less people) of the middle fork valley, Mt Si, Mailbox peak and other North Bend area mountains (see photo at the top of this post).
Now you’re just about 2 miles from the car (and you can see the parking lot from this view point). Continue down (you can go out to Rattlesnake ledge if you’d like for a short detour) and you’ll be in the forest again for the last two miles. This part of the trail is likely to be quite crowded, which is strange after seeing no one for so many miles before! When you arrive at the bottom of the trail there are restrooms and a trailhead sign. To get to the parking lot, follow the wide gravel trail/road to the left around the lake and you’ll shortly be in the parking lot.
Overall, the Rattlesnake Mountain hike is challenging and long without any particularly exciting features that other hikes don’t have. I still greatly enjoyed it and recommend it for people who don’t mind being in the forest a long time.