One Foot in Front of the Other

After I dedicated my last walking story to Seattle jaunts best taken in the rain, the local rainmakers went on sabbatical, leaving us with a month of mostly gorgeous weather.

I’ve only been in the Pacific Northwest 14 months, but I know not to complain about clear skies this time of year — I don’t take it for granted.

But the rain that started rolling in last week is forecasted to stick around in Western Washington for real this time. Either that or I jinx it again and the weather is beautiful all December. Win-win situation.

Last time, we talked about walks north of Lake Union, so we’re looking south of there this month. These three popular summertime destinations offer views of Puget Sound, Lake Washington, the Olympic and Cascade mountains and the downtown Seattle skyline. This time of year, there is no guarantee you’ll see more than the trail ahead of you. But at least you can still get those waterlogged steps in.

Ground rules: Bring a mask, sturdy shoes, gloves and a buddy; give people plenty of room on the trails; and be sure to beat the early sunsets. Like last time, we showed preference to larger parks — spread out, people!

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Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park total trail length: About 4.6 miles

Lincoln Park, just north of the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle, has a little bit of everything.

The rocky beach, lined with driftwood, is great for hobbling along to the sound of lapping water from Puget Sound. On clear days, the Olympic Mountains form a splendid horizon to the west. There are open grassy areas, a playground and trails through wooded areas, too — it’s not as big as Discovery Park, but you get bang for your buck at Lincoln, where two walks are rarely the same.

Trails crisscross throughout the park, but you can create a nice loop by walking the beachfront from north to south (or vice versa) then climbing one of the steeper connecting trails to reach the bluff route. Heading west from the parking lot just off Fauntleroy Way Southwest on a recent overcast afternoon, I walked along connector trails to the bluff trail; carefully descended to the beach (nothing crazy, but check your footing); and walked the length of the shoreline before reconnecting with the bluff trail, which looms over the beach. My pedometer clocked me at 1.85 miles flat when I made it back to my car.

I’d even argue that Lincoln Park benefits from the gloomy weather. You likely will miss the mountains, but the crowds clear when the fog doesn’t. And it’s great fun searching for barges and ferries hidden in the mist, or trying to determine if that bobbing blob in the water is a harbor seal or a buoy.

Westcrest Park

Westcrest Park total trail length: About 7.1 miles

The first time I tried to go to Lincoln Park — a decade ago, around May 2020 — my phone died and I stumbled upon Westcrest Park. The 8.4-acre park is just northeast of White Center, 3 miles east in a straight line from the bottom of Lincoln Park. I stepped out “to take a quick lap” and ended up staying more than an hour.

It was cloudy that day, but clear enough to make out the excellent view of the downtown skyline beyond Boeing Field, which is across the Duwamish Waterway below the park. My closer-to-home comparison for Westcrest is Interlaken Park in Seattle — there are excellent intersecting trails under sturdy tree cover packed into a midsize park, with enough variety to keep your walks fresh and enough elevation to make you sweat.

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Taking the West Duwamish Greenbelt Trail (0.7 miles total) from the southernmost tip of the park (along Southwest Cambridge Street) or the parking lot (off Southwest Henderson Street) leads naturally to the forested network of trails in the belly of the park. Work your way north up the hill for the panorama, sure — you can also walk to the Reservoir Loop Trail (0.6 miles) on the west side of the park, or take Fido to one of two off-leash areas (one reserved for smaller dogs), around both of which there are loop trails.

If you’re feeling especially determined to get mileage out of Westcrest, you can take the West Duwamish Greenbelt north to the Seattle Public Utilities structures in the woods, then connect with the park’s northbound Primitive Trail (0.6 miles), which stretches into the woods north of the park and all the way to Southwest Kenyon Street.

Seward Park

Seward Park total trail length: About 5.8 miles

At 300 acres, mighty Seward Park on Bailey Peninsula makes the others on this list look a bit quaint by comparison.

The massive, popular South End park is one of those special Pacific Northwest places that seems to pick you up and transport you hundreds of miles, or even hundreds of years, away from here and now. Shaded by the acres and acres of old-growth forest of Seward Park, I always feel like I’m on the Forest Moon of Endor, or in the rainforest of “FernGully.”

There are few places around Seattle better for a nature walk, wet or otherwise. Long, paved Shore Loop Road (closed to cars) encompasses the park, stretching 2.4 miles around the park’s Douglas firs and other flora, all while tracing the shore of Lake Washington. From the east side of the park, it feels like you can skip a rock to Mercer Island. (You cannot skip a rock to Mercer Island.)

Snaking through the park from north to south, with tributary trails branching off in all directions, the Sqebeqed Trail (0.9 miles) is a great way to bisect the park if you’re hoping to avoid the full loop. But with the aforementioned loops and a mix of unpaved trails totaling nearly 6 miles of walkable routes, it’s more likely you’ll walk one lap and feel compelled to take another.

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