Rattlesnake Trail

HARD 2 reviews
#12 of 18 trails in

Rattlesnake Trail is a 11.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Dayton, Washington that offers scenic views and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from March until October.

DISTANCE
11.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
3307 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

views

backpacking
26 days ago

Great overnight season-opener into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness by way of the Rattlesnake Trail. Important cautionary notes: ticks are highly prevalent, trail is exposed for the first 4 miles or so (bring lots of water, sunscreen), several sections of minor blowdown / overgrowth, and some route finding required. With that said, this is a terrific primitive trail up a ridgeline through bone-white burn stands and meadows of blooming wildflowers, where the views are plentiful and stargazing is phenomenal.

The official trailhead sign is not where you'll want to start, instead continue up the road about 200yd to the large wooden sign for the campground on your let (towards the river) where a trail will lead you down to a log crossing, adzed and all. After crossing you'll maneuver along a fairly well-established social trail that's muddy and tenuous at times until you hit the official trail. Turn right and start your climb up.

The trail wastes no time with elevation gain, and soon you're out of the trees and switchbacking up the face. Shade is rare along this north-facing slope, hope for a slight breeze and keep hydrated. Around 4,000ft it mellows out some as you gain the ridgeline, but still have 2-3 more steeper sections until the trail tops out around 5,300ft (starting at 2,900ft).
Around 5,200ft the trail jogs left to the northeast side of the ridge, here you'll need to keep your eyes sharp to follow the trail through blow down and misleading deer trails. Keep your heading and you'll eventually pick it up just past a large tree that's come down right across the trail (super helpful, right?).

In another 0.25mi or so you'll walk into a large, beautiful meadow, which is where we stayed the night. The far northeast corner near Alnus Spring is a perfect spot, we even came upon a small snow patch to beat the heat and give us fresh water. The spring is flowing at this elevation, too, so the USGS topo is accurate. The northern corner is a beautiful knoll that affords panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness, with the horizon extending above the ridgelines as fields in the Palouse are visible. There's a perfect tree grove for hammocks and shade in the center, and a quick stroll to the southwest corner gives you a great peek at the higher sections of the Blues to the south. Enjoy the long sunset over the meadow and stay up light for excellent stargazing, uninhibited by the minimal light pollution from the surrounding farm country.

The ticks were pretty bad, we brought our two pups with us and pulled off a couple dozen after our trip, including one off me. Gnats were minimal at dusk, bugs during the daylight hours weren't too bad, and the birds at dawn had plenty to say. Saw a white-tailed doe and what appeared to be cougar or bobcat scat, but otherwise no wildlife to note. Only encountered 4 others on trail while every car-camping site along the way was packed. Great trip, will certainly be revisiting this area!

hiking
Thursday, March 14, 2013