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Coal Creek Trail

Issaquah Alps

Location

Issaquah Alps -- Cougar Mountain
View map below

Length

6.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 550 ft.
Highest Point: 600 ft.

Rating

3.26 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

Rich in historical artifacts, lush foliage, wooden bridges, and waterfalls, the well-groomed and well-traveled Coal Creek Trail is a satisfying hike for families, trail runners, history buffs, and avid hikers. This out-and-back trail can be started from the west (Coal Creek Parkway parking lot), east (Red Town Trailhead parking lot), or from one of many spur trails along the route.

Starting from the Red Town Trailhead parking lot, cross Lakemont Boulevard to the signpost indicating the Coal Creek Park Trail. Follow the soft dirt path and descend into the forest on the gently rolling trail. Pause at an information kiosk on your left to learn about the railroad and coal mining activities that took place in this area from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s. Opposite the information kiosk, spot the airshaft of coal mine that extends over 500 feet below sea level. There is a short, 0.1 mile interpretive trail you can explore here as well.

Continuing towards Coal Creek Parkway, cross a wooden bridge over Coal Creek and come upon a short spur trail to a waterfall called North Fork Falls. Take a break on one of the wooden benches here to savor the peaceful and calming flow of the rushing water.

Head back to the Coal Creek Trail and continue on the wide dirt path. Pass a sign for the Cinder Mine Trail, a newly built 0.3 mile trail that leads to a small parking area off Newcastle Golf Club Road.

An aside: consider parking at this newly built parking lot. It provides access to the Coal Creek Trail via the Cinder Mine Trail, as well as North Fork Falls. To access the falls, walk from the parking lot down the Cinder Mine Trail to the bottom. Turn right onto the Coal Creek Trail and in about 0.2 miles North Fork Falls will appear on your left.

Back on the main route, about 400 feet past the Cinder Mine Trail sign you'll notice a square, roughly 8x8 foot cement footing on your left. This footing was the base of a former locomotive turntable that turned locomotives 180 degrees, enabling them to exit and enter the area.

Pass the turntable site and walk through a sun-dappled gallery of towering trees reaching multiple stories above you, and come upon a wooden staircase. Head up the staircase and emerge onto a wide gravel road with a thicket of blackberry bushes lining the trail on your right. In summer, you can enjoy ripe blackberries as an impromptu snack.

Continue up the gravel road, following signs for Coal Creek Parkway. Arrive at a bench overlooking a ravine to the right of the trail, and enjoy the sweeping canopied views before you. Here the trail begins descending more earnestly and will continue descending steadily as you make your way to Coal Creek Parkway.

Reach a signed junction with an option to turn right for the Primrose Trail or stay straight on the Coal Creek Trail. The Primrose Trail follows Coal Creek closely and is a lovely, scenic route. It boasts a large wooden bridge and pretty views of a waterfall called Sandstone Falls. The route is only slightly longer (about 0.1 miles) than staying on the Coal Creek Trail, and connects back up with the Coal Creek Trail after roughly 0.7 miles.

After linking back up with the Coal Creek Trail, continue to steadily descend. The trail here becomes more rough and rooty with some narrow sections. Pass through a couple wooden bridges, and continue to descend down a wooden staircase.

Emerge onto a wide, flat dirt path roughly 2.5 miles from the start of your hike. Here there are shallow access points to Coal Creek, perfect for a cool splash of water or cooling off your toes. The trail continues for about another half mile, with several additional access points to the Creek dotting the way. On your right, you will see signs for Forest Drive, an access point to a local neighborhood and the Washout Way Trail.

The Coal Creek Trail continues to a small parking lot next to Coal Creek Parkway. Explore the staircase leading under Coal Creek Parkway and emerging on a trail on the other side. The trail here extends another 1.3 miles to 119th Avenue, and is an option for those looking to explore the area further before turning back.

WTA Pro Tip: The Coal Creek Trail can be broken into smaller pieces for those looking for shorter options. Start the trail from the west (Coal Creek Parkway) side to take advantage of access points for wading and splashing in the creek, or start from the east (Red Town Trailhead / Cinder Mine Trailhead) side to hike to the abandoned coal mine, North Fork Falls, locomotive turntable site, or the Primrose Trail.

Whatever your route, be sure to bring a map, as the network of trails in this area is intricate and extensive.

 

Coal Creek Trail

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.5542, -122.1666 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Issaquah Alps -- Cougar Mountain

Coal Creek (#COUGAR-N1)

King County Parks and City of Bellevue

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles (Weber & Stevens - Menasha Ridge Press)

National Geographic Issaquah Alps Mount Si 824

City of Bellevue – Coal Creek Natural Area PDF Map: https://bit.ly/2Z9a5OK

Getting There

Red Town Trailhead/east side: Take exit 10 off I-405 for Coal Creek Parkway, heading east. Continue for 1.0 mile on Coal Creek Parkway, then turn left onto Forest Drive. Continue for 2.1 miles on Forest Drive, then turn right onto Lakemont Boulevard. Continue on Lakemont Boulevard for 0.5 miles and turn left into the Red Town Trailhead parking lot.

The lot fills up quickly on the weekends; plan to arrive before 9:00 a.m. on a sunny weekend day. There are two porta potties near the information kiosk and space for roughly 40 cars. Please be cautious when crossing Lakemont Boulevard to access Coal Creek Trail; there isn’t a pedestrian crosswalk connecting the parking lot to the start of the trail.

Cinder Mine Trailhead/east side: Take exit 10 off I-405 for Coal Creek Parkway, heading east. Continue for 1.0 mile on Coal Creek Parkway, then turn left onto Forest Drive. Continue for 2.1 miles on Forest Drive, then turn right onto Lakemont Boulevard. Continue on Lakemont Boulevard for 0.8 miles (the road turns into Newcastle Gold Club Road). Spot a “Welcome to Newcastle” sign on your right and right after it, turn right into a paved road that leads you to the parking lot. There are nine parking spaces available.

Coal Creek Parkway Trailhead/west side: Take exit 10 off I-405 for Coal Creek Parkway, heading east. Continue for 1.2 miles on Coal Creek Parkway. At the bottom of the hill, on the left, is the parking lot, across from a No Left Turn sign. Continue until you can find a place to safely and legally turn around, then approach from the south. There is room for nineteen vehicles, including one handicap parking stall.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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Coal Creek Trail

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