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Coal Creek Hikes (Seattle Area): Bagley Coal Seam

Coal Creek Hikes (Seattle Area): Bagley Coal Seam

While getting ready to clean my place a couple days ago, I somehow ended up hiking in the Coal Creek area east of Seattle.

It was awesome. It was beautiful. It was surprisingly interesting.

Since there was so much, this post focuses on a small part of trail, the Bagley Coal Seam. However, there’s a little overall history to start.

Center of the Bagley Coal Seam Trail. If you look to your right and left at this spot, you’ll see small bits of coal covering the slope.

The Coal Creek area is located in Newcastle, Washington, which has an incredibly interesting history. The townsite was once called Coal Creek, but merged with neighboring Newcastle as both populations grew. Other townsites, becoming neighborhoods, are also featured along the web of trails; though they are barely visible now. Fortunately, historical markers pinpoint them throughout the forest. They even display photographs of what spots looked like 100 years ago.

A few spots are highlighted below, mostly around Redtown. I did a 4 1/2 mile mighty meandering loop by the Coal Creek Park Redtown trailhead. However, there are many more. You could easily hike well over 10 miles of trail meandering around the connected system.

Coal Creek Mines: Bagley Coal Seam Trail

The Bagley Coal Seam was among the most productive of the system. Along the trail system, it is one of the least advertised. Perhaps it’s because the seam is partially exposed in the middle of the trail, which is just a 0.2 mile connector between the Redtown and Wildland Trails. Right smack dab in the middle, next to a stump in the trail’s center, small bits of coal spill from the slopes.

Bits of coal spill from the sides of the Bagley Seam Trail near its center (0.1 mile from either end). Fossil trees once stood perpendicular to the stone beds when it was mined at the turn of the 20th century.

Bagley Coal Seam: A Little Geohistory

The Bagley Coal Seam is actually a collapsed shaft, which is why the coal is still exposed (Washington Trails Association [WTA 2010]:20). Within the Coal Creek mine system, fossil trees stood perpendicular to the beds of shale and sandstone. Many of these trees had diameters of 4 to 5 feet (Weaver 1916:104). These stone beds formed from soil that deposited around the trees, gradually burying them. The Bagley Coal Seam itself contained variances along the strike of the beds (Weaver 1916:104).

The Bagley Seam Trail forms from a collapsed mine shaft along the Bagley Seam, causing steep banks along its side.

The shale and sandstone settled there as sediment during the Eocene (Weaver 1916:102-105), which occurred between 40 and 50 million years ago in Washington state. Approximately 50 million years ago, the North Cascade micro-continent docked on Washington state after traversing the Pacific Ocean westward. The Coal Creek area was the west coast of Washington 50 million years ago (Alt and Hyndman 1994:x, 15), which was approximately the time of coal formation and sediment deposition.

Although the Coal Creek trail system is formed of many small spurs, there are some longer ones too. You can easily take a 10 mile tour of connecting trails, going uphill as you go farther east.


Washington Trails Association (WTA)

2010   Hike in History: Hit the Mother Lode at Cougar Mountain. On Trail (January – February 2010):19-21. Electronic document,, accessed October 1, 2012.

Weaver, Charles E.

1916   The Tertiary Formations of Western Washington. Washington Geological Survey Bulletin No. 13. Washington Division of Mines and Geology, Olympia, Washington.



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