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Arboretum Waterfront Trail

Puget Sound Hikes
Distance: 1+ miles
Elevation Gain: Very Little
Combine these two trails and you have yourself one nice urban hike. One could even extend it further by hiking the length of the Arboretum where there is a whole network of trails. With kids, you can't go wrong with this trip. Most of it will have them asking all kinds of questions because there is lots going on, boats, planes, cars, birds and bridges.
Although it is a city hike, wear boots if has been raining, the bark trail on Marsh Island can be muddy. The Arboretum Waterfront trail passes through the largest wetlands in Seattle. The Lake Washington Waterside Trail takes you through the man made cut linking Union Lake to Lake Washington.
From I-5 take SR-520 to the first exit, Montlake Boulevard. Continue straight through the signal. Follow until you are in the Arboretum. Make left on E Forster Island Road. Follow to the parking areas. A central access trailhead is a better choice on crowed sunny days when the arboretum would be full. This trailhead is in the lower parking area of the Museum of History & Industry. After crossing the light at the top of the Montlake Boulevard exit, turn left in a block on 24th Avenue East, which crosses over the freeway, and proceed to the lower museum parking lot.

Lake Washington Waterside Trail

lake washington map Foster Island photo
From the Arboretum parking, the small bridge within sight of the last parking area takes you onto Foster Island. The wide trail weaves north to the noisy Highway 520, going underneath in a tunnel, a kid favorite of course. Not too far north of there is a nice viewpoint along Union Bay called Foster Point. A sign points from there to the Arboretum Waterfront Trail. The trail to this point is often called the Foster Island Trail. Within a short distance on the waterfront trail is an observation tower, that is really only about 10 feet high. The trail continues on a series of floating boardwalks that make getting through this area even possible. The Arboretum Waterfront Trail ends at the Museum but a trail continues to the right to the Montlake Cut Waterside Trail. First you hit a 40-ft totem pole, carved in 1937 by John Dewey Wallace, a Haida chief in Waterfall, Alaska. Great views here at the start of the cut. Go uphill a bit and follow the Waterside Trail as it travels well above the waterline on a nice path. At the footings of the Montlake Bridge, drop down some stairs to the waterline where the trail tightly squeeses around the concrete footings, just above the waterline. After that, it is easy walking to the end at the West Montlake Park. The concrete along the cut is lined with school graffiti, as this is the site of the annual Windermere Cup crew regatta and the Seattle Yacht Club's Opening Day Boat Parade. These take place on the first Saturday in May.
Foster Point Arboretum Waterfront Arboretum Waterfront Foster Island Marsh Island Marsh Island Montlake Cut Police boat Totem Pole Montlake Cut Lake Washington Waterside Trail Montlake Cut Seattle arboretum sign Portage Bay West Montlake Park
Getting close to Foster Point
Arboretum Waterfront Trail
Part of the 520 bridge
The start of the Montlake Cut Waterside Trail.
Police boat and the UW crew building
Trails on Foster Island
Start of Marsh Island
The Totem Pole
Leaving Marsh Island
Trail above the Montlake Cut
Nice sign
Trailhead sign at West Montlake Park
Hiking the Lake Washington Waterside Trail
West Montlake Park
Portage Bay
Foster Island Foster Island
Bridge onto Foster Island near the parking area
Foster Island before crossing under Highway 520
An aerial view of Foster and Marsh Islands
Black line shows the hiking route