Tag Archive for 'nature'

Walking Volunteer Park

Volunteer Park is a diversely landscaped park with open green space and several landmarks including a water tower, conservatory, and Seattle Asian Art Museum.

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Volunteer Park was purchased in 1876 and was designated as a cemetery, before becoming a park, and eventually named after volunteers who served in the Spanish-American war.

There is some parking available inside the park, and the 10 bus goes straight to the park.

Start in front of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. This Art Moderne building was constructed in 1933 as the Seattle Art Museum and offers free admission the first Thursday and Saturday of every month.

In front of the museum is a sculpture called “Black Hole” through which people often enjoy taking photos of the Space Needle and Puget Sound. The reservoir behind the fence supplies some of Seattle’s drinking water.

Head north along the main road towards the Conservatory. You’ll pass a large lawn to the left where on a given day you could see hipsters reading in the sun, medieval role playing, and young people throwing frisbees.

In front of the conservatory is a statue of former US Secretary of State William H. Seward, who is perhaps best known for his role in purchasing Alaska from Russia.

The Conservatory is made of 3,426 glass panes and has five display houses with thousands of plants available to look at.

Turn right before crossing the road separating you from the conservatory and head downhill. In case you need it, there is a public restroom on your left. Behind the fence is Lake View Cemetery, burial place of many of the city’s pioneers. Also on your left is a children’s play area.

Continue along the sidewalk and veer right on the gravel trail. Depending on the time of year, there may be many colorful flowers to your right.

As you continue through this large lawn area, you’ll pass by a very large tree to your right. This area is a fine place for a picnic or to lie down in the sun.

The path will veer back around towards the main road into the park and the Volunteer Park Water Tower. The reservoir was built in 1901. The 106 steps to the top of the tank are available to the public and offer great views in all directions. There is also an exhibit about Seattle’s Olmsted-Brothers-designed park system.

Turn north along the road towards the Asian Art Museum, staying on the left side of the road. Feel free to veer off towards the small pond on the left and enjoy. There is a similar pond on the opposite side of the Black Hole sculpture.

Our walk ends back where it started but feel free to stay and enjoy the museum or more of the park.

Highlights: Beautifully landscaped, views from water tower and in front of the museum, ample lawn space, plants in conservatory, flowering plants

Lowlights: Rumors of illicit activities after dark, would be nice if it were a larger park


Walking Schmitz Preserve Park

Schmitz Preserve Park is the only Seattle park with old-growth forest and is a beautifully forested area that makes you feel like you’re in the foothills of the Cascades rather than in West Seattle.

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Schmitz Preserve Park walking route

Schmitz Preserve Park walking route in green

Start at SW Admiral Way and SW Stevens St, which you can get to by the 56 bus. By car, the directions would have you take the West Seattle bridge to the Admiral Way exit and take Admiral Way across West Seattle and turn left on SW Stevens St, where you can often find street parking near the park entrance.

Enter the park entrance near the SW Admiral Way and SW Stevens St intersection. The road into the park used to be open to vehicle traffic until a landslide in 2002. Though this is a fairly small park, there are several different unsigned trails. If you take a wrong turn, it won’t be too difficult to find your way back. The trail can be somewhat uneven and muddy, but is not too difficult overall.

Walk along the main park road and, at the fork in the trail, veer right downhill. At the next fork, take a left before crossing the creek.

Continue walking and you’ll cross over the stream a couple times. Keep right at the next intersection (turning left will take you back to the entrance) and continue deeper into the park. There are some sections of the park soil that remain damp, though fortunately there are a few boardwalks that keep your feet dry over the worst parts.

You’ll approach an intersection of several different trails. The left-most path will take you into the surrounding neighborhood. Take the trail second from left even farther into the park. The other trails on the right will take you back along the other side of the creek.

This path continues along the stream. Turn right at the next fork to loop back, otherwise you will enter the surrounding neighborhood.

This section of the trail is fairly straight and a little elevated from the creek. Stay straight along this main trail and after passing a side trail to the left, you’ll reach another intersection. Turn right here to cross the creek and the next intersection may seem familiar. Turn left and then left again to return to the main entrance.

Highlights: old growth forest, quiet, not very busy, multiple trails, cool and damp, stream

Lowlights: can be muddy, unsigned trails


Walking Discovery Park Loop Trail

Discovery Park is a popular place to go for a walk on a nice sunny day. While there are numerous trails, the Loop Trail provides an enjoyable and relatively easy 2.8 mile journey through the park.

Discovery Park has three main parking areas, a North Parking Lot, an East Parking Lot, and a South Parking Lot. You can also get there by taking the 19, 24, or 33 buses from downtown.

The park has directional signs at most intersections so it’s pretty easy to find the Loop Trail from wherever you enter the park. And, being a loop, you can go clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on your preference.

Our route will Start heading counter-clockwise at the East Parking Lot. Unfortunately, the walking route from the parking lot isn’t especially clear, but head toward the main road and you’ll soon see a sign for the Loop Trail.

Along the way, you’ll cross other trails that can take you on side trips, such as down to the water. However, the Loop Trail itself offers some good views. Most of the trail is forested with moderate changes in elevation. There are many trees and logs and in the winter months you’ll see plenty of moss.

Moss-covered rock

The moist winters can leave natural elements covered with a thick layer of moss

Aside from crossing a couple roads, some of which are no longer used by vehicles, there’s not much to interrupt the beautiful northwest forest. If you’re walking counter-clockwise, you’ll eventually cross a street and pass by a military housing development that is part of Fort Lawton. After ascending a hill, you’ll see a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound

People stop to rest and observe the view

After you’ve taken in the view, you can continue on. This section of the trail is very different, as there are no trees, possibly due to building Fort Lawton. You can read a little more of the history of the Park at HistoryLink.org. You’ll also see a large radar across the field.

Radar across a field at Discovery Park

Radar across a field at Discovery Park

Continuing on, you’ll pass by some public restrooms and will re-enter some more forested area and pass by the South Parking Lot. As you look to the distance on your right, you’ll see the Fort Lawton Cemetery. Though the trail splits off somewhat around this section, just continue walking and you’ll soon return to the Discovery Park Visitors Center and East Parking Lot

Highlights: beautiful natural area, trees, trail normally in good condition, forest, well-labeled, alternative trails, view, public restrooms

Lowlights: can be busy with children, dogs, and joggers, trail can be hard to find around parking lots