Cougar Mountain Park and Trails

The Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park,
about 20 miles from Seattle in Issaquah, is home to more than 35 miles of trails, plus connections to Squak Mountain. Trails are wide and well-marked, many are relatively flat, a great place to bring your family or your dog. Along the trails, there are several small attractions related to the area's mining history, as well several nice viewpoints and a couple of small waterfalls.

Highlights

Interesting sites in the park include:

  • Visible coal seams (several locations, most notably on the Bagely Seam Trail)
  • A strip mine and mine cart as part of the Ford Slope Mining Exhibit (on Rainbow Town Trail, see photos below)
  • A locomotive turntable pad, a cinder mine and mine shaft (on the Coal Creek Trail)
  • Waterfalls: Coal Creek Falls, Far County Falls, Doughty Falls (locations shown on map, Coal Creek Falls is the easiest to get to)
  • Several viewpoints (shown on the map)














History

For the best introduction to the long-running history of the area, I recommend this article from the January 2010 issue of the Washington Trails magazineThere is also a shorter follow-up article, also by the WTA, available here. Using some additional sources - the park's website, Wikipedia, and two articles from the Issaquah Press - it's possible to assemble a basic timeline for the area:
  • As always, Native Americans were here first; Cougar Mountain is rich with plants and game and this area was prime hunting and gathering grounds. Miners and other settlers began to steadily enter the area in the second half of the 19th century. Based on this article from HistoryLink on Issaquah, my guess is that the Snoqualmie and Sammamish tribes were the primary inhabitants.  
  • Towards the end of the 19th century, after the arrival of the railroad, mining became the primary activity on Cougar Mountain and nearby Squak Mountain.  You can see a grated-over mine shaft in the center of the park, accessed via the Mine Shaft Trail. It's in the vicinity of a working clay pit, off-limits to the public. Issaquah was incorporated in 1892 and shortly thereafter, the mines began to play out, and the focus began to shift to timber until the 1930's.
  • In the late 1950's the mountain became a component in the Nike anti-aircraft missile defense system. The map of the Seattle Defense Area shows a variety of sites around the Seattle-area. Cougar Mountain was home to the Nike S-20 Launch Battery Site. It's located in the vicinity of the Sky Country Trailhead, but there's not much left today. The GPS coordinates are latitude, 47°31'52.24"N, longitude:122° 6'48.82"W, but it's clearly marked on the map. The site was established in 1957 and decommissioned in 1964. For a great overview of the Nike missile sites around King County, see this article by the King Country Archives.

  • After decommissioning, King County took ownership and eventually developed it into the current 3,100+ acre park.

Trails

There are more than 35 miles of official trails in the park, plus several unofficial ones. For the best map, courtesy of King County, click on the thumbnail below.


For the full list of trail, plus descriptions, I recommend the well-written Wikipedia entry.The only dedicated trail guide that I could find - The authoritative guide to the hiking trails of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park and surrounds - appears to be out of print (Update, there appears to be a 1991 guide - Hiking and strolling trails of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, Coal Creek Park, May Creek Park - available). However, several of the key hikes are mentioned in regional hiking guides.The table below identifies all the official, signed trails, their identifier (N=north, C=central, E=east, W=west) , and their mileage, with the note that signs may show a slightly different mileage. Trails in italics are covered below.

 N2
Military Rd. Trail
 0.7  W4 Steam Hoist Trail
 0.2  C9  By Pass Trail
 0.2  E10  West Tibbets Creek Trail
 0.4
 N3 Radio Peak Trail
 0.4  W5 China Creek Trail
 0.3  C10
 Mine Shaft Trail
 0.3  E11  Squak Mountain Connector Trail
 0.7
 N4 Coyote Creek Trail
 1.1  W6 Marshall's Hill Trail
 1.1  C11  Old Man's Trail
 0.3  E12  Red Cedars Trail
 0.3
 N5 Klondike Swamp Trail
 0.9  W7 Indian Trail
 1.3
 C12  Nike Horse Trail
 0.3  E13  Precipice Top Trail
 0.2
 N6 Lost Beagle Trail
 0.7  W9 De Leo Wall Trail
 1.1  E1  Shangri La Trail
 1.7  E14  Military Ridge Trail
 0.7
 N7 Anti-Aircraft Ridge Trail
 0.7  W10 Bagley Seam Trail
 0.2
 E2  Surprise Creek Trail
 0.6  E15  Big Tree Ridge Trail
 0.4
 N8 Cougar Pass Trail
 0.3  C1 Clay Pit Road        
 1.3
 E3  Bear Ridge Trail
 1.5  E16  Precipice Bottom Trail
 0.4
 N9 Tibbets Marsh Trail    
 1.0  C2 Red Town Creek Trail
 0.2
 E4  Wilderness Peak Trail
 0.4  S1  Far Country Trail
 0.3
 N10 Primrose Overlook Trail
 0.2
 C3
Cave Hole Trail
 1.2
 E5  Wilderness Cliffs Trail
 1.3  S2  Shy Bear Trail
 1.7
 N11 Little Creek Trail
 0.4
 C4 Coal Creek Falls Trail
 0.7
 E6  Wilderness Creek Trail
 1.5  S3  Deceiver Trail
 0.9
 W1 Wildside Trail
 1.0
 C6 Quarry Trail
 1.0
 E7  Goode's Corner Trail
 0.2  S4  Long View Peak Trail
 0.4
 W2 Red Town Trail
 0.8
 C7 Fred's Railroad Trail
 0.6
 E8  No Name Trail
 0.2  S5  Ring Road Trail
 0.4
 W3 Rainbow Town Trail
 0.3
 C8 East Fork Trail
 0.7  E9  Protector Trail
 0.4  S6  Licorice Fern Trail
 1.

Trailheads and Example Routes

Red Town Trailhead

The Red Town Trailhead is the biggest and most commonly accessed trailhead, first-time visitors or families with children will want to start here, where the are portable toilets, information booths, and black and white copies of the map.

Directions: 
  • From I-90, take exit 13 onto Lakemont Blvd SE for about 3 miles, the parking lot is on the left near a wide bend in the road.
  • From I-405, take exit 10 onto Coal Creek Pkwy and follow for about 2.5 miles to a shopping center, turn left at the light onto SE 72nd, then left again onto Newcastle Golf Club Road. Follow for about 2 miles and the parking lot will be on the ride near the wide bend in the road.
Example routes:

Coal Creek Falls

From the Red Town Trailhead, it's a little over 2 miles to Coal Creek Falls, via Red Town, Cave Hole and then Coal Creek Falls trails. For more details, see Day Hiking: Snoqualmie Region (Done in a Day)  Hike #3


View Hike: Coal Creek Falls, Cougar Mountain, WA in a larger map

Wildside Trail - Marshall's Hill Trail - De Leo Wall Trail - Red Town Trail.

A loop out of several of the more popular trails heading out of the Red Town trailhead

Map:

View Hike: Wildside Trail - Marshall Hill, Cougar Mountain, WA in a larger map

View Hike: De Leo Wall - Redtown Trail, Cougar Mountain, WA in a larger map


Red Town Trail - Indian Trail - Licorice Fern Trail

This route heads south of the trailhead for roughly 3.5 miles, to the southernmost tip of the park. The trail connects with 112th, I don't know if it goes beyond that. A nice out and back if you want to get a 7-mile hike/run in.

Map:


View Cougar Mountain Hike in a larger map
 
Wilderness Creek Trailhead

Directions (from the King County Parks map):

F
rom I-90: Take Exit 15 and drive south on Highway 900 (17th Ave NW then Renton-Issaquah Rd SE) for 3.3 miles. Look for the trailhead sign and an asphalt driveway that goes uphill and to the right.

Example routes:

Wilderness Creek Trail - Wilderness Peak Trail - Wilderness Cliffs Trail


A nice climb to a forested peak

Map:

View Hike: Wilderness Peak, Cougar Mountain, WA in a larger map

Current Conditions:
Directions:        
From the King County Parks map:

Wilderness Creek Trailhead


From I-90:
Take Exit 15 and drive south on Highway 900 (17th Ave NW then Renton-Issaquah Rd SE) for 3.3 miles. Look for the trailhead sign and an asphalt driveway that goes uphill and to the right.

Reference: Day Hiking: Snoqualmie Region (Done in a Day)  Hike #5

Harvey Manning Anti-Aircraft Peak Trailhead



Formerly known as Anti-Aircraft Peak Trailhead (it was renamed in honor of Harvey Manning in mid-2016) because of the radar station on the nearby peak, this trailhead provides access to several trails, including the Shangri La Trail, the Harvey Manning Trail and the Lost Beagle Trail, which leads to the remnants of the radar station. 
There are restrooms and picnic tables near the parking lot.  It's also the highest trailhead at roughly 1400 ft, and there are several nice views close by. 

Directions (f
rom the King County Parks map):

From I-90: Take Exit 13 and drive south on Lakemont Blvd SE for 2.5 miles. Turn left onto SE Cougar Mountain Way. Follow the double yellow line. (The road will first swing left and become 168th Place SE, and then right to become SE 60th St.) Turn off 60th St uphill onto the dead-end road, SE Cougar Mountain Drive. The road will change to gravel, and at the very end is the Anti-Aircraft Peak Trailhead, where you will find restrooms, picnic tables and a playfield.

Here's an example route, but the options are limitless.

Map:


View Hike: Shangri La Trail, Surprise Creek Trail, Cougar Mountain, WA in a larger map



Comments