The doldrums of winter in the PNW. It’s a well-known joke about those deceptively sunny-but-cold days in February/March being known as ‘faux spring,’ but the mountains can still be too snow-filled for hikes. Enter the Issaquah Alps!
The Issaquah Alps are the local name for the series of woods, hikes, and peaks in Issaquah, just a few miles east of Seattle (a few miles, but many minutes, especially in traffic). This land, inclusing Squak Mountain, Tiger Mountain, and Cougar Mountain, is served by county and state park agencies. These trails might not always be the most thrilling, but they can be great for conditioning, and are typically snow-free practically entire year. This can mean even on a sunny January day, there can be trouble parking. We got what felt like the last spot and set off.
This hike begins on King County Parks land, but connects to land in Squak Mountain State Park. You begin by climbing up a wide road, with a pretty big hairpin onto a smaller trail with a nice bridge. The signage here was great, but I’m still glad I had bookmarked a route on my Gaia app. The trails are pretty new, with the land being purchased in 2014, but apparently this land was once a road, so in some spots the trails were nice and wide. One nice thing about ‘off season; hiking here is even though the lot was full, hikers were overwhelmingly respectful (dogs leashed, no Bluetooth speakers blaring, people yielding, etc.). I admit, it was almost jarring to see, and not something I’d expect if hiking this area in, say, June. Don’t go viewing that as admiration of the trail though, but moreso the conditions. That’s not to say the trail sucked, either–but it just wasn’t anything to write home about (yet here I am, trying to write about it).
There were a few viewpoints from spurs, but mostly, it was your typical walk in the woods. After just under 3 miles, we came to a couple of forks. Here you can connect with trails to the Route 900 Trailhead lot, Squak Mountain State Park trails, even the Bullitt Fireplace trail, but we had our sights on Debbie’s View.
While WTA had documented that Margaret’s Way was named for a longtime park planner, they did not note who the ‘Debbie’ in Debbie’s View is for. However, this is the perfect stopping point for a break and some snacks. We were far from the only ones here, and especially with my pup, seating options were limited. On a weekday, you might be able to snag a bench with a full view of Rainier, but we settled for the peek-a-boo view we got.
We made our way back to the trail in what felt like a flash, as my pupper was a bit anxious with so many dogs and snacking hikers about. Even with this not necessarily being a ‘banger’ of a trail, it was meant for some training for an upcoming hike-heavy trip. And admittedly, in winter in this area, I’ll take whatever I can get!
Distance: The area has miles of trails. I planned my route in advance using information from WTA.org and Gaia to not get overwhelmed. WTA and Gaia said the route would be 6.5 miles, but I clocked it at 8.1!
Elevation: Elevation on these trails can greatly vary, the WTA trail had 1500 gradual feet.
Parking: No passes required at the Margaret’s Way Trailhead.
Bathrooms: There were porta-potties at the trailhead.