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Bellevue, Washington, United States

Coal Creek Trail

A short hike through the woods while exploring the area's coal mining history.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.8 miles / 4.5 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
Overview: This is an easy hike that will lead you through a historical coal mining region. While the towns are gone you will still be able to view some artifacts from the past. Along the way you will see a coal mine shaft and an information kiosk where you can learn more about its history. There are also a few railroad cart turntables but they are difficult to spot as their concrete foundations are all that is left and the forest has now grown over them. During your hike you will also catch the smell of coal and burnt cinders from time to time.

Most of the trail is packed dirt but there are a few hills that can be slippery especially after it rains. I would suggest wearing hiking boots or a good pair of trail running shoes. This trail has recently received some attention in the form of new bridges. As of August 2010 the park service has been busy replacing many of the bridges in the park. The new structures are larger and sturdier than the ones being replaced. One bridge in particular was an adventure to cross and may have been a deterrent to some, but now all river and stream crossings are possible.

If you start your journey from the Red Town parking lot, you will quickly come across an old coal mine shaft. It has been sealed but when standing next to it you can still smell the coal from below. Next to the mine is an information kiosk that will provide you with a little history of the area. It is interesting to read about the towns that were here and try to imagine what life would have been like while traversing the trail of today. On the kiosk you will see a few photos of the miners and their mining village. A little further down you will come to the North Fork Falls along with a few benches to sit and enjoy the waterfall. The falls are not large and it is best to visit them after a few days of heavy rain. From here you will walk through the forest and onto a short section of the trail composed of gravel. The trail is mostly a gentle down hill hike where you will make a few stream crossings on the newly renovated bridges. Soon you will find yourself in a clearing with many black berry bushes, watch out for the thorns as the trail is overgrown at times. Once you make your way back into the shaded forest the trail begins its steep decline. At first you will be hiking down a small ridge but it will begin getting steeper and muddier from here. For this next section you may need to take advantage of the trees and their roots to guide yourself down, especially if the trail is wet. Once at the bottom the trail will level out and you will come to the last two bridges. Once you cross the first bridge you will come to the Forest Drive trailhead. Continue straight to cross another bridge and a short distance later you will see a small retention pond along with the fish ladders at the end of the trail.

At a distance of 2.8 miles, 5.6 miles out and back, this hike will provide you and your family with a great short outing along with some history. However if you are looking for a longer hike there are 2 connecting trails, Primrose Trail (.8 miles) and the Forest Drive Trail (about 4 miles out and back depending on route), which can make this a full day hike.

Tips: How to get here:
From I-90 East take Exit 13 and make a right at the stop sign. Continue to follow Lakemont Blvd SE and the Red Town Trailhead parking lot will be on the left, about 3 miles away. This is also the Cougar Mountain parking area. The Coal Creek trail is just across the street from the parking area. Use caution when crossing the street as there is no cross walks.

From Interstate 405, take the Coal Creek Parkway exit which leads you to the city of Newcastle; turn left on Southeast 72nd Street and then another left onto Newcastle-Coal Creek Road. There will be a small dirt parking area about 1.8 miles from the exit.

Park Hours:
The park is open year around from 8:00AM to Dusk

Points of Interest


Coal Creek Trail Marker

If you parked at the Red Town parking lot, this is the start to the Coal Creek Trail. Use caution when crossing the road to get here as there is no crosswalk and traffic is coming around a blind corner.

Sealed Mine Shaft

This is a coal mining shaft; you can still smell the coal and burnt cinders when standing next to it. Across from the mine shaft is a kiosk that will provide you with some history about the area.

North Fork Falls

The North Forks Falls are a pleasant surprise to see. They are not particularly large but are amazing to watch, especially when it has been raining heavily for a few days prior to your hike.

Trail in Early October

In my opinion one of the best times to visit the park is in early fall. The rain usually brings more water to the area which makes for a better viewing of the streams and waterfalls. Additionally, you can watch the leaves change color and enjoy the great smell of fall in the air.

Primrose Trail Marker 1

Primrose Trailmarker 1

Wild Berries

There are many places to gather wild berries on this trail. Mainly blackberries, which can be found towards the middle of the trail. The best time to come gather berries is in late Summer.

YMCA Trail Access

This short offshoot to the trail will bring you into the Coal Creek YMCA parking lot. Parking is for YMCA members only but if water is needed they have always been helpful.

Wooden Bench

Near the middle of the trail there is a large bench to rest in the shade. The bench may be a welcoming site coming from the West as it is a steep incline offering little rest. It is advised to rest here if needed as this is only bench heading further West.

Primrose Trail Marker 2

Depending on which end of the park you started on, this would be the start or end of the Primrose Trail. The trail is a short .8 miles but it offers some of the best sights in the park.

Forest Drive Trail Marker

The beginning to the Forest Drive Trailhead. If you are looking to extend your hike this trail can add up to 5 miles of forested trail that will wind through the local neighborhoods.

Wooden Bridge

This is one of the many new bridges that have been added to the Coal Creek Trail. Nearly all bridges on the trail have been redone, not only do they serve a function for crossing the creek but also add to the beauty of the surroundings.

Fish Ladder

Here you can watch salmon spawn upstream. The best time to view salmon spawning is in late August to early July. Although, I have not witnessed and spawning in this area in 2010.
Pictures in this guide taken by: gbhoskins

Coal Creek Trail Trail Map

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About the Author

25 guides
view gbhoskins's profile
Just moved back to the Pacific Northwest and love exploring new trails.

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