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Coal Creek Falls

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Water, water everywhere and quite a drop it takes! Cougar Mountain's Coal Creek Falls is the primary attraction here, but it's the water underfoot that really makes the area special. Such abundance helps keep the forest green and fragrant, with wildflowers in season--and abundant summer mosquitoes. Come in November through May, when the nights are too cold for these pesky biters and the falls are full of runoff. In the spring you'll find skunk cabbage, and through the early summer you'll enjoy plump, juicy salmonberries. And at the end, you'll enjoy the cool cascade of Coal Creek Falls.

From the trailhead, head up toward Red Town. The route you want veers left onto Cave Hole Trail. Once upon a time, mules pulled wagonloads of coal down this trace, and later, as the coal veins played out, folks used it as an access route to another easily accessible fuel source: firewood. Today's trail uses that same old track.

As you climb away from the old Red Town site, you'll notice areas where the ground seems to have slumped in on itself--these are the cave holes that give the trail its name. The holes formed when miners pushed their underground extractions too close to the surface, leaving a void that eventually caved in, creating a "cave hole" in the ground above.

Less than 1 mile after leaving the trailhead, you'll find the Coal Creek Falls Trail leading off to the right. The path meanders around the upper slopes of Curious Valley before slanting down into a small gulch carved by the tumbling waters of Coal Creek. Here, about 1.25 miles out, you'll find the falls.

Coal Creek Falls can be spectacular during the rainy season of January-March, thundering down the rocky chute. Venture out during a particularly cold spell and you'll find marvelous ice sculptures formed by the splashing and spray from the falls. By midsummer, the falls usually shrinks to nothing more than a small splattering of dribbling streams between the rocks.
Driving Directions:

From I-90 take exit 13 onto Lakemont Boulevard. Drive south on Lakemont Boulevard, which becomes Newcastle-Coal Creek Road. After crossing "The Pass" and starting down, cross Coal Creek and find the trailhead on the east side of the road at a sharp bend in Newcastle-Coal Creek Road.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 75 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Coal Creek Falls — Apr 12, 2014 — bobblinking
Day hike
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Warm spring day made for an excellent hike to Coal Creek Falls. Lots of others thought so too - bus...
Warm spring day made for an excellent hike to Coal Creek Falls. Lots of others thought so too - busy trail traffic. Trail itself was clear and easy to walk. All in all a great first hike of the season for our family of 5.
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Indian Trail, Cave Hole, Coal Creek Falls, Red Town, Quarry — Mar 29, 2014 — RhondaHikes
Day hike
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A very rainy hike to see Coal Creek Falls in the Cougar Mountain Natural Area. We started from Red ...
A very rainy hike to see Coal Creek Falls in the Cougar Mountain Natural Area. We started from Red Town Trailhead. There was plenty of parking.

We took Red Town trail to Cave Hole Trail to Coal Creek Falls trail where stopped on the bridge over the creek to admire the falls! They were rushing fast and beautiful.

From the falls we continued on Coal Creek Falls Trail to Quarry Trail to Indian Trail and finally back to Red Town trail. We took a short detour at the junction of Indian Trail and Red Town trail to view the Meadow Restoration project.

The is a relatively easy hike with a little bit of incline up Cave Hole Trail. Quarry trail seems steeper but luckily we came down the trail rather than up.
 
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Cave Hole, Quarry, Wildside, Coal Creek Falls — Mar 20, 2014 — explorerdogs
Day hike
Issues: Mudholes
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Out to celebrate the first day of spring on Cougar Mountain. Starting at the Red Town Center Trailh...
Out to celebrate the first day of spring on Cougar Mountain. Starting at the Red Town Center Trailhead, we headed up the Cave Hole Trail to the Coal Creek Falls Trail, then continued onto the Quarry trail to the Wildside Trail and back to the parking lot.
This made for a wonderful little loop. The falls were full and beautiful and the trails were in very good condition. Some muddy spots to be expected after the rain, but only a couple, and one simple little blowdown to climb under or over depending on the length of your legs.
There were a few out enjoying the trails on this partly sunny Thursday, but for the most part we had the trails to ourselves.
Sometimes in the quest to go further and climb higher we forget about the simple splendor in our backyard. Cougar mountain is worth exploring and we hope to explore it some more.
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Coal Creek Falls — Mar 17, 2014 — Surviving Urban
Day hike
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Short on time I decided to plant my feet on Cougar Mountain for the first time. It turned out be be ...
Short on time I decided to plant my feet on Cougar Mountain for the first time. It turned out be be a wet day, but the rain and hail stopped just in time for me to snap some pictures of the falls before I had to jet. Overall it was a quick, but good time and I will be back for more exploring.

For more on this quick trip visit:
http://survivingurban.com/coal-creek-falls-and-a-city-park/

-Ken
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Old Man's Trail, Cave Hole, By Pass Trail, Fred's Railroad, Quarry, Coal Creek Falls — Mar 16, 2014 — Alpine Art
Day hike
Issues: Clogged drainage | Mudholes
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This day we were supposed to hike on the Old Suak River trail but rain and possible flooding conditi...
This day we were supposed to hike on the Old Suak River trail but rain and possible flooding conditions changed our idea as well as group size (from 12 to 3). We decided to do a Coal Creek Falls Loop from the Sky Country trail head on Cougar Mt.

We lucked out with fairly dry conditions followed by hot beverages at Starbucks. The trail conditions are sloppy, muddy and wet. This did not prevent large numbers of trail runners from doing their thing nor the three of us (Peak Master Paul, Juggernaut Jeff, and Alpine Art) from getting out.

Coal Creek is running 'high' and the falls were as pretty as I have seen them.

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coal creek falls whitebark.jpg
Coal Creek Falls. Photo by "Whitebark."
Location
Coal Creek Falls (#COUGAR-C4)
Issaquah Alps -- Cougar Mountain
King County Parks
Statistics
Roundtrip 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain 350 ft
Highest Point 1000 ft
Features
Waterfalls
Wildflowers/Meadows
User info
Good for kids
Dogs allowed on leash
No pass or permit required
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails Cougar Mountain No. 203S

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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