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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Hails to the Rails: Newcastle Trail

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

By now you’ve noticed - I really enjoy running rails to trails. It’s the way they wind through so much, connecting it all. The rails are dead; long live the rails!

Likely, you have a bunch in your area too, thanks to "rail banking." Here's a guide and review for easier enjoyment of the Pacific Northwest rail-trails, and maybe a little inspiration to check out those nearest you!

So, using the 1920s US Department of Transport rail map of Washington below...

Check out these major corridors around the region!

  1. East Rail Corridor + Cross Kirkland Corridor

  2. East Sammamish Trail(s) [One on each side of Sammamish river then along east side of Lake Sammamish to Issaquah]

  3. Issaquah- Preston trail (aptly named for the rail line it totally follows).

  4. Snoqualmie Valley trail

  5. Cascades to Poulouse Trail (formerly Iron Horse trail)

  6. Cedar River trail

  7. Coal Creek (a.k.a. Newcastle) trail

Today let's focus on the Newcastle corridor!

7. Coal Creek (a.k.a. Newcastle)

While all of the above are obvious, wide and well-groomed railway beds, a gem lies hidden in Factoria.

And it’s a real powerhouse! Indeed, much of the coal that fueled the west coast, right up through World War II, came from Cougar Mountain and was transported down using this route. Much of the grading is gone, but on the upper part, running towards Red Town, it remains clear. Indeed, concrete footings for the turntable, the mine processing buildings and the old hotel are all visible. Why is it called "Red Town"? Reportedly because the hotel was painted in company colors at the time - red! Who would have guessed?!

On a personal note, this is the route I call “test bed” because it has 1,400 feet in elevation gain over about 5 miles, and if you want to push it, you can tack on a few extra miles around Cougar Mountain for approximately 2,000 feet gain in 7 miles. It’s a great workout and a good way to see just how fit you might be!

It’s also beautiful. While many of the other trails have their charms, wandering in and out of cities, towns, farms and forests, Coal Creek really takes the cake for me. Sure, it doesn’t have nearly the distance. Still, I’ll take those quiet valleys and steep climbs any day!

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