Our Hiking Time: 4h 30m
Total Ascent: 2086 ft
Highest Point: 1500ft
Total Distance: 11.8 miles
Location: N 47° 25.9380, W 121° 58.2720
Required Permit: None
For a variety of reasons, we found ourselves heading out to explore the Taylor Mountain Forest. At the time of printing Manning had little concrete to say about the area, noting that there was enough trail that one could stroll for an hour or a day. Now that we're seasoned in reading between Manning's lines, we took the time to print a trail map on our way out the door, knowing that there was a good chance things would not be well signed.
The Taylor Mountain Forest was acquired by King County in 1997 and since that time a small army of volunteers has steadily worked to improve the 1,822-acre site. It was only in 2007 that the current parking lot and trailhead were built to service equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers. The area was heavily logged in the mid-1970s and all the trails are built around an extensive network of logging roads. The Forest is something of an experiment in mixed land use; public use trails and roads skirt the private holdings at its heart, as well as the Cedar River Watershed to the south.
From the parking lot, we embarked up the logging road, map and GPS in hand and a route in mind. As we suspected, this area is only sporadically signed – most trails are unnamed and not all roads and trails were marked on our map. It was about a mile and a half down the road when we came to our first trail, which we eagerly took, anxious to get off a road and onto something that felt more like a hike. This trail winds up to the top of a grassy hill still recovering from the chainsaw to yield an expansive view of the valley, with Mt. Rainier in the distance and Tiger Mountain just across the highway.
Beyond this view we fumbled and meandered through a series of trails in an attempt to follow our planned route through the Forest. Alternating between the wide and well-maintained roads and the narrow newly-forged trails was a new hiking experience and added an interesting element to our trek. We managed to get turned around a couple of times, but ran into a number of characters, from a lone property owner clearing brush to groups of horseback riders plodding down muddy trails, who were various levels of helpful. Our travels took us through marsh and deciduous new growth, past streams and ponds, and up through more mature pines and firs.
Taylor Mountain Forest is still a work in progress and we found it a little frustrating to navigate. We highly recommend bringing along a map and plenty of patience - we certainly needed the latter when Jer realized he’d left his sunglasses miles back where we had stopped for lunch. We’d written them off as a casualty until the lack of signed trails forced us to backtrack in a way that, by sheer luck, delivered us back to the glasses – a saving grace for being forced to retrace our steps. Additionally, while you can eventually catch a glimpse of Taylor Mountain, the peak itself is private, and there is no real access to its heights. Still, the site has a lot to offer – it’s out of the way and quiet, with lots of space for trail-running, taking the dogs out for some exercise, and enjoying the varied landscape.
To get there, take I-90 to the Highway 18 Interchange, Exit 25. Take a right and head down the highway to the Issaquah-Hobart Road Exit. From here, take a left across the overpass toward Hobart and in less than a quarter mile the signed gravel parking lot will be on your left. -Nathan
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