Discovery Park’s South Beach
Seattle’s a great place to be a city dweller, where you have the resources of a thriving metropolis while surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. Sometimes, though, you need a break from the urban crush. While many of our parks provide a place to clear your mind, get a little exercise, and breathe in the fresh air, some are more tranquil than others. Here are a few of the gems in Seattle’s Parks and Recreation system that help you get away from it all:
The largest of all Seattle parks, Discovery Park is near-wilderness within City limits. Its secluded 534 acres of protected tidal beaches, dramatic sea cliffs, sweeping meadows, forests, and sand dunes can be explored via 9 miles of dirt trails and paved paths. There’s plenty of solitude even on the busiest days. Evidence of Fort Lawton, the Army post established in 1898, remains in the form of mothballed outbuildings and renovated officers’ homes, adding a ghostly quiet to this historic and spectacular setting. Visit in the early morning to beat the crowds, or take a lesser used trail loop.
It’s hard to believe that a busy neighborhood is just outside the thickly forested Frink Park. An Olmsted legacy in the Leschi area, the 17-acre hillside ravine is a place to enjoy the special quiet of the woods, with benches, a stream, and a trail that meanders under and across the winding road of South Frink Place. Extend your walk at the bottom of the hill by visiting Leschi Park, right across Lake Washington Boulevard.
Schmitz Preserve Park
Even as far back as 1908, locals saw how fast our magnificent forests were disappearing. Thank immigrant and realtor Ferdinand Schmitz, who had the foresight to give his land to the City before more trees were lost to logging. Walk through Schmitz Park’s 53 acres of old growth forest knowing that it has remained fairly unchanged since the early 1900s. Recharge amid the silence of huge fir, cedar, hemlock and maple trees, along with a pretty stream and plentiful wildlife spotting opportunities.
Seward Park outer trail
Speaking of old forest, Seward Park is home to the largest stand of old growth in Seattle: a 120-acre section of the Bailey Peninsula, on which this nearly 300-acre park sits. These woods are one reason to criss-cross Seward’s interior trail system; others are abundant wildlife and enough elbow room to feel like you’re in the Cascades. And yet the watery sounds and scents of Lake Washington are never far, a lovely combination. Bonus: you might come across the fenced-off remains of the old fish hatchery from the 1930s, or the bridge and rest room buildings designed by the Olmsted Brothers in the early 1900s.
Carkeek Park wetlands trail
Meadows and a playground/picnic area with stunning views draw the most visitors to Carkeek Park. But the majority of this 220-acre jewel is all forest. Miles of trails with varying challenge levels are kept in good shape thanks to hard working volunteers. The splashing of pretty Pipers Creek accompanies one trail that meanders through wetlands out to the beach; in autumn look for returning salmon as they swim upstream. Be sure to see the fruit trees at the restored Pipers Orchard, a remnant of park history from the late 1800s.
No doubt one of your favorite faraway-feeling green spaces in Seattle is not on this list. Interlaken Park on Capitol Hill? The Washington Park Arboretum’s Foster Island trail? A hidden corner of Ravenna Park? When you need to recharge in the midst of our bustling, growing city, these Seattle parks echo the call of the wild.