Hike the steep Sycamore Access Trail on the northeast side of Squak Mountain. Enjoy the mixed forest and a few small streams. Continue farther on the East Ridge Trail and, optionally, extend your hike to make it an interesting loop across the higher slopes of Squak Mountain.
The uphill begins immediately. Follow the graveled trail as it ascends steeply between two houses, then passes a back yard with some playground equipment. You'll reach the forest very quickly. It's mixed, with a few conifers and many tall deciduous trees. If you are hiking in October, you are likely to be treated to a fine display of fall colors.
Soon, you will hear the faint sound of flowing water off to your left. It's Crystal Creek, which begins high on Squak Mountain's Central Peak and becomes a small tributary of Issaquah Creek.
As you continue on, your trail will become somewhat less steep and, in about 0.3 miles, you will come to a signed trail junction. From your right, the Squak Mountain Access Trail joins your route. It originates in downtown Issaquah and provides an alternative, but longer, approach to this part of Squak Mountain.
It may seem too soon, but this trail junction actually marks the upper end of the Sycamore Access Trail. Fortunately, it need not be the end of your hike. The ongoing trail just changes names and continues on as the East Ridge Trail. You really should explore it, at least for a little way.
Soon, you will cross Crystal Creek on a narrow, rustic bridge. When the bridge surface is damp watch your footing here! Fortunately, the bridge has sturdy handrails on both sides.
The trail then begins a traverse to the east, dropping a bit before beginning a series of switchbacks up the ridge to the southwest. As you ascend, the trees become somewhat smaller and there are occasional narrow openings with views east toward Tiger Mountain.
The next trail junction is about 1.75 miles from your trailhead, and 1100 feet higher. You can pause whenever you like along the ridge, depending on your energy and time, but this junction -- it's with the East Side Trail -- may be a good turn-around point for a moderate hike.
Extending your hike: Of course, the trail does continue on... A quick glance at a map of Squak Mountain reveals a large network of trails, so there are many possibilities for extending your hike.
For a number of suggestions, you could refer to our Hiking Guide entry for "Squak Mountain's East Side Loop." That write-up offers a summary of several of the possibilities.
Feeling overwhelmed by too many choices? That's OK, just think of each of them as an option for a future hike. If you prefer a more specific suggestion, we offer one here. This option will add about 2 miles to your round trip, with an additional 350 feet of elevation change.
Continue on the East Ridge Trail, past the signed junction with the East Side Trail that will be your return route. Climb a bit more and then, rather unexpectedly, drop over 100 feet into Thrush Gap, a saddle on the ridge between Squak Mountain's Central Peak and Southeast Peak. There is no sign at the gap, but it will be obvious when you arrive there.
Beyond Thrush Gap resume your climb, gaining back the elevation you lost dropping into the gap, plus a bit more. In just over 0.1 mile from the gap you will reach a signed junction with Phil's Creek Trail, where you'll turn right.
Continue on Phil's Creek Trail. Soon, you will pass a side trail to the Central Peak summit (the "summit" has many electronic towers, but no view. You may want to save it for a future hike. )
Continue gently uphill on Phil's Creek Trail and, in about 0.4 miles, reach a signed junction with the Old Griz Trail, where you can enjoy a bit of downhill.
Drop about 300 feet on the Old Griz Trail to reach the East Side Trail, where you'll turn right. This is the beginning of a nearly mile-long traverse (there is a bit of up and down) that leads back toward your incoming route.
Near the end of the traverse you will cross Crystal Creek again, at a point where the canyon is nearly blocked by a huge, mossy glacial erratic boulder.
In another 0.1 mile, with a bit of uphill, you'll arrive back at the junction with the East Ridge Trail. (It should look familiar from your incoming hike.) From here, return to your trailhead the way you came.