Cedar Butte–Bad spelling on the summit and bad tidings at Christmas Lake below


The infamous “Ceder Butt!” What exactly is a ceder anyway?

Location: Snoqualmie Valley near North Bend

Land Agency: Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 4.0 miles

Elevation gain: 900 feet

Green Trails Maps: Rattlesnake Mountain Upper Snoqualmie Valley No. 205S

Contact:   Washington State Parks (360) 902-8844

Notes: Discover Pass required; Dogs must be leashed

Access: From Seattle take I-90 east to exit 32 in North Bend turning right (south) onto 436th Ave SE which soon becomes Cedar Falls Road. Follow for 3.1 miles to Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area. Look for large parking lot (located on east side of road) for the Iron Horse Trail.

Good to know: Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly, historic, snow-free winter hike

Just a blob of a peak on the Cascade western front, never-the-less little Cedar Butte provides some pretty nice views. Follow a historic rail line before winding your way up the forested butte for a nice look at the terminal moraine heaps left behind from the long-gone Ice Age glaciers. Starting from the Iron Horse State Park, follow a short trail to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Once a long distance rail line, it’s now a long distance rail trail.

Soon pass by shallow Christmas Lake. How did this little body of water come to be named in honor of one of America’s most beloved holidays? Well, it wasn’t exactly for good tidings, comfort and joy. Little Boxley Creek flooded on December 23, 1918 taking an entire town off of the map. The creek which drained Rattlesnake Lake above had earlier been dammed by the City of Seattle for a power project. After weeks of heavy rain, the dam burst sending a surge of water 150 feet wide down the valley towards the logging town of Edgewick. The entire town, mill and all, was destroyed. Miraculously the 60 residents of the community survived but didn’t exactly have a wonderful Christmas Eve the next day. Many of the locals began referring to Boxley Creek as Christmas Creek. The name Boxley remained on the maps for the creek, but the small wetland pond it fed took the Christmas moniker.


In 1918 it wasn’t very merry at Christmas Lake. Lot’s of joyful trails now in the area-find them on the Green Trails Special Series Rattlesnake Mountain Map 205S.

At 0.7 mile cross a trestle over the infamous Boxley Creek and come to the Cedar Butte trail shortly afterwards. Head right on the good trail through maturing second growth.  Bear right at a junction avoiding the older steeper trail to Cedar Butte and at 1.3 miles reach the Boxley Blowout Overlook, site of where the Cedar River Reservoir “blew-out in 1918 causing devastating flooding. At Saddle Junction bear right climbing steeply to Cedar’s 1,860-foot summit. Take in good views east of the Snoqualmie Valley. But the real treat is locating the summit geodetic marker. Check it out-yep, it reads “Cedar Butt!” Add bad spelling to the bad tidings!


Cedar Butte is one of 50 hikes featured in my Winter Hikes of Western Washington deck (Mountaineers Books). Check it out for some great suggestions to snow-free hiking destinations.

For more information on things to do, places to stay, and where to eat in the Snoqualmie Valley consult Northwest Trip Finder.

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