Location: Federal Way. Length: More than three miles each way, connects to other trails. Level of difficulty: Level-to-moderate paved paths...
Location: Federal Way.
Length: More than three miles each way, connects to other trails.
Level of difficulty: Level-to-moderate paved paths.
Setting: So your family’s looking for something to do and all can’t agree on an activity? Here’s an option where you can park in one place and swim at the world-class Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center and/or tackle a three-mile-long trail. The trail (named for the Bonneville Power Administration — you’ll walk at times beneath power lines) snakes back and forth and up and down within a strip of parkland that runs to the northeast and connects the wetlands of Panther Lake Park with the soccer fields of Celebration Park on South 324th Street (several blocks from The Commons Mall — formerly Sea-Tac Mall). It also extends more than a mile south of the aquatic center, to end at Madrona Park on South 362nd Street. This trail also connects midway with the West Campus Trail, which heads to the north, if you want to lengthen your walk.
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Highlights: Although you’re in the heart of Federal Way, there’s lots of open views of mixed deciduous and coniferous forest, with cottonwoods and alders near the wetlands. As you start off on the trail from the aquatic center, take some of the shorter trails down off the paved path to explore the fringes of Panther Lake. The short viewpoint segment off to the left of the main trail leads up to a knoll behind the aquatic center topped with madronas and salal. A bench offers a fine view of the area, along with forests of Douglas fir in the distance to the east.
Facilities: Restrooms and water fountain at aquatic center.
Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect for pets.
Directions: From Interstate 5 (southbound or northbound), take Exit 142B and head west on South 348th Street, which becomes Southwest Campus Drive. About two miles from I-5, at Sixth Avenue Southwest, turn right into the King County Aquatic Center, and park near the trailhead on the right.
Bus: Metro Route 903 goes near the aquatic center. 206-553-3000 or http://transit.metrokc.gov.
— Cathy McDonald, Special to The Seattle Times
Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She’s currently a travel guidebook editor at Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org