Puget’s Perfect Paths – sites in Washington state
Searching for some great outdoors? A guide to Seattle-area parks and hikes for 1999 National Urban Forest Conference attendees.
Woodland Park Zoo, N. 50th St. and Fremont Ave. N., Seattle, 206/684-4800
Voted one of the nation’s top 10 zoos, Woodland Park boasts unusual trees and shrubs, more than 300 kinds of wildlife, and eight bio-climatic zones, including African savanna, tropical Asia, and tropical rain forest. Visit the Northern Trail to get a glimpse of Alaska’s trees, and see animals such as wolf, elk, bear, and mountain goat. Breathe deeply as you check out nearby Woodland Park and Rose Garden, one of two American Rose Society-certified test gardens.
Kubota Garden, 9600 Renton Ave. S., Seattle, 206/725-5060
This historic Japanese garden was designed in 1927 by legendary landscaper Fujitaro Kubota, who donated it to the city of Seattle in 1987. Native Northwest plants and Japanese elements create a 20-acre oasis of hills, streams, and waterfalls. Don’t miss the “bird’s nest” spruce and black bamboo.
Volunteer Park, 1247 15th Ave. E., Seattle, 206/684-4743
Tip your hat to Seattle history when you visit this 45-acre park honoring Spanish-American War volunteers. Take in the park’s century-old trees and the famed Olmsted Brothers’ handiwork in its conservatory building, macadam drives, and lily ponds. Or, visit the Water Tower for a breathtaking city view.
Mercer Slough Nature Park, 2102 Bellevue Way SE, Bellevue, 425/452-2752
Lake Washington’s largest remaining wetland was created in 1916 when the lake’s water level was lowered to build Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard. Rent a canoe and watch for more than 100 species of birds, including kingfisher and red-tailed and sharp-skinned hawk. Forest lovers can revel in more than five miles of walking paths lined with willow, cottonwood, alder, birch, and western red cedar.
Discovery Park, 3801 W. Government Way, Seattle, 206/386-4236
The city’s largest park (534 acres) winds through forests and meadows, offering breathtaking views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains from Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound. Don’t miss the two-mile stretch of tidelands dating from the last Ice Age and its sea cliffs, sand dunes, and meadow.
Seattle University, 12th and Marion St., 206/2966440
The only educational institution in the state that’s also been designated a wildlife refuge, Seattle University’s 53-acre campus got the nod in 1989 for its focus on organic pest management. Another highlight: a Japanese garden designed by Seattle landscaper Fujitaro Kubota. Happen upon a group tour and you might hear a local legend, Cisco Morris, the “Bug Man,” regaling visitors with his extensive horticultural knowledge.
Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens, 3015 NW 54th St., Seattle, 206/783-7059
These gardens, encompassing 7 acres along the banks of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, are packed with 1,500 types of trees, shrubs, flowers, and rare plants. Take a leisurely quarter-mile tour from the ship canal’s visitor’s center and enjoy the handiwork of landscape architect Carl S. English. English spent 43 years cultivating these gardens and filling them with Mexican pines, fan palms, and oak. Back at the visitor center, learn about Puget Sound boats and check out the observatory, where you can watch salmon begin their migration.
Kelsey Creek Park, 13204 SE 8th Pl., Bellevue, 425/452-7688
Hike from wetlands through forests at this 150-acre park in central Bellevue. Go on the 1.5-mile nature trail and point out various salmon species in Kelsey Creek. Then put the kids in charge and visit ponies, pigs, goats, and sheep at Kelsey Creek Farm.
Gas Works Park, 2101 North Northlake Way, Seattle, 206/684-4075 (Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation)
Designed by noted architect Richard Haag, this beautiful park lies along the edge of Lake Union’s north shore. A large hill in the center is a great spot for picnics, kite flying, boat watching, enjoying concerts, and gazing out at the water. Or, grab a friend and head for the trailhead: The Burke-Gilman starts here and runs 12.5 miles north to Kenmore Log Boom Park.
Warren G. Magnuson Park, 65th and Sand Point Way NE, 206/684-4075 (Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation)
Named for a U.S. senator, Warren G. Magnuson Park along Washington Lake is especially popular with Seattle canines, who exercise in the 213-acre park’s “off leash” area. Find a four-legged friend and go enjoy the beach, family picnic area, and boat launch.
University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden, 15th Ave. NE and NE 40th St., Seattle, 206/5431126
Established in 1911 by the dean of the pharmacy school, this 2.5-acre garden–the largest of its kind in the U.S.–features 300 varieties of regional and international plants. Cascara Circle focuses on Pacific Northwest specialties such as evergreen huckleberry and the famed cascara tree; herbalists use its bark to treat constipation. Or just enjoy a whiff of lavender, jasmine, fennel, and chamomile.
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, 100 Brown Farm Rd., Olympia (I-5 to exit 114, 56 miles south of Seattle), 360/753-9467
This 2,817-acre refuge contains estuaries and tidal flats with abundant wildlife and birds, including mallards, teal, widgeon, and Canada geese. Try the flat, wheelchair-accessible 5.5-mile trail or, if you’re short on time, walk the refuge’s one-mile and half-mile nature trail loops.
Tiger Mountain, Issaquah State Forest, Issaquah (Two trailheads off I-90, exit 20 or at summit of Highway 18, 20 minutes from Seattle), 360/8251631
For a variety of skill levels, Tiger Mountain can’t be beat. There are trails around lakes, easy slopes, and hikes up the mountain. Experts will enjoy the Section Long Trail. Or arrange a guided day hike with the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, 206/328-0480.
Twin Falls Nature Area, Ashland Lakes Trail to Twin Falls (I-90 to exit 34, head south for a half mile, left on SE 159th St.), 206/220-7450
This easy 3-mile walking path drops in elevation and climbs out, ending in two beautiful waterfalls. Also in this area is the Old Robe Trail, a relaxed 3.9-mile path along the Old Monte Cristo Railroad, which passes through beautiful Stillaguamish Canyon. Bring your flashlight: The trail passes through tunnels.
Burke-Gilman Trail, from Fremont to Kenmore, Gas Works Park, 206/684-7583 (City of Seattle Bicycle and Pedestrian Program)
This 14.1-mile paved path is one of the country’s longest uninterrupted urban trails. Winding through Gas Works Park on the shores of Lake Union, the trail includes views of the Ship Canal, Medical Center Gardens, and Lake Washington. To lengthen your trip, link up to the Sammamish River Trail, an excellent starting point for day hikes.
Lake Cushman State Park, N. 7211 Lake Cushman Rd., Hoodsport (Highway 101 to Highway 119; drive 7 miles to park), 800/452-5687, reservations recommended
This 565-acre park on the north side of Cushman Lake in the lower foothills of the Olympic Mountains offers a swimming beach, picnic sites, boat launches, and hiking trails. Families will enjoy fishing for trout and salmon. Nearby hiking trails lead to Olympic National Park.
Thanks to the following Washingtonians for their help with this article: Gordon Bradley, Sarah Creedon, Dan DeWald, Shane DeWald, Liz Ellis, Brian Gilles, Stacey Good, Nancy Keith, and Nolan Rundquist.
Jessica Morrison is an intern in AMERICAN FORESTS’ communications department.
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