There’re few things that taste better than the tang of pine needles on the tip of my tongue and the zest of western Washington’s damp earth that is whipped into my mouth by a gust of wind.
Explosion of scents. Sounds. Colors. Vibrations from swaying ferns and the crackle of the dirt under your feet as you make your up the side of Rattlesnake Ledge. The trail is characterized by a relatively smooth trail and more switchblades than you think.
Located less the 45 minutes away from Seattle,Rattlesnake Ledge has earned the love and loyalty of Snoqualmie Valley residents, Washingtonians, and visitors to the area alike. Perhaps its biggest draw is the smooth lake nestled at the base of the ledge, fed by melting snow in the spring and warmed by the summer sun.
With an elevation gain of 1,160 feet, you can easily the trail is tested out by both seasoned hikers and those new to the activity. I’ve even seen small children clamber up, excited to reach the rocky ledge at the top where you get a 180 degree view west across the valley and east into Snoqualmie Pass.
My best suggestion: go at sunset. If possible, during the week. Because the trail isn’t too steep or too long (under two miles), it gets its fair share of hikers on the weekends, and the parking areas get filled up fast. In that case, you can park your car on the road leading up to the ledge and lake.
But on the topic of sunset, if you head out around an hour before the sun goes down, you can easily make it up to the ledge and enjoy an evening snack as you watch a golden haze settle over the valley. On a clear day, you have visibility all the way into Issaquah.
Houses are like tiny, toy homes surrounded by evergreen trees clustered closely together. An occasional car twists around a bend in the road.
And depending on the season, the lake changes colors. In the spring, it’s lighter, with a green tinge. Summer finds it shrunken, with the rocky edges of the water exposed to the sun and wind.
If you make it a weekday hike, as promised, there is likely to be less hikers resting at the top of the ledge, so you can wander over it and enjoy the different vantage points each section offers. I would warn you to use caution, especially if you have children with you.
The taste of the wind is stronger near the top, but honestly, it’s a welcome sensation after the last huff and puff up the final switchback.
Watching the sun set and literally seeing dusk settle over the trees is truly one of the most mesmerizing moments of my life. The sensation of being higher than everything that’s going on down below allows you to view problems, questions and decisions from an entirely different perspectives (literally).
Everything seems smaller and the moment is all there is.
Almost. Once you make your way down the ledge (if it’s in the evening, I suggest bringing along a headlamp), you can drive down the always twisty Twin Falls road that will take you into the valley and the last town before you hit the pass: North Bend.
There’s not a lot to North Bend, beyond the shopping mall and the Twin Peaks cafe that never seems to lack luster to all the visitors that drive out to view the slightly weather-beaten landmark.
However, most small towns have at least one hidden treasure, and North Bend’s is Scott’s Dairy Freeze.
If you close your eyes and picture the quintessential, American drive-through burger joint (ideally through a 1970s Instagram filter), then you’ll probably hit the mark with Scott’s. Characterized by whiteboarding and red trim, the eatery catches your eye through its recently added red checkerboard seating area where you can take your freshly made burger or cone of soft-serve and eat it with the knowledge that you’ve already walked off the calories.
Somehow the burgers, soft serve cones, and milkshakes (which are seriously good) taste so much better after a hike. And as bonus, it’s super affordable, which is music to the ears of this college student.
In my opinion.
If you want the experience to be even more cliché, head back home with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” playing in your car and the stubborn scent of the pines clinging to your hair.
Happy hiking. 🙂