Issaquah Alps Mountain Running

Rather than post three separate trips, I’m combining short TRs on three mountain runs I’ve completed over recent weeks in the nicely graded forest trails near Issaquah. Some people call these summits “dumpster dives” to be hiked with a heavy pack for training, or only in bad weather but that doesn’t give these big green spaces enough credit. Where else can you run a 2k’-3k’ mountain within a half hour of a major city? (Yeah, yeah… Salt Lake City. But you get the point).

These are casual hikes for most people but I didn’t see a lot of other runners. The trails definitely aren’t technical but they are challenging with quite a bit of elevation gain and descents on rocky trail; some trail running experience is recommended before giving these a shot.

Squak Mountain via Central Peak Trail – 8/24/14

2028′ | 7 miles RT | 1700′ gain

Squak Mountain is a fun little jaunt located closest to Seattle out of the three runs (just 30 minutes from my home via I-90). The run starts in the May Valley Rd state park trailhead parking lot (Discovery Pass required), continues up a nicely graded low angle trail through a lush forest with creeks and ferns. About halfway to the top, the trail steepens significantly but remains quite runnable 95% of the time.

Squak Mountain summit

The central summit is disappointing (just a microwave relay tower at the top), but the west summit is worth a visit for more forested solitude. No views from either summit but there is a small lookout located on the valley connector trail looking north below the west summit.

West Tiger Mountain – 9/1/14

2,757′ (WT 2); 2,522′ (WT 3)  |  6 miles RT  |  ~2200′ gain  |  GPS track

West Tiger Mountain’s westernmost summit (“West Tiger 3”) is among the more visited hikes in the I-90 corridor. With a moderately interesting view of Seattle and proximity to the city, it’s a worthwhile training run or moderately easy hike for the family. I accessed it from a state park parking lot off of Exit 20 (Discovery Pass required)

The trail is the smoothest and fastest of all three runs. The lower 3/4 of the way to WT3 is almost free of rocks and roots and some of it is covered in cushy pine needles: luxurious on the feet and knees for a speedy descent.

Halfway up the WT3 trail

The WT3 summit is sort of a bald patch with a small sign. The view looks northwest to Bellevue and downtown Seattle and is a good place to rest.

WT3 summit view… meh

I chose to continue the extra ~1/2 mile and couple hundred vert to West Tiger 2. The view here is nothing to write home about; a couple of towers and outbuildings lie at the top of the road here.

WT2 summit

I was going to continue even farther to WT1 but wasn’t sure which road to take, and my hiker friend was waiting on me back at the WT3 summit. I’ll come back and do a Tiger Mountain traverse at a later date.

Rattlesnake Mountain via Snoqualmie Point – 9/13/14

3517′  |  12 miles RT  |  3000′ gain  |  GPS Track

Rattlesnake Mountain is where the Issaquah Alps start to blend into the rest of the Cascades. Is it a “real mountain?” Maybe it has a cell tower at the summit, but at 3000′ of gain my legs certainly felt like it earned the title when I woke up the following day.

Beautiful switchbacks

The trail starts at the Snoqualmie Point trailhead, located at Exit 27 on I-90 (Discovery Pass required, per usual). The trail climbs at a moderate grade nearly the entire way, mostly sticking to evergreen forest but occasionally breaking out into a clearing. About halfway up the run there is a pretty good lookout with views of Mt. Si.

Mt. Si across the I-90 corridor

The summit at mile 6 is about the same as the other Issaquah peaks: a tower and few views to be seen. At least this one breaks 3000′ elevation.

Rattlesnake Mountain summit

As a training ground, this mountain is awesome. A consistent grade for 6 miles was great strengthening and cardio training: an easy way to max out your heart rate for as long as you want. I had planned on grabbing water along the way but at this time of year I couldn’t find much to treat and drink: my 1/2 L handheld bottle was not nearly enough.

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