Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Squak Mtn - Bullitt Fireplace Hike (Winter)

Date of Hike: Jan 2008

Summary: Fun, low key hike on Squak Mountain with snow at the top near the historic Bullitt Fireplace. Almost no views even during the less dense forest winter. At times confusing trail system which is marked but often interconnects making trails less distinct.

I did this hike early in the morning on New Years Day -- obviously I am not a late night NYE kinda person, haha! The drive up to the trailhead was very easy but there is no signage or markers, however the parking lot is easy to spot and the trailhead is well established.

Like Cougar Mountain nearby, this park has a series of interconnecting trails which makes for lots of miles of hiking -- but it can be confusing if you are seeking a straight-forward hiking route. Even one of my favorite local hiking books has a confusing hike route for this mountain at first glance. In any case, I would suggest taking the Green Trails map #203S (Cougar Mountain - Squak Mountain) map for this hike and just keeping an eye out for signs to the Bullitt Fireplace.

The trail from the parking lot, leads to an intersection with the Coalmine trail and then (at about 1300 feet elevation) the East Side Trail. For some reason it seems a bit counter intuitive, but you do indeed turn right and follow the Bullitt Fireplace trail.

At about 1460 feet, you reach the intersection of the Central Peak and Fireplace trail. Also at this elevation we encountered some snow which had been on the ground for a couple days from the last snow/rain storm in the area.

After reaching 1500 feet in elevation, the trail became completely snow covered. Hiking boots worked fine, but anything less would mean slipping and sliding. The snow was compact but a bit icy in spots. It was a very nice surprise to find the snow as it had been a couple days since the snow storm and the weather had been very mild for the past couple days (it was about 40F degrees that morning).

The climb up the snow trail was fairly uneventful, there are no real view spots of other than some tree lined views of the major housing development across the valley. During the summer this is probably not visible at all since the trees will be in full foliage.

Near the Central Peak of the mountain, you reach the historic Bullitt Fireplace and a basic picnic table. It was snow covered of course but makes for a nice rest stop for a drink of water. Since it was a bit snowy and my first hike in a couple months we decided to head back via the Central Peak Trail. There are a number of other options at this point to create a longer hike including returning via the West Peak or around the east side of the Central Peak.

The walk back featured more "winter wonderland" scenes on the Central Peak trail. Soon it rejoins the Bullitt fireplace trail as you head back to the trailhead. We saw a couple of people on the trail as we returned, but otherwise it was very secluded and quiet -- but this is probably since it was early on New Years day morning.

This hike is fairly low rated by others and I can see why since there are no big views or interests (except for the Bullitt fireplace). However, this was a very nice "snow" hike during the winter without having to go up to Cascades.

More Photos

Area - Cougar-Squak Mtn. Corridor (King Co.) / Squak Mtn. State Park Natural Area - Mountainside Drive Entrance near Issaquah, WA
Trails - Bullitt Access N1, Bullitt Fireplace C2, Central Peak C2
Length - 4 miles roundtrip - Easy Hike (uphill and snowy+icy at the top, but easy)
Trail - Lollipop trail, lots of options and connecting trails
Dogs - Some
Bikes - Not allowed on this hike
View - Just a very few during the winter
Getting There - Google Map, From SE Newport Way in Issaquah, take Mountain Park Blvd to Mountainside Park Road which will lead to a roadside parking area before a hairpin turn. Its easy to find.
Fee- None, at this trailhead - free parking
Weather - Lots of shade, snowy and icy at the top during the winter.
Other Trails - there are lots of other trails in the park
More Info - PI hike report from 2001