May Valley Loop Hike Close to Seattle

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A wildflower with three light purple petals and a yellow center in the green grass of the forest floor
Trillium are one of the first flowers to bloom in Western Washington Forests and can be white or pink or purple

The May Valley Loop Hike is a delightful 6 mile loop through the forest on a very lightly traveled trail! The first couple of miles are fairly busy (lots of folks going up to Central Peak) but after that it seems there is nearly no one taking advantage of this trail that is very close to Seattle between Renton and Issaquah (a half hour drive from my house in South Seattle). It can be slightly confusing to follow the loop so I’ll describe it below.

Is the May Valley Loop Hike right for me?

If you’re in the mood for some forest solitude on a loop with a short drive, this trail is for you! This loop is about six miles long with about 1000 feet of elevation gain, so you’ll get a good workout but it’s not terribly steep. There were a few muddy sections, but not too much mud. The trail is in excellent shape and in the spring it has beautiful trillium flowers blooming for the first and last mile.

When is a good time for the May Valley Loop hike?

This is a trail that can be enjoyed all year, as normally it’s snow free most of the time. It would be an enjoyable rainy day hike since it’s through the forest without big views. In spring the trillium are blooming and in summer you’d have fewer crowds than many other hikes and the shade of trees. I haven’t done it in the summer but I imagine there could be some bugs, especially near the creek.

Where is it?

The trailhead is in Squak Mountain State Park (note you will need a Discover Pass to park here). Squak Mountain is between Cougar Mountain (Bellevue) and Tiger Mountain (Issaquah). To get there, you can approach from Issaquah and through town on Issaquah Hobart Road, or from the Renton Highlands on May Valley Road. There is cell service the whole way and google maps will take you straight to the parking lot if you tell it to take you to the May Valley Loop Trailhead.

Second growth forest with ferns and moss on the May Valley Loop hike
The forest along the May Valley Loop

Trail Description

You’ll start the loop on the May Valley Trail which heads up towards Central Peak. This first part will be the most crowded part of you hike, with lots of hikers going up to Central peak. After the first couple of miles, you’ll see a sign that says “May Valley Loop” behind you (the way you came from) and a sign pointing ahead saying “Bullit Creek Trail” and “Central Peak”. Straight ahead there is also a barricade to stop horses from continuing further up. There is a trail to the right that is not marked. This is the trail you want for the loop! Here you will leave the crowds behind and be pretty much on your own in the forest. In a short time, you’ll reach the access road, go to the right down the road a short distance then there will be a sign on the left saying “May Valley Loop”. Follow this trail. Shortly you will reach another confusing intersection. There’s a sign that says “May Valley Loop” pointing to the right, but the trail is blocked by logs and also overgrown and hard to see. At this point, I saw a laminated paper sign that was torn in half and said “Trail closed, new trail” with an arrow pointing to the left. I went to the left and the trail seemed to just go back up towards Central Peak. However, if you stick with it, you’ll see another unmarked trail on the right. Once you take that trail, there are no more confusing intersections and the trail meanders down the hill, crossing the creek again and then meeting up with the original trail you started on about half a mile from the parking lot.

Overall, this is a great close to town hike I’ll be adding to my regular line up! If you’re looking for other hikes in the area, check out my post about Margaret’s Way that is one of the hikes you can take public transit to, as well as Poo Poo Point (a more strenuous hike with a view in the same area) or my suggestions for all year hikes in Western Washington. Enjoy!

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Jennie Flaming
Jennie Thwing Flaming, Chief Adventure Officer: Jennie's life has been a continual quest for adventure (of the non-adrenalin inducing kind) from birth till now. Professionally, she pursues adventures in teaching, counseling and working to obliterate institutional racism for students in our region's public schools and also works as a tour and hiking guide. Previous professional adventures include working in schools in Seattle and Alaska, leading tours and managing tour guides and presenting traveling science shows and lessons with Pacific Science Center. She believes in sharing her beloved Pacific Northwest home with visitors. She likes to be outdoors and spend time with the people she loves. Jennie is born and raised in Seattle and has also lived in Alaska and the Netherlands.