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Issaquah to Factoria - Couger Mountain Grand Traverse

We will meet in downtown Seattle and ride the 554 bus to Issaquah Transit Center, where the hike begins. From there, we will take James Bush Road up the hill to a residential neighborhood, from which a city park leads into the Couger Mountain trail system. We will then head west through the Couger Mountain trails, eventually ending up at the Red Town Trailhead. From there, we will cross the street and continue west along the Coal Creek Trail, eventually ending up at Coal Creek Parkway, just east of highway 405. From here, depending on group interest and/or bus timings, we can either walk to Factoria Mall (about 3/4 mile) or take the 240 bus directly to Eastgate.

Hiking conditions: Nearly all of the hike is well-maintained, dirt/rock trail. There are a few sections of sidewalk near the beginning and end.

Distance: About 10-11 miles
Elevation Gain: About 1500 feet
Time: About 4 hours of hiking, plus transportation time, plus some time for lunch/rest stops as needed. I expect to be back in downtown Seattle around 3-4 in the afternoon, but please plan your schedule to allow more time than this, just in case.

Please come prepared for typical winter weather in the northwest. This means no cotton, plenty of layers, and raingear. This hike is typically snow-free, however snow is possible in the higher parts of Couger Mountain, depending on what the weather does shortly before the hike. Parts of the trail can also be muddy. Please be prepared to complete the entire hike. The hike does cross a couple of roads, but once we leave Issaquah Transit Center, we will not encounter any bus service until we reach Factoria on the other side. As the hike is mostly under trees, the hike will go ahead, rain or shine.

Morning logistics:

We will meet in downtown Seattle at the corner of 2nd Ave. and Stewart St. to board the 554. Depending on where you're coming from, you might want to board the 554 at a later stop and join us on the bus. Here is the approximate timetable of our trip to the starting trailhead:

9:15 - Recommended meeting time at 2nd Ave. and Stewart St.
9:26 - 554 bus leaves Belltown (Lenora and 4th) - feel free to get on the bus here if it's more convienient
9:28 - 554 bus leaves 2nd Ave. and Stewart St.
9:56 - 554 bus arrives at Issaquah Transit Center and the hike begins!

If you live on the Eastside, you may find it more convienient to join us on the bus as we go by Eastgate P&R, rather than backtrack to downtown Seattle. If you do this, look for us at Eastgate Freeway Station (around 9:48), not the bus bays at Eastgate P&R (although the freeway station is only about a 3 minute walk from the P&R). If you are unsure which bus to take to get to the P&R, please post a comment and I can help you out. Depending on where you're coming from, your bus to the P&R might even extend to Factoria, allowing you get all the way home on one bus, without needing to make a connection at Eastgate.

Afternoon logistics:

The main hike ends just southeast of the intersection between Coal Creek Pkwy and I-405. From here, there are numerous options for getting back. Buses to Seattle are available from the hubs of Eastgate P&R or South Bellevue P&R. To get there, we can either walk directly to south Bellevue P&R (about 2 miles, mostly flat), walk 3/4 mile to Factoria Mall and take a bus to either hub, or bus directly to Eastgate P&R from the western trailhead.

I plan on waiting until we reach the western trailhead to decide exactly how we will get home, as this will depend on the needs of the group, the relative wait times of this bus vs. that bus, etc. If there is interest, we can consider stopping from a post-hike snack in Factoria as well.

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  • shaz

    the photo is here - would rather not post it directly, since meetup is then allowed to use it as they like.
    also sorry, I think my lens might have had a smudge on it :-p

    January 23, 2013

  • Eric

    If any of you are interested in approaching Couger Mountain from Issaquah Transit Center in the future, hear are the turn-by-turn directions, for future reference:

    1) Cross Newport Way and SR-900, then head south along the sidewalk on the west side of SR-900.

    2) Turn right on James Bush Road. Keep going past the "no outlet" signs and the rope to prevent cars from going through.

    3) Turn right at Big Tree Dr. NW

    4) Turn right at Bear Ridge Ct. NW

    5) Walk across the park and take the trail that picks up in the back of the park.

    6) At the first junction, with a choice of left or straight, continue straight.

    7) At the second junction, with a choice of left or right, turn right. This junction should happen shortly after the houses disappear from view.

    8) Follow the trail through switchbacks up the hill. You should eventually see a sign that says you're in Couger Mountain, with signed junctions soon after.

    January 19, 2013

    • Eric

      And most important, the correct route is a well-maintained trail the entire way. If you ever find yourself needing to bushwack in order to continue, turn around immediately.

      January 19, 2013

    • Mike O.

      Thanks for the directions. I'm planning to do this hike when it warms up, and I may end up going on my own if it doesn't coincide with the group's schedule. This will be good reference.

      January 20, 2013

  • Eric

    Thank you all for coming. It was a lot of fun!

    January 19, 2013

    • Evan N.

      Thanks for organizing this!

      1 · January 19, 2013

  • Eric

    The forecast tomorrow calls for partly cloudy weather in the upper 30's. Should be great for hiking!

    January 18, 2013

  • Eric

    I should also say that, while this trail is typically snow free, it is possible that we might run into some snow at higher elevations. We will not know whether or not there actually is snow until we get there, so please bring appropriate footwear for walking on snow just in case.

    January 12, 2013

    • Eric

      In the summer, this hike is can easily be done in hiking or running shoes, but in the winter, the trail is more likely be be muddy and there's also the possibility we might run into snow. Again, I won't know if there will actually be snow on the trail until we get up there, but if there is snow, there shouldn't be a lot of it.

      January 12, 2013

    • Eric

      The choice of whether to go is yours. Just make sure that if there is snow, you feel comfortable proceeding. If not, I will probably lead this hike again later in the year when not having boots or gators definitely won't be a problem, so you'll still get to do it.

      January 12, 2013

  • Eric

    Near the beginning we will be hiking up a road that exceeds a 20% grade in places, but the trail will get gentler as we progress. Nearly all the 1500 foot elevation gain will happen in the first 3 miles. After that, it's a slow, gradual downhill with a few occasional ups and downs.

    January 12, 2013

  • Mike O.

    Are the hills steep or just long?

    January 12, 2013

  • Eric

    To clarify about the limits, in contrast to the previous hike, I do want to keep this one somewhat limited in size. Compared to UW->downtown, this hike is much more remote (no bus service to bail out in the middle of the hike) and strenuous (about 1500 vertical feet vs. 500). This hike also has a large number of junctions, which makes it important that the group stay together at all times to ensure that no one gets lost.

    The size limit for this hike is in place to make it easier to keep track of the group and verify that each person is accounted for at all junctions.

    January 7, 2013

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