Take a walking tour with Cathy McDonald of Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton.

Share story

Location: Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, 1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N., Renton

Length: More than 2 miles of trails

Level of difficulty: Level to gentle, accessible paved paths and boardwalks.

Setting: This 57-acre lakeside park with views west to the Olympic Mountains clings to the southeastern shoreline of Lake Washington and is another great place for a mud-free winter walk. Popular year-round (and the hub of Renton’s Fourth of July festivities), it’s easier to find some lake-gazing solitude here during the offseason.

The mile of waterfront includes a sandy swimming beach at the southern end, a giant “waterwalk” rectangle of pier that allows pedestrian access far out onto the lake, and — my favorite — a tranquil waterside trail that winds north through wetlands. The park’s hub is the pavilion near the central parking lot, where you can duck in for some chowder at Ivar’s or a burger at Kidd Valley. Climb the steps of the two-story gazebo to check out a schematic of the park and its habitats. Download the new plant ID walk brochure from the website before you come and learn about labeled trees and shrubs that offer botanical interest in all seasons. Once I saw a muskrat here from the footbridge near the swimming beach, V-ing its way through the water. For your own water-rat view of the park, rent a kayak or canoe on the far side of the looming Boeing plant (Fridays through Mondays only offseason; see information below).

Highlights: This waterfront area once served as a storage area, first for coal, then for logs and boats. Just east of the park, the line of town houses marks the terrace where the Seattle & Walla Walla railroad once chugged its way from Seattle through Renton and then northeast over the May Creek Gorge via a high, long-vanished wooden trestle to reach the coal mines at the upper end of Coal Creek.

Facilities: Year-round restrooms in back of the centrally located restaurant pavilion; other seasonal restrooms and water fountains throughout the park. Seasonal swimming beach, changing rooms and playground at south end of park.

Restrictions: No dogs allowed in the park; also, no bikes, Rollerblade, skateboards or in-line skates on trails.

Directions: From Interstate 405 in Renton, take Exit 5 (northbound or southbound). At the end of the exit ramp, turn on Northeast Park Drive and go to the bottom of the hill. Take the first right onto Lake Washington Boulevard North, cross the railroad tracks and turn left into the park entrance; continue past the boat parking lot to park near the restaurant pavilion or farther north. To find the Cascade Canoe & Kayak Center, continue on Northeast Park Drive, take the next right on South Sixth Street (at the upended kayak), turn right on North Riverside Drive, and go to the end (425-430-0111 or www.canoe-kayak.com).

For more information: 425-430-6600 or http://rentonwa.gov/living. To print out the plant ID walk, click on Parks and Trails on the left, then on the right side, look under Quick Links.

Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, who trained as a geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She’s also a travel guidebook editor and researcher at Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: nwwriter@hotmail.com.