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Rattlesnake Trail

Eastern Washington

Location

Eastern Washington -- Palouse and Blue Mountains
View map below

Length

10.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 2900 ft.
Highest Point: 5700 ft.

Rating

3.43 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2019
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

If you’re looking for a thigh burner with a side of route finding, Rattlesnake Ridge is your trail. With an elevation gain of 1806 feet in the first two miles, and another 372 feet in the next mile, this trail is perfect if you're in training. Balsamroot decorate the hillsides as you proceed up up up, but soon the relatively clear trail turns into a route-find through downed trees, felled from beetle kill and old burns. Expect to scramble over more than a few blowdowns on your way to the top.

The Rattlesnake Ridge trailhead is just off the Tucannon River Road, two miles past the Tucannon Guard Station. There’s no parking area as such, so your best bet is to have a Discover Pass to park in the Camp Wooten lot opposite the trailhead. Another option would be to stay at the Panjab campground, just 200 yards further down the road. In fact, the trail departs from the campground, so it’ll be right in your backyard.

Begin by fording the Tucannon River, which rushes by the campground. The most well-established path to the water leads to a flat spot where the river passes over a small underwater berm of rocks. It’s 3 to 4 feet deep in high water, and 15 feet to the other side of the water here. The rocks underfoot are slippery. Keep this in mind when fording.

If you’d rather not start the hike wet, you can brushbash upstream to a tangle of trees that, with a little acrobatics, you can cross without too much trouble. The trick here is getting back downstream to that ford. Watch your footing – a small user trail has been established but parts of it are very close to the water.

Once you’ve arrived at the other side of the ford, the fun really begins. Immediately begin climbing steeply up the hillside, switchbacking through huge ponderosa pines, and whippy willows. WTA crews cleared the first mile of this trail in 2016 – this first part gives you a glimpse of what the trail could be like compared with the rest of the trail, which is slumping at best, at worst, it's hard to find due to blowdowns.

The trail curves to the west side of the ridge, where balsamroot bask in the sun on the hillside. Keep climbing, and look also for lupine, paintbrush, desert parsley, and bitterroot as you go. Cross back to the east side of the ridgeline about a mile and a half from the trailhead, at your first peak -- 4776 feet. Here the trail becomes fainter, and many downed trees slow your pace. But you’re chugging upwards, and a pause now and then to figure out how to get around these knotted trees might be welcome.

Skirt another outcropping masquerading as your second high point. Now begins your first traverse – just below the top of a ridgeline looking southeast. The trail here is narrow and crowded with brush. Watch your footing. After a bit of a breather, you’ll resume climbing, but this time a little more gently, to a broad open meadow, the intro to the second high point at 5748 feet.

Skirt a small island of trees that shelters the high point, and follow the trail as it passes west to a point where it abruptly turns northeast and begins descending into a saddle. During this section, you may hear Alnus Spring burbling away, though it is out of sight, downhill from the trail.

The saddle is an old burn area with other trees struck by beetle blight – lots of them are down and climbing over them takes some time. From the lowest point in the saddle, the trail begins to climb slightly as you follow a drainage (this is actually the trail, but water taking the path of a least resistance over the years has gutted it). Just as the brush and tree remnants seem to completely overwhelm the trail, pop out into yet another large meadow, and turn right. Trees are down (surprise) across the trail, but it just follows the forest border. Do the same, and soon see the trail turn away from the woods into the meadow. Join up with the trail and gradually hike uphill, past Red Fir Spring.

Past the spring, parkland opens up and glades of forest dot the landscape which is primarily wide open meadows full of Jacob’s shooting star, glacier lilies, and myriad other vibrant wildflower. Snow stays here for much longer, so the trail may be wet as the water runs off. But the traverse is gorgeous, with beautiful wildflowers and views of the Blue Mountains beyond.

Rattlesnake Ridge trail terminates about five miles from the trailhead, at an intersection in a meadow known as Indian Corrall. Taking a sharp right puts you on the 5.6 mille Panjab trail, which you can do in conjunction with Rattlesnake for a semi-loop (it requires a three mile road walk back to the Rattlesnake trailhead.

Continuing straight on at this junction is the Misery Ridge Trail, and a slight right leads to the Crooked Creek trail. If you're just hiking for the day, turn around here or continue down the Panjab Trail. If you're continuing on, best of luck in your further adventures!

 

Rattlesnake Trail

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 46.2043, -117.7058 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Eastern Washington -- Palouse and Blue Mountains

Rattlesnake Trail (#3129)

Umatilla National Forest, Pomeroy Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

USGS Topo Panjab Creek

Getting There

From Highway 12 13 miles north of Dayton or about 23 miles west of Pomeroy, turn south on the Tucannon River Road. Drive this road for 32 miles to a fork in the road. 30 miles in, the road becomes gravel. Take FR 4713 (the righthand fork) for a quarter mile, and look for the parking area, near the fish information board.

From Dayton, head northeast on Patit Road for 6.3 miles. Turn right onto Malcolm Grade Road and continue on this road for about 5 miles. Turn left onto Kendall Skyline Road and follow this road for 5.7 miles. About six miles from Malcolm Grade road, the road becomes FR 4620. Continue 2.4 miles and turn left to stay on NF 4620. Continue for a little more than a mile and then turn right on Tucannon Road. Continue 1.8 miles to a fork in the road, and take the right-hand branch. After about a quarter mile, the trailhead will be on the left, near the fish information board.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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Rattlesnake Trail

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