Hiking in the Cougar Mountain Regional Park (WA)

The greater Seattle area—as a matter of fact, the entire western Pacific Northwest—has been basking in sunshine since late last week, and is expected to continue to do so through the next. I can’t ever recall sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s-80s this early in May and for such an extended period. The inevitable rains will come as a big disappointment. What better way to celebrate the sunshine than to go outside. My wife and I decided to go for a hike.

There are many urban hiking trails on the Eastside (a general area east of Lake Washington which separates it from Seattle), but none more unspoiled and wild than the 3,100-acre Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, which is bordered by the cities of Bellevue, Issaquah and Newcastle and by Squak Mountain. The nice thing is that the park is about 15 minutes away from our house. There are 47 miles of hiking trails which feature wetlands, streams and forests. It would be easy to get lost in this vast maze were it not for the efforts of King County with the help of the Issaquah Alps Trail Club to signpost the 50 designated trails. We hiked almost 4 hours through mature second-growth forest, crossing several streams in the process and admiring the awakening of spring. The wildflower show included the western trillium, Pacific bleeding heart, western spring beauty, salmonberry, wild strawberry and Oregon grape. I didn’t realize until today that the Pacific bleeding heart was so abundant in the wild; they were everywhere. It was fascinating also to look at the fiddleheads of the sworn ferns as they were in the process of unwinding, forming curious hairpin shapes.

Besides deer and raccoons, Cougar Mountain is also a haven for black bears, bobcats and, of course, cougars. We didn’t come across any, not really sure what we’d have done if we did.

There will be more hikes for us here in the future. We’ve barely tapped the extensive, interconnecting trail system.

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