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Far Country Trail, Cougar Mountain Regional Park, Issaquah - February 2001

By Brenda Senturia

For a delightful spring walk, Cougar Mountain offers a large network of well-maintained, well-signed trails. The Far Country Trail lookout provides the high point for a loop of about 5 miles. However, a shorter walk to the Far Country lookout and back is possible. This hike is suitable for all ages.

The trail begins at the Red Town Trailhead on the Red Town Trail (W2). Head up the road, being sure to stop at the meadow restoration site to read the excellent informational materials. Many WNPS members have contributed time and energy to make this restoration project possible. After crossing Coal Creek continue on the Indian Trail (W7), passing an impressive rock formation on the left. The canopy on this loop is mostly deciduous, making this a good choice for March before the red alders and bigleaf maples leaf out. Indian plum, salmonberry, and elderberry are the primary shrubs of this loop. Ocean spray can be found in the more open, sunny spots. In a few places, red-flowering currant provides a splash of color. Bleeding heart is a common species. Sweet cicely, waterleaf, and false lily of the valley are found in the understory. Trillium blooms in April. There are plenty of our western Washington saxifrages: mitrewort, foam flower, and youth-on-age. Sword fern, Oregon grape, and salal are all found, depending on moisture and sunlight. Western red cedar, Douglas fir, and western hemlock are scattered sparsely through the deciduous trees.

Turn left on the Far Country Trail (S1). After a short distance and a few short switchbacks, the trail flattens out at the Far Country lookout. A special treat is numerous western serviceberry shrubs in bloom in May. The drier, more open microhabitat here sports ocean spray, wild strawberry, honeysuckle, and red-flowering currant. Don't expect a grand panorama, but the view is nice from the high point. Continue on to the Shy Bear Trail (S2), heading gradually upward and then losing altitude. Shy Bear Marsh is found in the bottomlands on the right. Along this section, devil's club and skunk cabbage are found. After crossing a wet portion via a boardwalk, the trail then ascends to a junction with Fred's Railroad Trail (C7). Bear left and then left again on the Quarry Trail (C6). Go right on the Coal Creek Falls Trail (C4) to the falls, a beautiful spot for a breather. Follow signs back to the Red Town Trailhead via the Cave Hole Trail (C3).

To reach the trailhead, take I-90 east to Exit 13 (SE Newport Way). Stay right on the ramp to SE Newport Way. Take a right at the stop sign, heading back parallel to the freeway on SE Newport Way for 1.3 miles. At the stop sign, go left on 164th. At 1.5 miles, bear right on Lakemont. Go another 1.4 miles to Red Town Trailhead (Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park) and pull into the parking area on the left. Driving time from Seattle is 30–40 minutes. Maps are generally available at the Red Town Trailhead and there is one portable bathroom.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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