Fall colors along the Cedar River Trail. Credit: King County Parks
Cedar River Trail
Location: Hike a section of the Cedar River Trail from Renton to Landsburg
Distance: 2–4 miles, scant elevation gain
Check conditions: King County Parks, 206-296-4232
Directions: From I-5, drive State Route 18 eastbound to Covington and exit at 272nd St. (Kent-Kangley Road). Pass through Covington and Maple Valley. Soon after crossing SR 169 (Maple Valley Highway), you’ll take a left onto Southeast Summit Landsburg Road. At 4.4 miles, you’ll come to a stop sign; turn left onto Landsburg Road Southeast. Continue down the hill, cross the Cedar River (you will see a slalom course set up in the river here), and park in one of the spacious lots on either side of the road to access the trail. More information on the WTA website.
Description: Often thought of as a bike path, the mostly paved Cedar River Trail makes a splendid fall hike, too, especially for those pushing strollers or using wheelchairs. Another bonus — the trail’s finished surface won’t have the mud that often mucks up dirt trails in the wetter months.
Following the old Seattle-to-Walla Walla railway route, the Cedar River Trail stretches from the shores of Lake Washington in Renton south through Maple Valley, and continues as soft surface (crushed gravel and still barrier-free) on to Landsburg, 17 miles in all. Some stretches of the trail feel urban and are close to RT 169, while others, especially the portion between Maple Valley and Landsburg, are more secluded and natural. Along the way are remnants of the old railroad which used to carry trains hauling coal from local mines.
You can access the Cedar River Trail from many places along its length. For this autumn color hike, we recommend starting at the far eastern end in Landsburg for an afternoon of easy exploration along the tree-lined riverbank. From the trailhead at Landsburg Park, head west on the crushed-rock trail, strolling for as long as you want, then turn around and return to your car. For a 2.6-mile-long round-trip hike, continue all the way through Big Bend Natural Area, then turn around at the large trestle bridge that spans the river. In fall, deciduous trees like big leaf maple and vine maple add punches of orange and red to the riparian landscape. You can spot the fall run of sockeye salmon migrating up the river here to spawn; several bridges along the trail offer a vantage point.