Jim Whittaker Wilderness Peak at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
Hike description: Reaching the highest point on the Jim Whittaker Wilderness Peak Trail requires almost none of the skill that made its namesake famous.
On May 1, 1963, Whittaker became the first American to summit Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.
Fifty years after his accomplishment, King County renamed the Wilderness Peak Trail in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park in his honor. Additionally, the Wilderness Cliffs Trail was renamed the Nawang Gombu Wilderness Cliffs Trail in honor of Sherpa Nawang Gombu, who scaled Everest with Whittaker.
Starting from the Jim Whittaker Wilderness Peak Trail along state Route 900, you can link these trails for a forested loop that visits Wilderness Peak.
Start by hiking up the Peak Trail for about half a mile, then turn right and follow the sign to the switchbacking Cliffs Trail. Toward the top you notice a sign directing you to Wilderness Peak.
This is no Everest. You’re not above treeline and there’s not much of a view. But there is a bench and a geocache is hidden nearby.
From the top, follow the 1.9-mile Jim Whittaker Trail back to the car (making sure to catch the Peak Trail turnoff to the car). The route is well-marked.
There are numerous opportunities to extend your trip. At Shy Bear Pass, during the descent, you can follow the signs for a detour to Long View Peak (an extra 1/3 mile each way), or go a little farther to Doughty Falls (an extra 2/3 mile each way).
There are many trails at Cougar Mountain, so grab a map before you go.
Directions: From state Route 18, take the Issaquah-Hobart Road exit and travel northwest (toward Issaquah) on the road for 4.3 miles to May Valley Road. Turn right and continue 4 miles to state Route 900 (Renton Issaquah Road) and turn right. Look for the trailhead on the left in less than a mile.
Difficulty rating: 3 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 3.7.
Elevation gain: 1,250 feet.
Best time of the year: Year round.
Map: Maps are often available at trail kiosks and can be downloaded at kingcounty.gov.
Pass: None required.
Also: Be prepared for snow if hiking in the winter. Trekking poles and micro-spikes might be worth considering. Dogs are permitted but must be on a leash. Bikes are not permitted. Find information on geocaches hidden in the forest at geocaching.com.