Seattle Area Hikes

Big Tree Loop
By Scott Leonard
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new york forest
Friend of the Forest (Photo © Photodisc)
Level: Easy
Total Distance: 2.8 miles
Hiking Time: 2 hours
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Summary: Kids love this easy hike through a lost grove of old, large trees–the best forest on Tiger Mountain.
Excerpted from Moon Take a Hike Seattle by Scott Leonard

The Hike
This hike makes for one of the best child-friendly hikes in the Seattle area. This route makes use of several trails on Tradition Plateau, located along the lower north side of Tiger Mountain. Big Tree is but the largest of several attractions along the way. This hike is great for hikers of all abilities since there is little elevation change. A portion of this loop is wheelchair accessible—Bus Trail and Around the Lake Trail have been refurbished to meet ADA standards. There are no signs in the section of the loop from the Brink Trail to the Wetland Trail—a Green Trails map is recommended to avoid confusion.

Beginning in the High Point parking lot, head west on the road beneath the power lines, walking downhill. Within 20 yards you’ll see the signed entrance to the Swamp Monster Trail. Swamp Monster Trail winds down the hillside to a large wetland surrounded by forest. Instead of detouring, the trail heads straight into the swamp. Don’t worry, for this section of trail features lots of well-constructed boardwalk, keeping feet dry. Several signboards are also posted, weaving forest education into a children’s story.

Swamp Monster Trail emerges from the swamp and quickly passes beneath two sets of power lines (0.6 mile) before again entering the forest on signed Big Tree Trail. Here, the forest is noticeably larger. Although it was once logged, boggy soil provided plenty of water for rapid regrowth. The granddaddy of the forest is Big Tree (1.0 mile), a 200- to 400-year-old Douglas fir spared the ax nearly 100 years ago. A picture in front of this tree—nearly 25 feet around—is easily worth a thousand words.

Where Big Tree Trail ends at Brink Trail (1.2 miles), turn left. The trail quickly reaches power lines. Cross the access road and turn left on the unsigned trail beneath the last set of lines (1.3 miles) before the trail enters the forest. The unsigned Wetland Trail cuts off to the right just a few hundred yards in. After a quick climb, Wetland Trail hits a junction with an unsigned feeder trail (1.7 miles). Stay to the right on Wetland Trail as it delves into its namesake and finds Round Lake (1.9 miles). Ducks and other migrating birds are frequent visitors to this quiet watering hole. Wetland Trail crosses beneath another set of power lines (2.0 miles) and becomes Bus Trail. Quiet at first, this easy trail gains a lot of visitors when it encounters a rusted-out, abandoned bus in the forest (2.4 miles). From there, Bus Trail heads back to the parking lot (2.8 miles).

Wheelchair users will be happy to learn that a portion of this hike is wheelchair accessible. Bus Trail and Around the Lake Trail have been refurbished to meet ADA standards. Together they form a one-mile loop that wanders from the south shores of Tradition Lake to lush, green forest. The entire route is flat and well-graveled, with no elevation gain.

From Seattle, drive east on I-90 to High Point, Exit 20, just east of Issaquah. From the off-ramp, turn right and quickly turn right again, onto SE 79th Street. This is the entrance to High Point trailhead, located 0.5 mile down the gravel road. When the parking lot is full (most weekends), vehicles must park below the No Parking signs, close to the I-90 off-ramp.

Information and Contact
This trail is accessible year-round and is open to hikers and leashed dogs. Permits are not required. Parking and access are free. For topographic maps, ask Green Trails for No. 204S, Tiger Mountain, or ask the USGS for Bellevue South and Fall City. For more information, contact Washington Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 47001, Olympia, WA 98504-7001, 360/902-1375.

Text from Moon Take a Hike Seattle © 2006 by Scott Leonard. Used by permission of Avalon Travel Publishing. All rights reserved. This book is available through local bookstores and online booksellers.

Published: 2 May 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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