Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cougar Mtn - Wilderness Creek TH to Coal Creek Falls

Hike Route - Wilderness Creek Trail (E6) -> Shy Bear (S2) -> Fred's Railroad (C7) -> Quarry Trail (C6) -> Coal Creek Falls Trail (C4)

This hike is a great way to see some of the best of Cougar Mountain. The trails are in very good shape with almost no mud spots during the summer. The marshes are also fairly dry, but the creeks still have some water running in them. While the first part of this hike is pretty much uphill non-stop (gaining nearly 1000 feet in the first 1.5 miles), the rest of the trip to Coal Creek falls is really enjoyable.

The Wilderness Creek Trailhead parking lot is right off SR 900 between Renton and Issaquah. It offers about 10 parking spots and is generally full mid-day on weekends -- so it is better to come early or late afternoon. There is one portable restroom, but no water or other facilities at this trailhead.

From Hiking - Cougar Mountain

After crossing the first bridge the uphill trek starts. I did notice that some crews has cleared away brush from the sides of the trail, for at least the bottom 1/4th of this trail. So there are limited trailside wildflowers in this section. The trail is fairly wide and is very well packed. This is the only trail from the trailhead so it sees lots of action.

The bridges crossing Wilderness creek make for a great rest stop - there are also a couple log benches before this spot as well. At this point, you feel like you have reached the peak, but there are a couple more uphills beyond this point.

Once you reach the Shy Bear Pass at 1,380 feet elev., continue on the Shy Bear Trail. This trail is a narrow, single track trail that meanders through top of the forest for about 0.4 miles.

The Shy bear trail is a great Northwest trail, with some views of the marsh area around the beginning of Cabbage Creek. No real water views during this section, but its a very green and well shaded (and cool!) area.

Be sure to look for the right turn on to Fred's Railroad - I have missed it before during this hike attempt. You are only on Fred's railroad for about 0.3 miles -- if that. Fred's Railroad is a nice wide trail that connects to the north part of Cougar Mountain.

Very soon, you will reach another junction - Turn left on the Quarry trail.

The Quarry Trail is a multi-use trail and gets fairly rocky in parts. You might also see some Salmon Berries growing along the trail.

There are a couple steep and rocky parts of the Quarry trail, but is very manageable - not the most exciting trail, but at least your are in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by lots of greenery and cool shade.

After over half a mile on the Quarry trail, turn right on to the South end of the Coal Creek Falls trail. Like most of the trail intersections in the Cougar Mountain park, this junction is well marked.

This part of the Coal Creek Falls trail sees limited traffic since most folks approach the falls from other side via the Red Town trailhead. The trail is fairly narrow, but is well shaded for hot summer days. There are also some very cool redwood trees along the way.

Before reaching the falls - look out for a cable popping out on the trail.

After a very short time on the Coal Creek Falls trail you will descend down to the creek and the falls. During the summer there was not very much water "falling" - but it was a very cool place to rest and enjoy the wilderness.

For the way back to the trailhead, just turn around and return the way you came. This is a nice hike for the summer, as most of it is in the shade and runs by cool creeks and marshes. Not any big views on this hike, but the falls are very nice and the salmon berries along the way make it fun.

Watch out for the Slugs on the trail - the morning I did this hike there were tons!


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Area - Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park (Near Issaquah,Washington)
Trails - Trail Map (very good), also trails located on Green Trails Map 203S
Length - 6 miles out and back - Easy Hike (moderate 1000 foot uphill on first 1.5 miles)
Trail - Out and back, well packed dirt trails. Well marked and maintained.
Bikes - Not allowed on this hike
View - None
Getting There - Google Map
Fee- None, free parking
Weather - Cool in the mornings
Other Trails - tons!