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Discovery Park, Seattle

Discovery Park has more to offer than many of the State Parks on Puget Sound. Discovery Park is a 534 acre natural area park operated by the Seattle Parks and Recreation. It is the largest city park in Seattle, and occupies most of the former Fort Lawton site. Discovery Park is located on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound. There are spectacular views throughout the park with a good amount of waterfront walking on both sides of West Point.

The city states “The role of Discovery Park is to provide an open space of quiet and tranquility away from the stress and activity of the city, a sanctuary for wildlife, as well as an outdoor classroom for people to learn about the natural world. Maintained in its semi-natural condition the park will continue to offer a biologically rich and diverse natural area for urban dwellers and an unmatched opportunity for environmental education.”

There are more than seven miles of hiking trails in the park. The most popular trail is the 2.8 mile Loop Trail which circles the park. A shorter choice would be one off the north parking lot, the ¼ mile loop called the Wolf Tree Nature Trail where you find the largest collection of native plants. The main goal should be the historic lighthouse that was built in 1881. The grounds are open to the public. It is a 1.5 mile walk to the beach from any of the three parking lots. If you physically can’t walk there, you can get a permit from the environmental learning center to drive to the beach where there are a few parking spots. Families with children under 8 or people over 62 can get permits too! Since Discovery Park used to be Fort Lawton, there are nine historic buildings from that time period. Most of the buildings were built at the turn of the century. The chapel was built in the 1930’s. The large open field is part of the historic landscape and is called the parade ground. With all the maple trees around the building, I will be going back in fall next year.
Puget Sound Hikes
Take the Mercer Street exit. Turn right at first stoplight onto Fairview Ave N.
At next set of stoplights go left onto Valley St. Stay in far right lane that merges onto Westlake Avenue N. Westlake Ave becomes Nickerson Street. Go straight on Nickerson Street past Fremont Bridge and Seattle Pacific University. Staying in left lane follow the sign to the Ballard Bridge/Emerson Street. At 3 way stop take a left onto Emerson St.
Continue on Emerson St., through one stop light, until you get to a 4 way stop with a flashing light. Turn right onto West Gilman West Gilman becomes Discovery Park Blvd. Follow Discovery Park Blvd until you come to the east entrance of the Park. (about 1/2 mile) The Visitor Center will be on the left.
I-5 Northbound Access:
There is a official Loop Trail around the park but it misses the West Point Lighthouse and the scenic North Beach Trail. A good loop I picked for my kids was to start in the North Parking Lot. Take trails to the north end of the North Beach Trail. Follow it to the West Point Lighthouse. Then follow the South Beach Trail to the “Sandy Area”. After that, you can take a trail over and through the Historic District, or a trail more directly back to the parking lot.
Route:
Take the 45th Street Exit and head west (right). Follow 45th, staying to the right. 45th becomes 46th Avenue North. Follow 46th until it becomes Market Street. Continue on Market until you reach 15th Avenue NW. Go left on 15th Avenue NW, following it over the Ballard Bridge. Take the first right after the bridge onto Emerson Street. Take a right onto West Gilman at the 4 way flashing light. W. Gilman becomes Discovery Park Blvd. Follow until you come to the East entrance of the Park. (about 1/2 mile) The Visitor Center will be on the left.
I-5 Southbound Access:
discovery park trail discovery park beach Kayaker West Point Lighthouse south beach discovery park sail boat South Beach bluffs driftwood shelter discovery park view discovery park hiking discovery park South Beach Trail hiking discovery park puget sound seattle Discovery Park Map hiking discovery park Lighthouse Historic District homes Historic District District Parade Ground
North Beach Trail
North Beach
Kayaker and the Olympic Mountains
Looking south from West Point
West Point Lighthouse
South Beach bluffs
Log forts on South Beach
South Beach from the lighthouse
Viewpoint from the South Beach Trail
Viewpoint from the South Beach Trail
South Beach Trail
South Beach Trail
South Beach Trail
View south from the "Sandy Area"
Open meadows west of the Historic District
Historic District homes
Private homes in the Historic District
Historic District Parade Ground
Dropping down to the North Beach Trail
Lighthouse from the North Beach Trail