By Carrie Krueger, director of marketing
When you want to get out of the city, but the mountains are too far or too white, head to the nearby foothills and the joy of easy, nearby hiking. On a recent long weekend, I hiked the trifecta of Seattle’s Eastside foothills, hitting Tiger, Cougar and Squak mountains on consecutive days.
Tiger might be the most popular of the three, though some find the terrain and forests the least lush. Leaving from the Chirico trailhead, it’s a steady uphill slog for about a mile and a half to the South Launch Viewpoint. On a good day you can see paragliders launching from here (and landing back at the trailhead), but on the day of our hike it was foggy and wet so the paragliders must have been sitting by the fire. The inclement weather also ensured that this very popular — some would say overrun — trail was wide open.
A quarter-mile beyond the South Launch Viewpoint is Poo Poo Point, a beautiful ledge that truly speaks to nature nearby. Looking out over agricultural valleys and sprawling housing developments, the intersection of human needs and nature is evident. It was a speedy trip down through the verdant forest — and we popped out at the trailhead muddy and wet.
The next morning, eager to burn off holiday calories, we hit Cougar Mountain. There are many trails to choose from here, and a map is not a bad idea. We parked at the Big Tree Ridge Trailhead on Newport Way between Bellevue and Issaquah and were again treated to a long uphill slog. All Trails describes this 4.2-mile climb as one of the best workout routes on Cougar Mountain, which might explain why there were few others on the beautiful trail. Amid abundant golden fall leaves, we headed to Anti Aircraft Peak. The trailhead at that end has been renamed Harvey Manning Park, and if you want to skip the workout, you can just drive to the viewpoint — but what’s the fun in that? Once again, a view that highlights thriving nature amid lots of human use: Down below is beautiful Lake Sammamish, but between us and the lake, there is a whole lot of housing!
Speaking of housing, one of the beautiful things about many of Cougar Mountain’s popular trails is the way the park weaves between developments. In the forest, you have the sense of being in the wilderness. Yet occasionally, a flash of a building reminds you that people are living nearby.
Day Three we figured if we had knocked off Tiger and Cougar, we really should go to Squak. (Note that Squak Mountain State Park requires a Discover Pass to park.) Since our first two hikes were continuous uphill to a view, we decided here to head for Central Peak. I found this to be the prettiest of the three hikes. The woods were thick and mysterious and the trees shaded us from the light drizzle. The trail passes the gorgeous Bullitt fireplace, and I wondered if anyone is free to enjoy a fire there? The view at the top was punctuated by a large cellphone tower and a tiny view of the Seattle skyline — a reminder that one need not look far to find nature. A few squares of good chocolate and we were ready to head home having “summited” all three of our area’s nearby foothills.
Banner photo shows Tiger Mountain with Squak Mountain in the background. Photo © Peter Stevens used via CC by 2.0