Explore moss-covered ruins and play in sparkling streams on this little-known, easy-to-enjoy adventure.
To get there take exit 20 off I-90. At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn north (a left turn if coming from Seattle). Park in the gravel parking lot that’s just a few yards from the west-bound onramp.
Out of the car, look for the short bridge at the far side of the parking area. Our kids love to scamper down on the right side of the bridge to check out the creek before we get started. The stream is the Middle Fork of Issaquah Creek. It flows off Tiger Mountain and down into Lake Sammamish.
Begin by walking over the bridge and down the wide gravel path. Today it is known as the Issaquah-Preston Rail Trail. Ask your kids to imagine steam locomotives chuffing through the forest right where they are hiking. In the late 1800’s, this path was part of the Seattle Lakeshore and Eastern Railway that connected Seattle to Issaquah and Snoqualmie. The rail tracks were still in operation in the 1970s.
After about five minutes of walking, keep your eyes peeled left for a side path flanked on both sides by moss-covered rocks. It’s an easy little trail that leads down to a small beach at the river bank. The spot is a delightful playground where kids can splash in the water and practice their log walking skills.
Back up on the main trail, continue for some distance and past a dark cliff wall on the right. A little over a mile from the parking lot the main trail widens, and you will see a side path leading up the hill on the right. This is the site of the old Grand Ridge Coal Mine. There use to be a building here that spanned over the tracks and dropped coal into the train cars. See if your kids can find the two old cement anchors on the left side of the trail.
Now, on to the real ruins! Head up the path into the forest. As you go, challenge your kids to look for black stones. Many chunks of coal can still be found here. Tell them that back in the day, kids as young as eight-years old worked at these mines. There’s no danger now. All the mines were sealed decades ago.
At the intersection, turn left. Soon you will come to the center of the old operation. As you explore here, watch out for stinging nettle plants. They have broad jagged leaves. There is a short gravel loop trail. It winds past several moss-covered cement ruins that you can climb around on. Generators and winches were mounted on these foundations. They pulled mine carts out of the mine holes directly in front of them. One hundred years ago, the labyrinth of coal tunnels extended under these hills for 11 miles!
If your kids have had enough, this is a great place to turn around and head back down the main trail and back to the parking lot.
If they’ve still got some adventure in them, there are two beautiful, stream-crossed forest trails that will get you back to the car: the Coal Mine Loop and the Extended Trek. Both climb a few hundred feet up the ridge and back down again. Here is a King County Parks map to help you find your way…
The Coal Mine Loop is one mile longer than going back on the main trail. Return to the last intersection and instead of going down to the main trail, head uphill instead. Turn right at the next intersection (there’s a map on a sign post there). When you come out on the main trail again, turn left to get back to the parking area.
The Extended Trek is 2 miles longer than going back on the main trail. Just follow the path you came in on past the ruins and up the hill. Stay to the right at the first three trail intersections. At the fourth intersection turn left (there’s a map on a sign post there). When you come out on the main trail again, turn left to get back to the car.
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