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Highest altitude for rattlesnakes?

I thought the altitude range for rattlers is up to 6000' or so.
Well, yesterday I came across this beauty on Sugarloaf Mt. at approx. 9300'.
I almost stepped on it, because it didn't rattle until I got within 3 ft or so plus I wasn't paying as much attention not expecting it up this high.
How high up have you encountered these serpents?


I've never seen a rattler in the mountains but thanks for the reminder to keep my eyes open for them.

Early morning in the pine trees just above the ski hut heading up the scree field on Baldy Bowl. He wasn't moving as it was still fairly cold out at that time of morning. I was between 8,600 & 8,700 feet, I've also run into one on the Bear Canyon Trail at about 6,300 feet but it's much hotter over there so I wasn't that surprised, those switchbacks get a bunch of sunlight.

And one more at 3,300 feet in the San Gabriel River and Fish Fork confluence, he was between me and the only way though some major boulders and a "$hitload" of poison oak, I coaxed him into moving, he looked less intimidating than the OAK so I waited while he moved  Shocked  Very Happy didn't want to have to wade through the Oak, I hate that stuff, I'm a magnet for it.

Seen 'em on top of Mt. Islip and Throop Peak. Well above 8000 ft.

I've never seen one above 10,000' although I doubt that's definitive.


I used to let my dog off leash above 6,000' for this very reason, until hiking one day at Mt. Waterman and having the ski lift maintenance guy say they saw them all the time up there.  (Not in the winter of course)

My highest encounter was at Vincent Gap on the way to Bighorn Mine.  But I haven't seen many snakes at all.  Definitely if there is habitat (rodents), and it gets above 70 degrees, there's no reason for them not to be around.
John G

I ran into one near the top of Register Ridge. Very early in the morning, very chilly. It wasn't moving, just solar charging.

John G wrote:
It wasn't moving, just solar charging.
Hahaha  Laughing

@ 4100'
Tom S

Until about 3 years, I had never seen any above 5500'.  Since then, most of the ones I've seen were in the high country (always the Pacific species like the 2 above, the most toxic and assertive species found here).  I think that it is somehow related to the unprecedented amount of acreage burned in the lower elevations in recent years in So. Calif.  And the number of snakes in general (mostly non-rattler) that I've seen in 2011 far outstrips any past year.  I don't bother to try to photograph gopher snakes any more, I see so many.

Gopher snake in the grass Buck Creek Los Padres National Forest.  These guys will sometimes hang around for a couple minutes and pose for the camera.

Longnosed snake Solstice Canyon

John G wrote:
I ran into one near the top of Register Ridge. Very early in the morning, very chilly. It wasn't moving, just solar charging.

I did Baldy via Register Ridge today.  I saw a rattlesnake before the falls -- no big surprise at 6000'.  However, as I approached the intersection of the Register Ridge use trail (actually, more of a highway these days), some hikers had spotted a rattlesnake a bit uphill, along the Backbone Trail.  They had scared it into the brush by the time I arrived, so no picture.

Here is "the 6000' snake."


Guardians of the Ski Hut, 8200'


Granodiorite  Smile

I was just wondering about this and a search turned up this thread.

The highest I've encountered is 8800' on Gorgonio. That is only rattlesnake I've seen over 6000'.

The state claims they can be found over 10000', but I think that would be unusual and transitory. It seems like it would be too cold for them most of the time over 10000'.

Two at the same time at 9200 ft on Onyx Peak (San Bernardino Mtns).  With the number of radio relay stations and buildings on its very broad summit there must be plenty of rodents for snakes to feed on up there.
Mike P

Just below Etiwanda Peak last summer.

About halfway down from Baden-Powell to Ross, July 5, 2003...rattler was coiled and wagging tail but no sound...very would not move, so I walked well around it (after taking a couple of bad pix with wide-angle point-and-shoot I take my DSLR on hikes...)...

Also, near the top of Williamson 8214, July 29, 2011...

Both around 8000 feet...



As far as I can tell, there is no restriction on the range of rattlesnakes in the local mountains, although you don't see them frequently above 10,000'.



We saw a rattlesnake years ago near Timber Mtn around 8000'.  It would have been July or August, warm weather. The guidebooks say you will not find them above 7000' in the colder Sierra, bit I'm still not sticking my hands or feet where I cannot see them.

Interesting question.  I looked it up on a herpetology site and apparently Southern Pacific rattlesnakes (like the one in your photo) can live as high as 9000 ft. although they're rarely seen above 7000. The record altitude for a western diamondback was 11,500, which is amazing. Forum Index -> Flora & Fauna & Fungi
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