Our Hiking Time: 2h
Total Ascent: 900ft
Highest Point: 900ft
Total Distance: 5.25 miles
Location: N 47° 31.9140, W 121° 58.8540
Required Permit: None
This week we stumbled onto Grand Ridge, a portion of the Issaquah Highlands new to us. We’ve spent countless hours on Tiger Mountain never suspecting almost 10 miles of trail were hidden on the other side of I-90. When the morning brought more rain, we decided it was a good day for a short hike and headed out to Grand Ridge to see what we’d been missing.
Grand Ridge is perhaps most famous for the coal mine that operated on and off from the early 1900s through the 1950s. The last of Issaquah’s mines to close down, the Grand Ridge mine was filled in and developers soon began to stake out claims. Fortunately, King County was able to work out a deal in the 1990s that set aside four acres of land for every one acre developed. This 4:1 plan eventually yielded 1,400 acres that became the home of the Grand Ridge Trail System, built largely by the Washington Trail Association.
We started from the High Point Parking Area and followed the access road out to the High Point Trailhead, marked by a small trail map of Grand Ridge. Heading up from here will connect you to the short Coal Mine Loop that covers the lower section of Grand Ridge, and provides access to most of the trailheads in the area. Anyone who has spent time hiking around the Issaquah Alps will feel right at home wandering through salal and sword fern. Although we chose not to head to the 1,422’ summit, it is accessible via an unmarked trail, which isn’t on King County’s map. Simply follow the Grand Ridge Trail toward the Mitchell Hill Connector Forest. Although there are no signs, this side trail is well-worn and should be obvious. If you hit the first log bridge, you’ve gone too far.
Grand Ridge is a great little alternative to the often-crowded Tiger Mountain. The surrounding forest is identical, though development occasionally intrudes into the forest scene. Like Tiger, the din of I-90 is almost inescapable, but it is nice to enjoy the mixed forest of maple and cedar without a lot of company. Check out Grand Ridge when you’re short on time and just want to take a walk in the woods without too much hassle.
To get there, take I-90 to Exit 20, and turn left at bottom of ramp. Pass underneath I-90 and find a gravel lot on the left just past the on-ramp. Park and follow the Issaquah–Preston rail trail to the trailhead. -Nathan
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