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Ghost-Town Hikes for Families in Western Washington

Into the wild and back in time on kid-friendly history hikes near Seattle

Maegen Blue

Published on: July 10, 2023

Ghost-Town Hikes for Families in Western Washington

Among ghost town hikes near Seattle, a sign in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildlands points the way to the Red Town Trail and Rainbow Town Trail
Follow the Red Town and Rainbow Town trails on Cougar Mountain. Credit: Teri Stewart/Flickr CC

Red Town Trail on Cougar Mountain

It can be hard to believe that the wilderness of Cougar Mountain is in the heart of the bustling Eastside, and that this wild place was once the heart of a booming coal industry, with railways and bustling communities with names like Red Town and Rainbow Town. You can find evidence of coal’s heyday via several easy hikes around the mountain.

These easy, family-friendly hikes can be accessed at the Red Town trailhead. For your first foray into history, follow the Red Town Trail down to the meadow restoration project (1.5 miles round trip). The field of native plants and blooming flowers was once the field for the Red Town baseball team. You won’t see any relics here, but a bench and a plaque invite you to close your eyes and imagine the crack of a bat and the cheers of the crowd.

Retrace your steps as far as the sign for the Rainbow Town Trail. Walk downhill where you’ll find a sealed mine shaft and old mining equipment. This is all that remains of the once-booming Ford Slope mining operation. A sign offers some pictures and explanations. Imagine the trails around you filled with men with soot-covered faces and the sounds of carts headed hundreds of feet below sea level.

From here, you can take a short walk to the foundations of the hoist. Our boys loved spotting bricks and other remnants in the creek. Head back uphill, or take one of the trails on the right for a less steep route. Children will be able to easily spot coal on the Bagley Seam Trail.

The Coal Creek Trail is across the road from the Red Town trailhead. As you wander the easy trail along the creek, look for remains of what was once a prosperous hotel. You’ll also come to another sealed mine shaft.

Take the short interpretive trail just to the left of it and look for timbers from the old railroad bed in the creek.

The Coal Creek falls are just after, and there are some benches for you to enjoy the view.

Getting there: These trails are easily accessed via I-90 or 405. Arrive early to snag a parking spot.

Pair with: A visit to Triple XXX Rootbeer, a famous diner in Issaquah. It will only take you as far back as the 1950s, but your kids won’t complain. 

Next trail: Monte Cristo

Image credit: Terri Stewart/Flickr CC

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