Cle Elum Ridge and Rat Pac Trail

Editor Note:  Since making this post, I have done more research and this is more likely the Roslyn RidgeCle Elum Ridge sits on the south side of I-90 instead.

Mileage: 5.4 miles RT

Elevation Gain/Highest:  1258ft/3486ft

Map: Green Trails Cle Elum No 241 , my GAIA, Roslyn Trail Alliance

Favorite Eats After Hike: Basecamp Books and Bites

Find out current conditions and as always, practice Leave No Trace.  Pretty Please.

My Hike:


When my good hiking friend and I met on I-90 to hike today, despite a partly sunny forecast, the skies were grey and crying.   Both of us are over hiking in the rain and that left us with two options.  Sit at Starbucks and wait it out or head over the pass where the sun was out already.  We headed over.

I had done a search for low level hikes in the Roslyn area that would be snow free to the TH and not to strenuous as my friend’s teaching schedule this year has meant minimal time on trail.  I had see a report from two weeks back on a trail that started in town so we thought we would check it out.  My friend was familiar with area as she grew up in E-berg, so she was able to get us to the TH as a search for “visitor center” in Roslyn turned up empty.

Our route started out on the Coal Mines Trail that runs from Roslyn to Cle Elum on an old railroad grade, so minimal elevation gain.  From here, we shortly turn up to an old logging (mining?) road named the Rat Pac Trail.  It was a mix of mud and compact icy snow and our trailrunners did just fine.  It does say No Trespassing but I’m guessing that is an old sign as there is a very obvious trail head sign just below it.

We followed this main road without turning off (the official Rat Pac Trail turns right more to the south before turning up again towards the ridge) about a mile until it came to a dead end and turned into more of a bike trail. 

From here, we went a bit cross-country heading up on abandoned tracks to skip the bend and reconnect with the main road above in about ¼ mile.

This reconnected with the Rat Pac Trail and the snow covered more of the road from this point on.  I imagine you could snowshoe if you wanted (I saw tracks) but the snow is so hard it can’t possibly be any fun right now.  Poles were helpful, however. 

At 1.9 miles (longer if you didn’t go cross-country, we came to a junction.  The Rat Pac continued to the right and another road went straight with a gate. 

Checking the map, we decided to go straight and make a loop up to the ridge and come back down on the Rat Pac.  The map shows a maze of old roads and I guessed correctly we would be doing a bit more cross-country.  It’s a good thing my friend is such a good sport but I don’t think she believes me anymore when I say that I see footprints or a faint trail going the way I want us to go!

This road continued about .4 more miles and then we cut up to the ridge and the view. 

We could see Rainier poking up beyond the range to the south and there was occasional postholing into the snow where water ran underneath on this last .1 miles to the top about 1.75 hours from when we started at the car.

What a gorgeous view it was!  Did I mention we still haven’t seen one other soul?  We began to see the  Stuart Range and walked a bit to the west and found an open spot in the snow and had lunch. 

The sun was warm and despite the snow it felt like spring.  It was easy to see the Enchantments still have plenty of snow and folks with early permits will be snow camping for sure.

We completed the loop on the Rat Pac with its wide open road and evidence of snowmobilers we didn’t see today and made it back down to the car a little after 1pm.  We were worried the snow covered road would require spikes on the way down but there was just enough melt to keep our traction.  I imagine this would make a great snowshoe early in the season, especially since you don’t have much road to navigate to get to the trailhead.

Directions: Head east on I-90 from Seattle towards Ellensburg and take exit 80 to Roslyn.  As you enter town, turn right on E. Dakota Ave. and follow about two blocks to where the paved road either turns left or right onto a dirt road named Whitehead Dr.  There is a shoulder to park on the road that goes left.  No pass needed.

For more I-90 hikes, check out my latest trip reports from the area!

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