Lately I’ve been spending a lot of my time in the urban parks of Seattle. My baby is a mover, so on days when there is more crying than napping I pack her up and head to a nearby park to walk her calm. Lately, though, she has been sleeping in the car and been more awake on the walks, but she is at least calm and content. It makes me happy to know that she’s looking at the trees and birds and hearing all the sounds. Eventually she will doze off a bit and it will be enough to say we made it through another day. I thought I would share a list of my favorites to visit on these early spring days, with or without an overtired baby.
1. Discovery Park
Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle with 534 acres and 12 miles of hiking trails. It is located on the former site of Fort Lawton on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. Open meadows invite you to spread a picnic blanket and take in the views. In the summer, tall golden grass glows in the sunset. Head down to the beach to wander the shoreline and visit the lighthouse. To get the full experience, hike this 3 mile loop that highlights the best of the park.
3801 Discovery Park Blvd // Trail map
2. Carkeek Park
A lesser known park boasting gorgeous Puget Sound views, beaches, and miles of trails is Carkeek Park. The forested 220 acres is home to an important watershed, Pipers Creek, where salmon are released and return to spawn. In the spring, visit the small salmon fishery where little fry are bulking up for their journey. Hike for miles in the lush forest or head across the walking bridge over the railroad tracks to explore the beach. Take this 3.5 mile loop that spans the length of Pipers Creek and even leads to a secret orchard. Afterward, warm up with some tea and a treat at Preserve and Gather.
950 NW Carkeek Park Rd // Trail map
3. Washington Arboretum
One of the best places to see cherry blossoms in bloom in Seattle is the Arboretum. Park at the Graham Visitor Center and head to Azalea Way. I like to find my way there by sneaking around all the windy trails until I spot some pink in the distance. The park is really a massive botanical garden, each tree, plant, and flower meticulously placed and cared for. You will find some native species, but mostly this is a place to see unique species from around the world. One of my favorites is a little grove of redwood trees. To make an afternoon of it, grab a vegetarian lunch at Cafe Flora or stock up some macarons (the best in Seattle, in my opinion) at Belle Epicurean. In autumn, the Japanese Garden can’t be missed.
2300 Arboretum Dr E // Trail map
4. Volunteer Park
What this park lacks in acreage and trails, it makes up for in charm. Volunteer Park, perched atop Capital Hill, boasts an impressive collection of trees. This map shows the walking paths and identifies each tree in the park. The park is also full of little hidden gems like perfectly circular ponds full of ducks, a water tower (that you can climb up) and stunning dahlia gardens in the summer. There is a playground and a wading pool for the kiddos too. It is also home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum (currently closed for renovations) and my favorite part, the Conservatory. Visit the nearby Volunteer Park Cafe for the full experience.
1247 15th Ave E // Trail map
5. Seward Park
Nestled on a peninsula in Lake Washington is the little oasis of Seward Park. This park has some of my favorite forested trails in the city lined with towering douglas fir. But its the birds that rule this park. All kinds of local species including bald eagles, woodpeckers, and owls make their home here. Visit the Seward Park Audubon Center to learn about this important bird habitat or to join in on a guided nature walk or nighttime owl prowl. A 2.4 mile paved trail follows the outside perimeter of the park along the water, but to really enjoy all that this park has to offer, wander into the interior trails. There is a playground for the littles and even Toddler Trails and Tales with storytime and trail exploration. After a peaceful morning here, head to Third Place Books and grab lunch at Raconteur.
5900 Lake Washington Blvd S // Trail map
6. Golden Gardens
If campfires and sunsets are more your jam, head to Golden Gardens. Watch sailboats cruise with the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop at this stunning beachfront park. Dip your toes in the sandy beach and bring firewood for the first-come, first serve fire pits. If you are looking to get some miles in though, there is a little know trail system in the park. Here is a 2.5 mile loop to get you started, or if you are looking for more exercise there are plenty of stairs to keep you in shape. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches in Seattle, but they are allowed on the trails and there is even an off-leash area of the park. Kids will love the jungle gym playground at the bathhouse. Walk down to Little Coney for an ice cream or chowder depending on the weather.
8498 Seaview Pl NW // Trail map
7. Green Lake
By far the most popular park on this list, Green Lake is seemingly the place that the entire city flocks to when the sun comes out. And for good reason. The paved trail around the glacier-formed lake is 2.8 miles, making it the perfect distance for a morning run or a coffee walk with a good friend. It is the meeting place of any and all and the best place for people watching. You’ll see tightrope walkers, bird watchers, painters, dog meet-up groups, and even skateboard mushers. Rent a boat to experience the lake from a different perspective, let the dog run off-leash at the dog park, or even visit the Woodland Park Zoo. Fuel your walk with a coffee at Fix Coffeehouse.
7201 E Greenlake Dr N
8. Alki Beach
Alki Beach became the birthplace of Seattle when the Denny party landed there in 1851. Today it is as close to a beach town as it gets around here. Burger joints and breweries line the street and the sandy beach begs for sand castles and bonfires in the summer. But this park is built for walking and riding as a wide paved trail and bike path follow the beach for 2.5 miles. Head south to the Alki Point Lighthouse or north for views of the city skyline. And don’t forget to grab a donut and coffee at Top Pot.
1702 Alki Ave SW
9. Lincoln Park
If you are looking for a less busy and less crowded alternative to Alki Beach, head to Lincoln Park, also in West Seattle. Trails wander through impressive forest and switchback down to the beach. A wide trail follows the beach making it great for biking or running or just walking along in quiet contemplation. On the beach, the driftwood begs for sitting and the rocks for skipping. In the summer, come for a swim at the outdoor Colman Pool. While in West Seattle, it is always worth a stop on California Ave at Bakery Nouveau for a killer croissant.
8011 Fauntleroy Way SW // Trail Map
10. Matthews Beach
This little known tiny park, eclipsed by nearby Magnuson Park, is all charm on a sunny day. The grassy knoll on the banks of Lake Washington, dotted with little white flowers, is hard to resist. In the summer, brave the chilly waters for a dip in the lake. Head away from the water to find a playground and an entrance to the Burke Gilman Trail. This is where the trail finds its way to the shore of Lake Washington. Head north on the trail and walk or for as long as you like or, if you are feeling ambitious, bike all the way to Woodenville for a sip of wine and lunch at The Commons.
5100 NE 93rd St // Trail Map