May 19, 2011
With days in Seattle getting longer and warmer, it’s the time of year where people tentatively come out of hibernation, blink their eyes at the sun, and luxuriate in long walks or jogs with the dog. After an interminable winter, those first few really warm, nice days of spring hint at summer and are practically worshiped by Washington natives (like me).
One of my favorite long walks covers the southern end of Queen Anne Hill and is arguably the best walk in the city for views of downtown Seattle and its surrounding mountain ranges. While it is a worthwhile stroll (or run if you don’t mind hills) on any nice day, with the late spring blooms coming in and the weather starting to get its act together, this is probably the best time of year to head to Queen Anne Hill.
Start from Seattle Center or Downtown
From the Seattle Center begin your walk at the intersection of 5th Ave N and Mercer Street just a few blocks north of the EMP. If you are coming from downtown, take the number 3, 4, or 16 bus to this intersection (or you can cheat and take the 3 or 4 up to the top of Taylor and do the walk in reverse to avoid the hills).
Bhy Kracke Park and Historical Homes
From Mercer Street you’ll walk up a steep hill to the intersection of 5th Ave N and Highland Drive. Halfway up the block you’ll reach the base of Bhy Kracke Park where there is an enormous monkey puzzle tree, a wisteria arbor, and a playground. While the park’s name is little odd (and is has been referred to by everything from “Buy Crack” to “Butt Crack” Park), it is actually named after Werner H. Kracke (Bhy was his nickname). He lived in Seattle around the turn of the century and donated the land and funds to develop the park.
While rarely visited by non-locals, Bhy Kracke has great views and a paved trail that switchbacks up to the top of the hill through blue bells, lilacs, dog woods, azaleas, and some lovely, well established rhododendrons. Rhododendrons are Washington’s state flower and they are fantastically, hardy scrubs that grow well in the Pacific Northwest. Their hibiscus like blooms open in bursts from April through June depending on weather and elevation.
Once you reach the top of the park, you’ll be rewarded with views of downtown, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and the Cascade Mountains. On a clear day you can also see Mount Rainier lurking behind the Seattle skyline. From here you’ll take Lee to Bigelow and turn left, passing all of the grand, historic homes, more views, and more blooms, including a large pieris. This exclusive neighborhood boasts some of the oldest homes in Seattle and a few compound-like mansions. Even the smaller, less grand homes are valued at close to a million dollars.
Kerry and Marshall Parks
Soon you will curve north to meet Highland Drive and cross Queen Anne Avenue at a cross walk. From here you walk a few blocks west to Kerry Park, Bhy Kracke’s better-known, sister park. If it’s a nice day, you won’t be alone. The views are just too open and classic: downtown with Mount Rainier hovering above the two stadiums and unobstructed views of Elliot Bay and Alki Beach across the way. Mr. and Mrs. Sperry Kerry originally donated the park grounds and the sculpture was later added by their children.
Next you’ll continue west on Highland Drive to Marshall Park, which has a small memorial to Seattle arts patron, Betty Bowen. This tiny park has some great views west to the Olympic Mountains and the Magnolia Marina. Parson’s Garden just across from the park is also worth a look and has some nice deciduous trees, which are quite colorful in the spring and fall.
Upper Queen Anne
From Marshall Park you’ll round a corner to 8th Ave W until you reach Blaine Street, which you’ll take several blocks east through a residential area to the West Queen Anne Playfields. Cut around the baseball diamonds to Howe Street where you can visit the Queen Anne Farmers’ Market every Thursday from 3-7pm during the growing season. From here you’ll next turn left on Queen Anne Avenue, a great spot to grab a bite, a drink, or to browse the shops.
If you’d like to walk along this main drag, you can rejoin my route by turning left on Boston Street or take my suggested detour to one of the weirdest homes in Seattle. Located at the whimsical intersection of Crockett and Nob Hill, this house features a sunflower carved façade, palm trees, and a Victorian tower. While it is straight out of a fairy tale, there is something a little sinister about it. I get the feeling that if I were invited to tea and crumpets here, the house would put a spell on me and I would fall sleep for 100 years. To get here cross Queen Anne Ave at Howe, then turn left on 1st Ave N, walk 2 blocks north, and eventually turn right on Crockett Street and continue 4 blocks to Nob Hill Avenue.
East Queen Anne
Next you’ll head north towards Boston Street and then east to 5th Ave N. At that intersection turn left and make a quick pit stop at the viewpoint overlooking South Lake Union, Fremont, and the University District. To complete your walk you’ll head south on 5th Ave N (which turns into Taylor Avenue) until you reach the base of the hill. There is one last attraction along the way: Trolley Hill Park, which was named after the trolley line that used to connect this neighborhood with Downtown. If you have the time or interest to stop, it features a P-patch and some trails through the green belt between upper Queen Anne and Highway 99. If not, continue about 10 or 15 minutes down hill on Taylor Avenue until you reach your starting point at Mercer Street.