Seattle has many well-loved parks, but none more so than Discovery. And it is easy to see why: This large, urban wilderness (at 534-acres, the biggest park in the city) in the Magnolia neighborhood has over nine miles of tranquil paths through forest groves and lush seaside meadows, two miles of protected tidal beaches, and gorgeous views of Puget Sound and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains across the way.
What Makes It Great
The most popular route is the 2.8-mile “Discovery Park Loop,” which travels approximately around the park’s perimeter through coniferous and deciduous forests, past the meadows and shrubs, and above the bluffs overlooking the water (you’ll want to stop here a moment to take in the vista before you). The trail is relatively flat and well maintained. If you want a bit more of a challenge, start on the loop trail going clockwise, but after running past the bluffs with the seaside views look out for the smaller trail that continue west. This will continue downhill, taking you to a paved road that leads down to the south beach, which faces Elliot Bay. Run along the beach to the lighthouse – built in the 1800s, a historic site that is the westernmost point of the city. In the summer, look out for blackberries as you run; some may consider them a pesky invasive species, but they also make for a great mid-run treat. Continue on the north beach, which faces the protected Shilshole Bay. Near the end of the beach, keep an eye out for a trail that goes back into the woods – and get your thighs in gear! The next portion of the trail is a steep climb up some stairs. Once you get up them, however, you’ll join back up with the Loop Trail and enjoy a smooth ride the rest of the way. This is about a four-mile loop. Discovery Park is one of the best places in the city to see animals, especially birds and marine mammals. The Audubon Society has complied a checklist of 270 birds seen within the park – over the past few years a coyote, black bear, and cougar have also visited (though rest assured these are rare occurrences).
Who is Going to Love It
Seattleites who want a hearty, scenic route that is close enough to run any day of the week. For those who extend the run down to the beach, anyone who wants a convenient run that feels slightly more adventurous!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The park is located at 3801 Discovery Park Blvd. There are three parking lots: The south lot is accessed via W Emerson St., the east lot is accessed via W Government Way, and the north lot is accessed via W Commodore Way or W Government Way if you continue on past the east lot. The south and east lots provide the easiest access to the Loop Trail. The North lot provides the closest beach access.