Take a Hike (in the City)

A lush green point-of view of a Seattle Parks trail. Sun shines down through the canopy of an urban forest.

By Todd Burley

Seattle is known as a great place to access the great outdoors that surround us in our national parks and forests. Yet you can connect to nature right here in the city through our robust network of trails that course through our 4,000 acres of natural areas. Did you know that Seattle Parks and Recreation manages over 90 miles of trails!

Residents in our community love to go for a walk in the park. In fact, our strategic plan survey showed that 78% choose natural spaces over landscaped areas, and 64% love to go for a walk or hike in our parks. And there are a lot of good reasons why. Connecting to nature has measurable positive impacts on health, learning, and social cohesion. During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, this “Vitamin N” is crucial to our well-being.

Heavily used trails in urban settings require a lot of maintenance. SPR’s Trails Unit was established in 1999 to maintain this system. One employee coordinates the work on trails with dedicated volunteers and contractors. In addition, the Youth Green Corps, a youth green jobs program, provides hands on training in trail construction and maintenance to assist the Seattle Trails Unit.

The Seattle Parks and Recreation Trail Unit works to level the gravel on a new trail. Two men use a 2x4 horizontally to level the gravel, while 4 other staff in the background a performing other tasks, with shovels, levels and a wheelbarrow of gravel.

In 2017, the draft Soft Surface Trails Management Plan was developed after extensive community engagement to intentionally identify how to best manage this large trails system. SPR estimates that a trail can last for decades if it gets routine maintenance every 1-4 years. That means we would need to maintain at least 22 miles per year! We can also plan for low-maintenance trails by planting small shrubs near trails that won’t require pruning as often and ensure water diversions are built to handle the increased intense rainfalls we are experiencing due to climate change.

You can be a part of keeping our trails in good shape, too!

We’ll look for you out on the trails. But with over 90 miles out there, it is likely we won’t run into each other!