When Visit Issaquah reached out to see if we’d be willing to share Discover the Eastside’s favorite Fall activities in Issaquah, WA, our response was an ecstatic “YES!” Over the past couple decades, we’ve lived, worked and played in Issaquah; and as we’ve grown from a young married couple to a family of three, our love for this charming town has only multiplied.
Nestled in the foothills of the Issaquah Alps and bordering the shores of Lake Sammamish, Issaquah is the perfect place to experience the natural beauty that unfolds as Fall arrives in the Pacific Northwest. If you’ve read our Eastside Overview you know that while Summer brings our favorite weather, Fall is hands down the most gorgeous season here on Seattle’s Eastside. The photogenic changing of the leaves, along with cool crisp mornings and warm afternoons, bring a cozy vibe to our corner of the world that we look forward to every year.
Our perfect Fall day is packed with fun for families of all ages, and features all outdoor activities that are all a mere 10-15 minutes from one another. Whether you’re heading out on a day trip or playing tourist in your own town, consider giving this Fall Family itinerary a try!
First Things First: Coffee, Tea and Breakfast at Issaquah Coffee Company
Be sure to make the first stop of your day a visit to Issaquah Coffee Company. For over 10 years owner Mike has been brewing up coffee and community at this quaint coffee house in historic Gilman Village. In addition to their fabulous coffee and tea-based beverages they offer a large selection of pastries and other treats, breakfast wraps, ciabatta melts and more, from local partners such as North Bend Bakery and Homegrown sandwich shop. For the health conscience crowd they serve up plant-based breakfast items from Plant Life Meals, smoothies, and a variety of other vegan and vegetarian options.
On our visit we enjoyed an outdoor breakfast of spinach feta quiche, and lattes presented with a perfect Fall touch. We also grabbed some goodies to-go for fuel on our morning adventures – the Plant Life Meals vegan blueberry muffin and a lemon blueberry scone. For tea drinkers, the house made chai latte is a must-try. We’ve been frequenting “ICC” as we call it for over five years and have yet to be disappointed by anything we’ve sampled.
Know before you go: Issaquah Coffee Company is located at 317 NW Gilman #47, Issaquah, WA, 98027. They can be found on the Southwest side of Gilman Village, and have plenty of free parking available near the shop. They’re open daily from 7AM-6PM – early enough for those heading out on a full day of adventures. An abundance of outdoor seating is offered directly outside of Issaquah Coffee Company and all around the Gilman Village outdoor shopping center. If you’ve found yourself off to a late start, they also offer online ordering through the Joe Coffee App and an easy outdoor pickup window.
Morning Outdoor “Choose Your Own” Adventure: Hiking to Issaquah’s Famous Poo Poo Point and/or a Visit to Cougar Mountain Zoo
Depending on the age and interests of your family we recommend trying out either or both of the following morning adventures: a hike up to Tiger Mountain’s Poo Poo Point, and a visit to Cougar Mountain Zoo. Those with younger children should plan on anywhere from 2-3+ hours for the hike, and 1.5-2 hours for a visit to the small zoo.
Hiking to Poo Poo Point via Chirico Trail
Some of the best views offered by the Issaquah Alps can be found by hiking a little less than 4 miles round trip on the Chirico Trail, up to Poo Poo Point and back. Over the course of about 1,500 feet in elevation gain, hikers will make their way through the forests of Tiger Mountain, up to the first main viewpoint and South Launch pad (used by paragliders that frequently use Poo Poo Point as a take-off spot for flights). Be sure to continue another quarter mile or so to the main North Launch viewpoint, for spectacular panoramas of Issaquah, Lake Sammamish, Bellevue, and beyond. We recommend having some hiking experience prior to attempting Chirico Trail, and using caution near the viewpoints, especially with your young ones.
Know before you go: Trail head parking for Chirico Trail is located just off of Issaquah-Hobart Road, past SE 111th St. Parking is free, but the lot is relatively small, so we recommend arriving early. There is additional street side parking, and some local residents that offer affordable paid parking on their properties if you’re still not able to find a spot. When mapping to the trail head, be sure you don’t confuse the Chirico Trail with the nearby “Poo Poo Point Trail,” a 7 mile out and back hike that is a longer, and more difficult route up to Poo Poo Point and starts near Issaquah High School.
Visiting Cougar Mountain Zoo
After your trek up Tiger Mountain, head on over to neighboring Cougar Mountain to view some real-life cougars! Established in 1972, the Cougar Mountain Zoo is a small non-profit focused on conservation through education. They feature many endangered species and hands-on opportunities for youth to learn more about the importance of wild-life preservation. Just a few of the animals you’ll encounter on your visit include cougars, tigers, wallabies, emu, wolves, and an all-time kid favorite – reindeer.
Know before you go: Cougar Mountain Zoo is located at 19525 SE 54th St, Issaquah, WA, 98027. Visitor hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 9:30AM-5:00PM, January-November. During the month of December they host the Issaquah Reindeer Festival with separate hours and admittance.
Afternoon Grubs and More Outdoor Fun: A Pizza Picnic at Lake Sammamish State Park
Long after the summer crowds die down, there’s still plenty of fun to be had at Lake Sammamish State Park. With two large, sandy beaches, several playgrounds, and trails for exploring, it’s easy for the hours to pass by at this serene location. After your morning adventures be sure to pick up some picnic fare to bring along for lunch at the park. For a warm, kid-friendly, grab-and-go meal, we highly recommend Tuscan Stone Pizza. Their wood-fired pizza food truck lives right at the intersection of SE 56th St and E Lake Sammamish Parkway. You’ll see their set-up in the Value Village parking lot, just a couple miles down from Lake Sammamish State Park. They serve up fresh made pies starting at 11AM Monday-Saturday, and Noon on Sundays.
Once you head on over to Lake Sammamish State Park, you’ll find an abundance of picnic tables and grassy areas for lounging. If you’re not fully worn out from your morning adventures, take a wander down the wetland interpretive trail off the North end of Sunset Beach. This quarter-mile long trail follows the salmon-bearing Issaquah Creek to it’s entry into Lake Sammamish.
Know before you go: Lake Sammamish State Park is located at 2000 NW Sammamish Rd, Issaquah, WA, 98027. Be sure to map to the main Park entrance and not the boat launch a couple miles down the road. A Discover Pass is required for parking and can be purchased onsite at $11.50 per day, or $35 for a one year pass valid at all Washington State Parks. Bring a change of clothes or towel for little adventurers who make their way into the sand or water.
A Nostalgic Night Out: Dinner at Triple XXX Root Beer
The final stop of our day is at the last standing historic Triple XXX Root Beer Drive-In on the West Coast. Since 1968 this family owned burger joint has been serving up 1950’s style burgers and fries (the kind you can actually tell came from a potato), alongside other fried seafood and veggie burger options. Trying a frosty mug of their classic root beer is a must.
The nostalgia of the old school rock n’ roll music playing outside, plexiglass sign (the largest lit plexiglass sign in the West!), and coin operated kids’ rides will make your family feel as though you’ve taken a trip back in time. They offer plenty of lit, outdoor seating, and a convenient outdoor order/pickup window.
Know before you go: Triple XXX Root Beer is located at the intersection of Gilman Boulevard and Front Street, at 98 NE Gilman Blvd., Issaquah, WA, 98027. They’re open daily from 11AM-8PM and are cash only. They do have an atm onsite if needed.