Only 20 minutes from Bellevue, Squak Mountain State Park is a wonderful escape filled with natural beauty, history, and even a peek-a-boo view of Seattle from the summit. The park, tucked between the more heavily used Cougar and Tiger mountains, provides 13 miles of trails for hikers and 6 miles of trails for those on horseback, as well as picnic and day use facilities and restrooms at the trailhead.
The most direct route to the top is via the South Access Road, for a 5.4-mile round-trip hike with 1,606 feet of elevation gain. The road, which is closed to traffic, provides a wide and level gravel surface that can be accessible for those who have difficulty with rough, narrow trails. As you climb higher up the mountain, you’ll enjoy the sound of water running through small creeks. Graceful ferns adorn the forest floor beneath a canopy of western hemlock, red cedar, Douglas fir, alder and big leaf maple. Berries and wildflowers (depending on the season) as well as birds and wildlife, will make you forget how close you are to the city.
Many trails wind their way around the mountain crossing the road, so you can build your own adventure of whatever length and difficulty you prefer by adding trails and loops to your trip. You can walk up the road for the most direct access to the summit and then choose one of the many trails to hike down or vice versa, depending on what part of the trip you prefer to stretch out the elevation on.
From the parking lot, follow the sign toward the May Valley Loop, and take a right turn to walk up the road, which winds its way up to the summit, where you will find radio transmitters and a view of Seattle through the trees. While the surface of the road is wider and more level than the trails, it also gains 600 feet of elevation per mile.
It is well worth taking a short side trip on the way up or down to view the Bullitt Fireplace — which is the last remnant of the home of the people who donated the 590 acres at the top of the mountain to the State of Washington, with the stipulation that the land must remain in its natural state. This stipulation is part of the reason that more old growth exists on this mountain than its neighboring peaks.
For the little ones or those not up for a steep hike, the 0.3-mile Pretzel Tree Trail just off the main trailhead features a self-guided interpretive walk perfect for the kids as they learn about the ecosystem by following Field Mouse on his search for the Pretzel Tree.
You can build your own adventure at Squak Mountain at any time of the year when you want a quick trip without a long drive.
Good to know:
How to get there:
From I-90, take exit 15 and turn south on Issaquah-Renton Road for 4 miles, then turn left on May Valley Road, and drive 3 more miles to the Squak Mountain State Park parking lot (21500 May Valley Road) on the left.
A Discover Pass is required.