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Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park—Marshall Hill Trail, DeLeo Wall and Redtown Meadow — April 20

Distance: 4.5 miles or more
Elevation gain: 500 ft.
Map: Green Trails 203S or King County Park map available at the trailhead (usually)
Plant species: 100+

Portions of this walk were featured in Walk of the Month for June 1996; but things have changed and there is more to see. From the Redtown Trailhead at elevation 660 feet, proceed straight ahead from the parking area past the sign for the Wildside Trail noting the robust example of parsley-leaved lovage (Ligusticum apiifolium) even before the trail sign and a bigleaf maple* with a massive covering of licorice fern soon thereafter; then turn right and cross the bridge over Coal Creek to an old road and eventually back into the woods at the well-marked Wildside Trail sign. Continue for about 15 minutes to the sign for Marshall Hill Trail where you turn right. For nearly a mile you will be passing through a deciduous forest of bigleaf maple and black cottonwood with a green forest floor of ferns (sword, wood and lady) and many species of moss along with other old plant friends of a typical Puget Sound–country wet forest.

The trail climbs gradually, passing several dead end spurs and eventually entering a forest of large Douglas fir, western red cedar and western hemlock. After crossing the water tank road the trail becomes the De Leo Wall Trail. Look for a few Pacific yew trees shortly after crossing the road. From here gain elevation steadily as the forest becomes drier and more open. Step off trail at a huge boulder and find deer’s tongue (Erythronium oregonum) or if you miss it here, watch carefully along the trail at its highest point where the habitat is obviously drier. From the high point at 1150 feet the trail quickly drops 200 feet to the De Leo Wall viewpoint. Near here are the botanical highlights! Chocolate lilies all around, two species of native strawberries, trailing snowberry and serviceberry in flower, and more. Go west along the precipice on a narrow trail cut into the hillside. Within 100 yards find hairy honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula) and two small groups of our native Garry oak trees, the only site where they occur in the park. Also trailing on the bank is the interesting and delicious smelling yerba buena (Satureja douglasii), the only location I am aware of in Cougar Mountain Park.

Bask in the sun, appreciate the view, enjoy the madrona forest, eat lunch, and start for home by continuing downhill on the De Leo Wall trail. Search the shady side of large boulders near the trail and find maidenhair spleenwort. At the intersection with the Wilderness Creek Trail turn left or go straight ahead; either way will take you to the Redtown Meadow. If you have saved your lunch, have it here. The meadow project sponsored by WNPS is now 6 years old and has much to offer in terms of education and aesthetics. Over 100 species representing several Cougar Mountain habitats are being nurtured at the site. Deer’s tongue, shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum), satin flower (Sisyrinchium douglasii), giant camas (Camassia leichtlinii), and other gorgeous flowers will be blooming if you wait until late in April to take this hike. Flowering currant will also be in bloom, and see the unusual Arctostaphylos uva-ursi/columbiana hybrid (A. media) growing on top of the small hill.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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