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West Tiger Railroad Grade

Issaquah Alps

Location

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain
View map below

Length

8.7 miles of trails

Elevation

Gain: 1800 ft.
Highest Point: 2000 ft.

Rating

2.00 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2018
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
 
 

Yes, there once was a railroad here. The Tigers hosted several. Not Pullman sleepers, for sure, but cars carrying logs intended for a mill at High Point, now vanished beneath I-90. Steam donkeys raised and lowered the cars, locomotives, even the loggers, up and down the steep slope between High Point and the West Tiger Railroad Grade. But that was in the early 20th century, after steam had replaced the oxen and horses of earlier decades. Once the trees all had been cut, rails and ties were salvaged, leaving just the grade, now a nearly-level trail for hikers.

West Tiger Railroad Grade is one of Tiger Mountain's internal trails, so it has no trailhead of its own. It can be accessed only via other trails. The loop suggested here offers the most gentle approach for hikers to experience this trail.

From the High Point Trailhead, head south on the main trail then turn right when the sign directs you toward the Around the Lake Trail and Bus Trail. The eponymous bus appears just over a half-mile from the trailhead. It's showing its age, and with every passing year it looks more like an abstract metal sculpture. According to the Issaquah Historical Society, the bus was used to haul loggers to work sites and, later, as a fixture in a logging camp. It was abandoned in the early 1950s.

The forest along this section of trail is a marvel of greenery and mossy tree trunks, and it looks very old. It's all second growth, of course. And here and there a huge, weathered stump hints at the ancient forest that once covered these hills.

The Bus Trail emerges from the forest, crosses a buried gas line, then comes to a power line. Turn south here and follow the wide, unsigned Bonneville Trail (or is it a service road?) along the power line. In spring, the heavy scent of Scot's broom is in the air and you will see native flowers too, such as tall foxgloves.

In 0.3 miles, note the signpost for the beginning of the Section Line and Poo Poo Point trails. Turn left here, cross a rocky section, and in a few feet when the trail forks, take the right fork, the Poo Poo Point Trail. (The left fork is the Section Line Trail, which provides a very steep and relatively lonely route to the popular West Tiger No. 3 summit. Keep it in mind for a future hike.)

The Poo Poo Point trail climbs steadily up the lower slopes of Many Creeks Valley. The grade is moderate before it levels off to cross the main stream on a sturdy bridge (from time to time the bridge has been hit by a blowdown, and you may see indications the railing has been repaired.) It's worth pausing here to enjoy the view of the creek. It's the largest of many in this aptly-named valley.

Resume your climb until you reach a triple trail junction about 2.8 miles from the power line. Here, as the signpost indicates, the ongoing uphill trail becomes the One View Trail that leads to Fifteen Mile Gap and, eventually, to the main Tiger Mountain Trail, the TMT. The right hand trail fork is the continuation of the Poo Poo Point Trail and it leads, of course, to Poo Poo Point. The left hand trail fork is the southern end of the West Tiger Railroad Grade, and that is your ongoing route for today.

As you head north and round a corner on the West Tiger Railroad Grade, almost immediately the surroundings change. The wind, sun and rainfall conditions in this upper part of Many Creeks Valley lead to incredibly lush growth, extensive moss coverage, and an understory completely covered with plants. In spring, knee-high flora often lean in over the trail and, if there has been recent rain or dew, your lower legs may be quickly soaked.

You may catch a view through the trees of the West Tiger No. 2 summit, with its electronic tower, across the valley.

The grade here is nearly level, but there are many gullies and small streams along the way. Some of these once were spanned by long-gone log bridges or small trestles. At these locations you will need to descend a few feet, cross a stream or gully then climb back up to the ongoing grade.

It's not unusual here, as on other Tiger trails, to come upon a small tree trunk with the bark scratched off up to face height. That's a sign that a bear has marked this as "territory." Black bears certainly are out here, but sightings and photo-ops are infrequent.

Continue on, eventually passing the Seattle View Trail, then crossing the Section Line Trail and the West Tiger No. 3 Trail. If your time and energy are limited, you can descend the West Tiger No. 3 Trail back to the trailhead. Otherwise, continue on along the level West Tiger Railroad Grade and soon cross the Cable Route.

On these north-facing slopes notice how different the vegetation is compared to Many Creeks Valley. The forest now is much more open, and fewer plants grow in the understory.

About a mile from the West Tiger No. 3 Trail, come to the signed K-3 Trail, your descent route for today. (The West Tiger Railroad Grade itself continues on another quarter mile or so, where the route crosses a major slide area then reaches the site of a former bridge over High Point Creek. The bridge is gone now and the trail ends there, although a crude social route - please avoid it - may continue on.)

Head down the K-3 Trail. Descend about a half-mile to reach the main Tiger Mountain Trail, the TMT. Along the way, be alert for many occurrences of delicate, black-stemmed maidenhair ferns.

Head west, slightly uphill, on the TMT and soon come to two rustic bridges that cross tributaries of High Point Creek. Beyond these, traverse the steep hillside of the once-signed Anschell's Allee (such names honor volunteers who originally constructed the TMT in the 1970s.)

Cross a high point then descend, with a few switchbacks, eventually re-crossing the Cable Route. Then continue on to merge with the West Tiger No. 3 Trail just a few feet from the Bus Trail, where you complete your loop and return to the trailhead.

Many wildflowers bloom along these Tiger trails. Early in the season look for trilliums and yellow violets. As spring progresses, look for honeysuckle, buttercups, avens, thimbleberries, salmon berries, salal, youth-on-age, fringe cup, waterleaf, bleeding heart, Scot's broom, foxglove, goat's beard, miner's lettuce, foam flower, vanilla leaf, false lily of the valley, and Solomon's seal, among others.

Extending your hike

The route described here offers a gentle approach to the West Tiger Railroad Grade. If you crave something more ambitious, check our Hiking Guide for the West Tiger Four-Summit Loop. That hike includes the West Tiger Railroad Grade, and also reaches four Tiger high points.

 

West Tiger Railroad Grade

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.5296, -121.9957 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain

West Tiger Railroad Grade (#TIGER)

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking Snoqualmie Region

Dan A. Nelson and Alan L. Bauer

Mountaineers Books (Ed. 2

2014.)

Winter Walks and Hikes Puget Sound

Harvey Manning

Mountaineers Books (Ed. 2

2002.)

Buy the Green TrailsTiger Mountain No. 204S map

Download a map to plan your hike

Getting There

Driving Directions

From I-90, a few miles east of Issaquah, take Exit 20 (High Point) and turn south on 270th Ave SE. Just a few yards south of I-90, turn right onto SE 79th St and continue on west. The pavement ends in 0.4 miles, and a gate there is open each day approximately from dawn until around 7 PM.

If you arrive earlier, or expect to leave after 7 PM, you will need to park along either side of the road here and follow the obvious trail 0.5 miles to the parking lot. Otherwise, you are welcome to drive on through, watching for potholes, and park in the lot. A Discover Pass is required.

A small restroom building at the trailhead offers a pair of toilets, his and hers. In season they often have paper, but it's best to be prepared.

There is no regular source of water at the trailhead.

When you arrive at the parking area you may find a discouraging number of cars there already. But most visitors seem to head to the West Tiger No. 3 summit. Once you leave the trailhead area, it's likely you will encounter only a few other hikers.

Take Transit

Take the bus to the trailhead!

As a possible alternative for hikers who don't have the use of a car, King County Metro bus Route 208 runs between Issaquah and North Bend, and on weekdays it has a stop at 270th Ave SE. It's a short walk to reach SE 79th St, but then about 0.9 miles to the main parking lot. There are only a few buses each day, so if you use this option be sure to check schedules carefully at metro.kingcounty.gov, including those for any connecting routes.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
 

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West Tiger Railroad Grade

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