Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 47.52028°N / 122.09345°W
Additional Information County: King
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 1610 ft / 491 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Cougar Mountain is a hilly horseshoe-shaped mountain sharing a regional park with the same name, in Washington State. Located south of I-90 between Bellevue and Issaquah, Cougar Mountain is the western region of the Issaquah Alps. Cougar Mountain has the unique ability of being located very close to a metropolitan area while maintaining much of its natural state. As a result, Cougar Mountain is one of the most hiked peaks in the entire state of Washington.
Wilderness CliffsWilderness Cliffs

Although many areas of the western and north sides of the mountain are developed, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park was created in 1985 to help preserve the forested landscape and wildlife of the region. The park currently encompasses over 3000 acres. More than 36 miles of trails are available for walking, hiking, and running, as well as over 12 miles of trails available for horseback riding.
Trail on Cougar MountainTrail on Cougar Mountain

Cougar Mountain has multiple highpoints. The highest point, appropriately named "Wilderness Peak", is found near the southeastern corner of the mountain. Wilderness Peak is heavily forested and has no views, but does have a register for visiting hikers. Another hill on the mountain is "Anti-Aircraft Peak", a highpoint found on the north side of the mountain near "Radar Park", the site of a former military base. Another popular hill on the mountain is "Long View Peak", which, despite its name, has few long-range views as a result of the dense treecover along its slopes that obstruct views.
Wilderness PeakWilderness Peak

Despite a close proximity to big cities, the mountain maintains much of its original flora and fauna. Forests of alder, Douglas fir, maple, and oak fill the hilltops. Old-growth and second-growth Douglas fir can be found along the Wilderness Cliffs, a steep hillside found on Wilderness Peak. Groundcover such as ferns, salal, and salmonberries are also common throughout the area. Wildlife is also abundant in the park. Animals such as squirrels, skunks, long-tailed weasels, porcupines, mountain beavers, bobcats, coyotes, mule deer, black bears, and, appropriately, cougars all live on the mountain.
Old-Growth on Cougar MountainOld-Growth Douglas Fir

In addition to trails, plants, and wildlife, Cougar Mountain offers visitors other notable features. Multiple streams, marshes, and waterfalls are found throughout the area. Multiple large glacier boulders are found at various locations along the mountain. The largest such feature is "Fantastic Erratic", a massive moss-covered and fern-covered boulder located in the northeastern section of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. Visitors can also hike to the entrance to a large mine shaft in the middle of the park, a leftover reminder of the region's past coal mining industry.

Cougar Mountain has significance in the local peakbagging community, too. The mountain has over 1000' of prominence ("P1K"). With 1145' of clean prominence despite only 1610' of elevation, Cougar Mountain is considered a "Napoleon" (a peak of large prominence for its limited stature). The peak is the closest P1K to the Seattle metropolitan area. During July 2015, due to its prominence and its close proximity to the Seattle metropolitan area, Cougar Mountain was chosen as a site to hold a memorial service for the late prominencian Edward Earl, who had lived within miles of the peak for several years until his death the previous month during an Alaska mountaineering expedition.


Cougar Mountain formed as a result of tectonic uplift that occurred between 5-20 Million years ago during the Miocene Epoch. The Seattle Fault is still an active tectonic fault that resides along the lower northern edge of peak. The tectonic uplift exposed sedimentary and volcanic stratigraphy that had formed during the Eocene and Oligocene Epochs (between 20-55 Million years ago). Those rock layers gradually eroded to form what is the surface of Cougar Mountain today. In fact, Paleogene Period fossils and deposits can still be found at Cougar Mountain today, including gastropods, echinoderms, scaphopods, and bivalves. Glacial activity during the Pleistocene Epoch (11,000-2 Million years ago) further altered the geologic landscape of the mountain, most noticeable today on the eastern slopes of the peak, where open talus and glacial erratics can be found.
Fantastic Erratic"Fantastic Erratic"

Native Americans had resided near Cougar Mountain for thousands of years. European settlers discovered coal on the peak during 1863, leading to one of the first successful Puget Sound coal mines being created there. Coal Creek, one of the main tributaries of the peak, got its name because of the coal discovery nearby. During 1869, the Whitworth family (F.H. Whitworth, J.E. Whitworth, Reverend George F. Whitworth) discovered a major coal vein on one of the western hills of the mountain. The Whitworth family named the area Newcastle, based upon an old English phrase "taking coals to Newcastle" in reference to a famous English coal mining town of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne which prospered during the 16th Century. The Newcastle coal mining community existed along the western slopes and hills of Cougar Mountain until midway through the 20th Century. Today, at least one grate-covered mine shaft can still be seen up-close, along the Shaft Trail between the North & East Forks of Coal Creek.
Coal Creek FallsCoal Creek Falls

During the middle of the 20th Century, the United States military realized the advantageous location of Cougar Mountain in relation to Lake Washington and urban areas east of Seattle. During 1953, in the final months of the Korean War, the hills of Cougar Mountain, to guard Puget Sound from possible enemy attacks from overseas. Later, between the years 1957-1964, the anti-aircraft guns were replaced by the Nike Ajax Missile Defense System (located at Point 1184', nicknamed "Radar Park"). The military complex persevered at the site until 1983, when King County acquired the land and facility from the military as part of a plan to develop what would ultimately become Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. "Anti-Aircraft Peak" (Point 1483') has its name as a lasting tribute to the historical significance of military operations in the area.
Radar Park

Getting There

Cougar Mountain has three major parking trailheads:

RED TOWN TRAILHEAD: West entrance to Cougar Mountain
From I-90, near Bellevue/ Issaquah:
1) Take Exit 13.
2) Head south on Lakemont Blvd SE.
3) After 3.0 miles, the Red Town Trailhead parking lot will be on the left side of the road, at a bend in the road.

ANTI-AIRCRAFT TRAILHEAD: North entrance to Cougar Mountain
From I-90, near Bellevue/ Issaquah:
1) Take Exit 13.
2) Head south on Lakemont Blvd SE.
3) After 2.2 miles, turn left onto SE Cougar Mountain Way.
4) After 1.1 miles, veer right onto SE Cougar Mountain Drive.
5) After 0.9 miles, veer right into the entrance of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.
6) After 0.3 miles, arrive at the Anti-Aircraft Trailhead parking lot.

WILDERNESS CREEK TRAILHEAD: South entrance to Cougar Mountain
From I-90, near Bellevue/ Issaquah:
1) Take Exit 15.
2) Head south on 17th Ave SW, which turns into Hwy 900/ Renton-Issaquah Road SE.
3) After 3.1 miles, the Red Town Trailhead parking lot will be slightly uphill on the right side of the road.

Red Tape

HOURS: 8:00 AM - Dusk, daily.

Beginning during 2011, parking areas and trailheads within and for the Issaquah Alps region require a Discover Pass to be in each vehicle during the visit. Failure to have a Discover Pass visible within a parked vehicle at these locations can result in a substantial fine. For more information regarding the Discover Pass, please visit the official website.

Camping is prohibited.
Bicycling is prohibited.

All dogs must remain on-leash while in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.

External Links

A trail map and other information is also found at the following link:
Official King County Parks Department website for Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.



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Issaquah AlpsMountains & Rocks