August 24, 2011
Tired of this summer’s snowy hiking trails? Why not rediscover Seattle’s Discovery Park?
Whether you are lacking a car, short on time, or just looking for a quick training hike, Discovery Park — just minutes from downtown Seattle — is a fabulous hiking destination.
The primary highlight of this 534-acre park is its expansive views of Elliot Bay and the Olympic Mountains. It also features beaches, bluffs, wetlands, meadow, a lighthouse, a Native American cultural center, and the historic military base buildings of Fort Lawton. The visitor center located at the main entrance also provides information and programs for the naturalist in all of us. Visitors can explore the park by bike over miles of paved paths or on wooded trails designated for running and walking. Another bonus: dogs are welcome everywhere, but the beach!
A great place for first timers to start is the 2.8-mile loop trail that circles the main highlights of the park while avoiding areas of steep elevation. However, if you are looking for a workout, I recommend descending down to the beach on the north side of the park (closer to Ballard), then working your way around the peninsula of the beach before climbing up towards the bluffs from the steep wooded path found a little ways up the main road. The elevation gain on this trail is perfect for training and I typically hike it with a full pack starting in early spring to prepare for the backpacking season.
The climb is not only good for your cardiovascular health, it is also my favorite place in the park. All the way along the path there are peek-a-boo views of the water through the trees. And if you need to stop for a breather or a snack, there are several tree-house like platforms just off trail where you can enjoy the views without blocking passersby.
The park is located on Discovery Park Blvd (aka West Gilman), which can be reached via a right turn off of Emerson Street only a few blocks off of 15th Ave W.
By bike you can approach Emerson from 15th Ave W/Elliot Ave W if coming from Ballard or Downtown. However, I prefer to take bike friendly Dexter Ave to Nickerson Street and then follow the Fisherman’s Terminal signs to the overpass above 15 Ave W to reach Emerson.
By bus you can take routes 19, 24, and 33 from Downtown or route 31 from the UW, Fremont or Wallingford. You can also use Seattle Metro’s Trip Planner to map your route from another neighborhood.
By car take the Mercer Street Exit if coming from the South via I-5 and follow Westlake Ave to Nickerson Street and then follow the signs for the Fisherman’s Terminal to reach Emerson Street. From the North, take I-5 to the 45th Street Exit and continue west on 45th Street (which continues as 46th Ave then Market Street) until you take a left onto 15th Ave NW (which continues as 15 Ave W). After you cross the bridge turn right onto Emerson Street.