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Soaring Eagle Regional Park

Our Hiking Time: 2h 10m
Total Ascent: 200ft
Highest Point: 520ft
Total Distance: 4.2 miles
Location: N 47° 36.6960, W 121° 59.4900
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoA few weeks ago we had the chance to check out one of the many trail systems managed by King County that do not get the kind of attention that Tiger or Cougar receive. We’d heard about “hidden” parks like Soaring Eagle Regional Park and decided it was time to see if the short drive out to Sammamish was worth the trip. While we didn’t find great hiking, we did find a nice network of forested multi-use trails about 30 minutes from Seattle.

soaring eagle hikingwithmybrotherThe park is very popular for biking and trail running, so be prepared to share the trail – though we only saw a few folks on our walk. The main Pipeline Trail is wide and flat, making it possible to bring the whole family out, stroller and all. If you’re looking for new places to bring the dog, this is a good option as well. On the other hand, there is relatively little actual hiking in the park, so those looking for a good hill climb should avoid this one.

There's a lot more to Soaring Eagle Regional Park, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take SR 520 until it ends taking a right on Redmond Way. Follow Redmond Way out to 244th St and head right. Continue on 244th until you reach E Main Drive. Take a left and follow E Main Dr until you reach the Soaring Eagle parking lot. The trailhead is at the far end of the lot. - Nathan

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Zig Zag Trail

Our Hiking Time: 2h
Total Ascent: 1600ft
Highest Point: 2800ft
Total Distance: 2.5 miles
Location: N 47° 25.5660, W 121° 39.2340
Required Permit: Discover Pass
Difficulty: Hard

Nathan's PhotoThe Zig Zag Trail is one of many unofficial paths branching off the Iron Horse Trail in search of greater heights and more secluded climbing walls. Around this time of year, when the days get longer but the mountaintops are still snowbound, hikes to rocky bluffs and outlooks at lower elevations have a certain appeal. Built by volunteers, the route offers both views and connections to the Hall Creek Valley and beyond.

zig zag trail hikingwithmybrotherThe Zig Zag Trail climbs up the east side of the Hall Creek Valley. Before you reach the trail, however, you'll pass over or under the restored trestle bridge that spans Hall Creek Valley. Originally built in 1912, the Hall Creek Bridge stood for more than 70 years before a 1988 storm unleashed a torrent of mud and debris downstream, pulling portions of the bridge down with it. For the next 10 years, a 171-foot gap separated the eastern and western portions of Iron Horse State Park. The trails used to by-pass the gap still exist today – the more popular path up Change Creek, and a more hidden route that follows Hall Creek. By 1999, funding was found to repair the bridge and unify the park, which today sees thousands of hikers, bikers, and climbers every year.

A small path signed “Zig Zag Trail” marks the trailhead, a few dozen yards beyond the Hall Creek Bridge. The amount of work trail builders have put into the fledgling path is evident – rocks and logs have been used to stabilize problem areas along the way – but be warned that the trail is still a work in progress. The path is also narrow and can be slick in the rain and melting snow. At about the half-way point, a small overlook signed “Mountain Mutt Rock” is a welcoming place to rest and look down at the Snoqualmie Valley below. Above this point, the trail gets zig zag trail hikingwithmybrotherrough. Follow the path hacked down long-overgrown logging roads a few hundred feet up to FR 9021, also known as the Hall Creek Road. From here, one can follow forest roads out to Mt. Washington, or make a large loop out to Hall Point and back down to the Iron Horse Trail.

This is a fun little side trip for those looking for more adventure on the Iron Horse Trail. It’s short, but steep, gaining roughly 1600’in a little over two miles -- giving your legs a workout and delivering up some views in short order. It’s not a great trail for large groups or hikers that are looking for a more developed trail. We recommend this for those itching for those summer climbs that are still a few months away who want a taste of what’s to come.

To get there, take Exit 38 off I-90 and take a right. Follow the remnants of old US 10 for about a mile to a widening in the road opposite Change Creek. More than likely other cars will also be parked here. Park and cross the road to find a short path leading up to the Iron Horse Trail. Head left, over the both the Change Creek Bridge and the Hall Creek Bridge. The trail begins a few dozen yards beyond the end of the Hall Creek bridge. – Nathan

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Amabilis Mountain Snowshoe

Our Hiking Time: 5h 10m
Total Ascent: 2100ft
Highest Point: 4570ft
Total Distance: 9.5 miles
Location: N 47° 17.5980, W 121° 15.6720
Required Permit: Sno-Park Permit
Difficulty: Hard

Nathan's PhotoA rare break in cloud cover found us scrambling for a snowshoe route with promises of a view. After checking out the avalanche danger, we settled on Amabilis Mountain, an isolated prominence just beyond Snoqualmie Pass.

Amabilis Mountain looks over Kachess Lake, somewhat isolated and disconnected from the nearby massive ridgeline that ends with Keechlus Ridge. While we were unable to track down the origin of the name, “amabilis” is Latin for “lovely” or “loveable” and the mountain certainly lives up to that description. Then again, it’s also possible that it was named for the abundance of Pacific Silver Fir (abies amabilis) that covers the mountainsides. In either case, the route is accessed via the Cabin Creek Sno-Park and one of the more popular cross-country skiing destinations in the Snoqualmie Pass area. Probably for this reason, Amabilis is often overlooked as a snowshoe route.

amabilis mountain hikingwithmybrotherBegin by finding a spot to park in the Cabin Creek lot, and gearing up. Hold off on strapping on the snowshoes however, as the trail begins on the opposite side of the freeway, requiring a short jaunt across the overpass to get started. Most likely the trail will be groomed, and you’ll have plenty of company. The first task is to navigate the maze of ski loops to get on the path to the summit. Keep to the right following the signed Berg route for about a quarter-mile until you encounter signs pointing uphill to Amabilis.

The route follows FR 4822 as it slowly switchbacks up the mountain. In the summer, most vehicles can navigate this well-maintained road nearly to the summit. While the skiers are confined to the groomed trail, there’s plenty of opportunity to forge uphill and shave some distance off the long switchbacks - keep a look out for gullies and open areas to take advantage of. At the same time, some sections of Amabilis are extremely steep, and it might make more sense to stick to the road in those areas. At 1.5 miles, do keep a look out for Toll Creek, which can be used to cut out nearly a mile of forest road.

amabilis mountain hikingwithmybrotherAfter a little over two miles, the grooming ends and the trail forks. Either path will take you to the summit, though the shorter and more popular choice veers to the left. If you head left as we did, you’ll break trail or follow the path of those that came before you for about a half-mile to a small widening in the road, signed “FR 123” on the left side of the trail. You can cut out three-quarters of a mile of forest road by taking a shortcut up through the pines and taking in some of the views along the way as the trees begin to thin. Once you regain the road, you’re about a mile from the summit.

Forge onward, passing another widening offering excellent westward views of Kachess Lake a little before you reach the top. Press on to enjoy views of Kachess Ridge to the north, rising above Kachess Lake. To the south, a sea of ridges and mountains spread out toward Mt. Rainier. To the northwest, the jagged peaks of the Three Queens and Chikamin Ridge stand out against the skyline. Rest up so that you can enjoy breaking new trail on the way down if you choose to go cross-country.

amabilis mountain hikingwithmybrotherThis is a somewhat difficult snowshoe, one that can be made even more challenging by leaving the forest road in favor of the back country. Whether you prefer the road or the untamed powder, you cannot escape some company at lower elevations, which fades as you push upward. Overall this was a rewarding snowshoe, eventually yielding spectacular views and solitude. The area could definitely benefit from a dedicated snowshoe route, but as it is, it’s still well worth the trip. One note: the lot is a little too small to support the vehicle traffic on the weekends, so try to get an early start.

To get there, take I-90 to the Cabin Creek Exit, #63. Take a right and find parking in the lot. -Nathan
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