Cougar Mountain (Issaquah, WA)

November 6, 2022


Issaquah, WA

Cougar Mountain is the lowest of the several forested bumps in the immediate vicinity of Issaquah but the high point of this forest still boasts over 300 m prominence. Cougar Mountain refers to this entire forested area with numerous summits. The highest summit locates on the south-eastern corner and is also referred as “Wilderness Peak” according to some local area maps. The other summits are rather pimples with no prominence to speak of whatsoever, neither does any of them boast an official name, so I was only interested in the highest summit on Cougar Mountain. The trails are well used by the locals as mere exercise and the entire mountain is covered in thick canopy.

Wendy M. wanted to get out on Sunday but the weather forecast was calling for 10-20 mm of rain for all areas within several hours of driving. I came up with the idea to dumpster-dive in Seattle area as those peaks are forested and sheltered from the weather. As Sunday came closer the forecast improved for the afternoon hours. The amount of precipitation had downgraded to minimal but the sky would still be overcast. Wendy’s friend, Kostya was also invited to join and he volunteered to drive us down south in his electric Tesla. The three of us then left White Rock at 11:30 am and made down to Issaquah in over 2 hours. There are multiple ways to tag this summit and we randomly picked Jim Whittaker trail from the south-east. On AllTrails this is labelled as “Wilderness Peak loop”. The parking lot turned out to be full but there’s a pull-out on the highway not far from the actual trail-head, so we parked the Tesla there.

Cougar Mtn. (Wilderness Peak) via Jim Whittaker trail. GPX DL

As expected the weather was overcast but not rainy. There’s actually not much worth noting about the ascent other than that we opted to do the loop in counter clockwise direction as opposed to the recommended clockwise direction. The reason was to check out the “viewpoint” labelled on my map first. However, we soon discovered there’s absolutely no view from that said viewpoint. We then resumed the ascent following the well-defined and well-signed trail. The section right before the summit was meandering and confusing. The actual summit was as expected, entirely forested with nothing to see asides from a bench and a register box. The register was full and wet so didn’t bother to sign.

Almost all creeks crossings had well-engineered foot bridges
As you can see, the trail is well signed
There’s no view from the viewpoint but…
After a while Kostya climbed this tree…
Wendy charging up the upper trail
Kostya and I on the summit of Cougar Mtn.
I did a short thrash to tag the true summit. This is looking back down
Our group shot on the summit of Cougar Mountain

After taking some obligatory “victory” shots we headed homewards. Instead of backtracking the same way we opted to take the loop to “Shy Bear Pass”. There were a few confusing trail junctions at the pass but with GPS technology these days the navigation wouldn’t be a problem. Our round trip time was just over 2 hours which was honestly a bit longer than I thought. We only made back to the parking lot with less than an hour’s spare daylight time. We then drove north to Lynnwood and had a dinner in a local restaurant before heading home.

The typical forested descent.
Me heading down through the lingering fall colours
Dinner at Cheesecake Factory…