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Big Tree Ridge Trail

Big Tree Ridge Trailhead I took the dog to Big Tree Ridge Trail in Issaquah today. The trail head parking lot is at the Northeastern corner of the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. I would say this hike is moderate. It definitely got me sweating today, an 80 degree September day. There is quite a good and quick elevation gain on this trail with switchbacks. You do walk along a narrow ridge at times, where the trail is narrow. So I would not take small children on this trail or children who need to be carried.

I realized today how tricky Cougar Mountain could be. I heard there are some 33 different trails there. Many trails connect to different trails and lead you all around the mountain. There are signs all over the trails, but a good trail map of Cougar Mountain is very helpful to have while hiking. You can find the latest trail map by doing an internet search for "cougar mountain hiking trail map".

I chose this trail because it is pretty close to home, and I found myself interested in exploring Cougar Mountain. A few weeks ago, I hiked around the Red Town Trail, which begins at the parking lot on the Northwestern side of Cougar Mountain in Newcastle. I definitely loved the hike today much better, even though the Red Town Trail leads to a waterfall (it was just trickling at this time of year). Today's Big Tree Trail was so perfectly beautiful and serene. The forest was covered with beautiful ferns and undergrowth. The trees were a nice mix of deciduous trees and evergreens. I would recommend this trail just to have a nice quiet forest walk and a good workout. The trail has very little traffic, and you truly get a feeling of being in nature. I found myself singing outloud sometimes because I felt so much solitude on the trail.

Location: Newport Way NW, Issaquah, WA

Date: 9/2/2017

The tour

Big Tree Ridge Trail trailhead sign This is the sign at the trailhead. I decided to go for the gold and hike to the Harvey Manning Trailhead 2.2 miles away. That would make my roundtrip there and back a total of 4.4 miles. And that seemed like an appropriate hike starting at 12:30 in the afternoon.

Big Tree Ridge Trail moss covered trees I always love to see moss-covered trees. It reminds me of hiking in the Olympic rainforests, one of my favorite places.

Big Tree Ridge Trail deciduous trees There are lots of pretty deciduous trees which will probably look golden in the fall. I should come back then to see.

Big Tree Ridge Trail skinny trees This little stretch of trail had lots of skinny trees. They make for an interesting change in scenery. That's one of the things I liked about this trail, that it had varying types of trees and forest sceneries as you made your way up and down the trail.

Big Tree Ridge Trail bridge over a creek This is a simple but fun bridge to cross over a tiny creek, which was pretty low flow this time of year.

Big Tree Ridge Trail switchbacks The switchbacks gave me a serious workout. My dog kept us a brisk pace. I wished I had worn my Olivia Newton-John sweatband, or at least a hanky to prevent the sweat from pouring down my face as it did other hikers I passed on the trail.

Camelbak Hydration pack I was sweating and panting all the way up the switchbacks. My Camelbak was definitely getting good use here. It was nice to take sips of water without having to stop.

Ferns at Big Tree Ridge Trail This stretch of the trail had a lot of ferns growing under the trees. It was so pretty, the perfect picture of a forest. So dense with lush green growth.

Maple Leaves at Big Tree Ridge Trail There were lots of maple trees here with new maples sprouting up all over the place.

I wore my Lancome Definicils Mascara today because the last time I took selfies on my hike, my eyes looked really weird without any mascara. Definicils is what I wear when I want to look like I have some lashes without looking too glammed up.

Big Maple Trees at Big Tree Ridge Trail Now I know why it's called Big Tree Ridge trail. These maples are so tall! It took me 4 pictures going up the tree to stitch together to create this panorama. Plus, there is a narrow part of the trail where you walk on the ridge on the side of the mountain. These maples I'm sure will also be pretty in the fall.

Mushroom growing out of a tree trunk at Big Tree Ridge Trail Right out of Wonderland, these weird mushrooms are always cool to see, for humans as well as canines, apparently. I've read though that when mushrooms grow on the side of the base of a tree, it usually means there is something rotting in the tree trunk. Wonder how long this tree will remain upright.

Rock to rest on at Big Tree Ridge Trail Ahhh...rest for the weary. This large rock can seat a large adult. This is as good as it gets for resting areas until you get to the top. Gives you a little respite after the switchbacks.

Signage at Big Tree Ridge Trail I tried to take a picture of every sign I saw. And I'm glad I did! It helped tremendously when trying to find my way back. I just compared the signs on the way down to the signs on my phone.

According to this sign, it looks like I had hiked .9 miles from the Big Tree Ridge trailhead. I continued to head up the mountain toward AA Peak Trailhead. I think this is an old sign because I think they renamed AA Peak to Harvey Manning.

Built up walk way on Big Tree Ridge Trail It was nice to see some areas built up with a wood frame and gravel like this. I'm sure it is super awesome to have during our wet season so you don't have to tromp in the mud.

Cut out fallen logs on Big Tree Ridge Trail I saw a few of these logs that had fallen across the trail. It was cute how they cut out an area of the log to make it easier for you to hop over. Was a little fun, acutally. Added a little variety to the trail without being too hazardous.

Giant maple leaves on Big Tree Ridge Trail I don't remember eating the weird mushrooms growing on the trunk of the tree, but somehow I shrunk so much so that these maple leaves were bigger than my head. "Call Alice, when she was just small".

Hookah-smoking caterpillar on Big Tree Ridge Trail We finally made it to the top at Harvey Manning Trailhead. It took under 2 hours. But before I could go checkout the view, I had to checkout the port-o-potty. It was so hot that day, I drank almost the whole Camelbak. And now, it worked its way through me.

But a cute fuzzy little caterpillar crawling on the port-o-potty distracted me. And wait a minute, what does it have in its mouth? Not a hookah!

Other than some birds, it was the only wildlife I saw on the hike. I think the white rabbit must've been asleep that day.

View at the top on Big Tree Ridge Trail There is a viewing pergola at the top, if you hike all the way up to Harvey Manning Trailhead. It was a little over 2 miles, with pretty good elevation gain. There is also a parking lot at the top for those who would rather just drive up and enjoy the view without huffing and puffing and sweating. This is the view from the viewing pergola. There is lots of growth all around, but on a clear day, like this day, we were able to see Lake Sammamish and Mount Baker.

We didn't stay at the top too long as it was a little busy up there. But they did have a large map posted there, of Cougar Mountain and all its many mangled trails. I studied that for a while trying to get my bearings.

Sign to get back on Big Tree Ridge Trail Well, I guess I didn't quite study the trail map enough. Somehow I missed this sign and found myself about 1 mile off track. I was descending on the opposite side of the mountain from where I parked. Yikes! I had no idea that hiking Cougar Mountain meant you really had to pay attention to signs and where you are going, and where you've been.

Luckily I got good reception on that mountain. I had to pull up a trail map of Cougar Mountain on my phone so I could find my bearings again. I had to backtrack back up the mountain to connect back to the correct trail that led back to the Big Tree Ridge Trailhead parking lot.

Oboz hiking boots on Big Tree Ridge Trail I always feel like coming down the mountain is harder than going up it. You don't sweat and pant as much, but I feel like it is more taxing on the body. I was so relieved to finally find my trail again. I almost had my husband pick me up at Harvey Manning Trailhead, but I caught sight of the above sign, and I knew I was home free.

It was the first time I drank my whole Camelbak. I did share it with the dog, but we were completely out by this time. I might have to upgrade to a bigger bag. But for now, I figured it was all downhill from there, so we would be okay without water.

Usually coming down a mountain is much faster than going up. But this was the longest downhill trip I've ever hiked. I had my new Oboz hiking boots on. It was super comfortable going uphill. But downhill would be the true test of them. And they failed miserably. I think the toe box is so narrow, and the shoe itself seemed to run a little small. My toes were crushed and sore going downhill. I had to waddle and limp and call out to my dog to slow down all the way down. It took forever. I finally reached the parking lot about 4 hours after I first began the hike. But I was glad it was over.

Parking at Big Tree Ridge Trail I guess you can't really call this a parking lot. This is the view of the Trailhead from the road. The trailhead is on Newport Way, near the Cougar Mountain Zoo. But there aren't really any signs on the road designating this trailhead. You have to park on the side o the road, and there isn't much room for more than half a dozen cars. But then again, this trail doesn't get much traffic. That's why it is such a nice hike. You aren't passing tons of people on the trail.

I am determined to hike this trail again. This time staying on track on the way up as well as coming back down. I will not be fooled twice! Perhaps in the fall, when the deciduous leaves change color. There are so many maples in this forest, that I think it would be stunning in the fall. This is definitely a fun hike for dogs, too. I saw a few people with their dogs on this trail, and I know our pup really liked hiking it. It is one of the most peaceful and quiet hikes I've ever done. And with the nice variety of trees and bushes, and other "things", it is truly a wonderland :-)

Photos taken 9/2/2017



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