0712 Park City - Mountain Park
Image: Will Austin

The Mountain Park

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
SE Cougar Mountain Dr, Renton

Here’s a radical thought for the twenty-first century: The best measure of civilization is not the height of a city’s office towers, but how gracefully a metropolis embraces and preserves nature. By this standard, the Eastside is nicely civilized.

King County’s largest park protects 4.8 square miles of Cougar Mountain’s slopes from development and offers more than 36 miles of hiking trails, some of which feel profoundly remote from the suburban bustle churning at the mountain’s base.

Among the park’s most interesting treks is the 2.2-mile round trip to Coal Creek Falls, a silvery horsetail some 20 feet high that plunges into a dark, miniature box canyon lush with moss, sword ferns, and red cedar. It’s best after a spate of rainy days, but even in dry weather it’s nearly impossible to believe this secluded grotto exists. Set your bear and cougar sensors on high tingle—this is not a walk in the park.