One beautiful spring Tuesday afternoon, Bellevue Club personal trainer Casey Brown had a suggestion: “Let’s do a triathlon.” She wasn’t talking about signing up for an actual race though; instead, she wanted to create an impromptu challenge that we could do on our time, at our own pace and for free (well, sort of). Our game plan was to park our car at a portion of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, bike it to the Rattlesnake Ledge trailhead, hike the trail, and then jump in Rattlesnake Lake for a quick swim before biking back to the car. Yes, we know, it’s not technically the right order for a triathlon, but for our purposes—which were to get a fun, different workout with beautiful local scenery—it seemed a well-thought-out plan. Here’s how it went:
The Biking (about a half hour)
Due to unforseen equipment malfunctions, we had to rent two bikes and purchase a bike rack, which cost roughly $250, but if you already have the equipment, your triathlon is free. To start the trek, head east on I-90 to North Bend and take a left off exit 31. Where the road intersects with North Bend Way, take a right and follow it for just a mile or two until you reach a small gravel parking lot on the right side of the road. The lot is nondescript, but there is a large blue sign that signals the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.
The bike ride itself is approximately five miles to the Rattlesnake Ledge trailhead, and the mountain scenery is beautiful enough to distract you from the ever-so-slight incline you will be pedaling against to get there. It’s a great way to warm up your legs for the hike.
Lesson learned: Make sure you bring chains to lock up your bikes once you arrive at the trailhead. Brown and I were lucky enough the other hikers left our unchained bikes alone, but we don’t recommend taking a chance.
The Hiking (about two hours)
Trading in the run portion of a triathlon for a hike, we climbed the four-mile round-trip Rattlesnake Ledge trail to the top of one of the area’s most picturesque summits. This trail is steep enough to get your thighs burning, but at the same time it is very approachable for hikers of all experiences, even after the bike portion.
If you have done this trail before, you might be aware there are a few shortcuts where you can shave some time. But beware: they are steep! Also, as they are unmarked, secret shortcuts, we can’t tell you exactly where they are. Those keenly aware of their surroundings might get lucky though.
Lesson learned: It is no secret that Rattlesnake Ledge trail attracts a lot of people, mostly because it is close, approachable for all levels and has stunning scenery. With that in mind, we highly suggest trying this triathlon on a summer weekday when the crowds are sparse and the days are long.
The Swimming (about a half hour)
Full disclosure, we did not attempt the swim because it was much cooler than we anticipated. We researched this article in early May; by press time, the temperature should be much warmer, making a quick dip in the lake after a bike and hike feel refreshing rather than bone-chilling.
Brown’s suggestion (she has completed the whole thing before) is to swim out to the prominent log that sits in the middle of the lake and then return to the shore. At that point you can dry off, possibly change into an extra dry shirt, if you brought one, and get ready for the biking back to the car.
Lesson learned: Leave your Lululemon leggings home. Nonpadded, quick-drying bike shorts are a great apparel choice for all three activities. Women can shed their shirts and swim in a sports bra, and men can go shirtless.
The Biking Back (about 20 minutes)
The best part about this route is that the bike trip back to the car is the easiest part of the whole plan. The slight incline you felt heading to the trailhead turns into a slight decline that allows you to glide quickly and painlessly toward the finish line, where there awaits a short drive to a tasty, well-deserved dinner and celebratory beer or glass of wine. It is the perfect cooldown.
Lesson learned: Depending on your fitness level, the whole triathlon can be completed between three and four hours, meaning you can even attempt the feat after a day of work. But if you are starting the adventure in the afternoon, we highly suggest packing a headlamp for the bike ride back. Trust us, it is not fun riding in the dark!