One Foot in Front of the Other
A bouquet of red roses out of the blue; a heartfelt note; a box of chocolates. Who wouldn’t want a sweet little something from their significant other on Valentine’s Day?
But if you’re looking for a decidedly Seattle way to celebrate the holiday with your better half, perhaps we could interest you in a walk through Sunset Hill.
This stroll showcases the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest — from the sunset over Puget Sound and the Olympics in the distance to the jovial bunch of barking sea lions at Ray’s Boathouse — while forcing participants to walk down and promptly back up a surprisingly steep hill.
If that sounds miserable, there’s also wine, coffee, food and plenty of places to break up your walk with more desirable activities, like sitting, catching one’s breath and whispering sweet nothings. Without further ado, here’s a walk for the lovebirds out there. (Singles: We promise you’ll enjoy it, too.)
A romantic walk around Sunset Hill
Round-trip distance: 3.7 miles
Our walk starts on the corner of 32nd Avenue Northwest and Northwest 65th Street, where you can choose your own adventure.
For cocktails, there’s popular neighborhood bar Baker’s, or try Molly’s Bottle Shop if you want to take a beverage on the go. If you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, there’s Samara and Ristorante Picolinos across the street. On the menu at the fancy-pants Italian joint: romance, wine and dishes including asparagus, artichokes and chocolate — all aphrodisiacs, according to a cursory internet search. Do with that what you will.
Before leaving, make sure you have enough wine. That’s imperative. Get another bottle from Molly’s. Carry on into residential Sunset Hill; we’ll take 34th Avenue Northwest, which is just a block west of that buzzy little cocktail corner. Navigating this walk is easy: Once on 34th, keep the sunset and the sound of seagulls to your left; you’ll be able to see west down to the water at intersections.
Though 34th slopes gently, consistently uphill, it’s a relaxing and easy walk through quiet neighborhood streets. Well-kempt gardens unfold in front of houses running the gamut from the standard New Seattle boxy model to charming homes with brightly painted flourishes on their roofs and balconies.
The road veers right on the homestretch toward Sunset Hill Park, a place where you can assure your partner there are in fact several benches and spots to see the sunset. The tiny park is popular with couples young and old, with families, high school friends, young adults and their dogs — and for good reason. It’s got all the drama of a sunset at Golden Gardens without the crowds (and with an even better angle on Mother Nature’s show).
Go as slow or as fast as you’d like — just be sure to consult your partner — at Sunset Hill Park before carrying on toward Golden Gardens. Leave the north end of the park and you’ll be forced to turn right onto Northwest 77th Street. (If you arrive at a gate, you missed your turn and are possibly trespassing. Don’t do that!) Hang a quick left on 32nd Avenue Northwest, resisting the urge to just loop back to Picolinos for dessert. There are more treats ahead!
Walk eight blocks north and you’ll find another fun little corner, right where 32nd intersects with Loyal Way Northwest and Northwest 85th Street. Grab a coffee at Caffe Fiore and lounge inside or out as the sun works its way toward the horizon. Enjoy a moment of silence. Stare into your partner’s eyes. Caress their hand and whisper the three words everyone wants to hear on Valentine’s Day: “Want a pastry?”
Now comes the fun part: Cross the street and find the awning of tree branches next to the signs directing cars to Golden Gardens. We’re taking the direct way down.
Work out how you want to get down the steep stairs together, but make sure that plan includes one hand on the rails. There are bathrooms at the Golden Gardens Off-Leash Area should one or both of you need to pop in to freshen up.
A stream runs parallel to the stairs down to the beach itself at Golden Gardens, where there are more bathrooms, more people and, of course, more magnificent views of Puget Sound. It’s tempting to stick around for the whole sunset, but keep in mind that what goes down a Seattle hill must go back up it. Be sure to give yourself enough daylight.
The forest of sailboat masts at Shilshole Bay Marina will be your next waypoint. Keeping the water to your right and your partner by your side, it’s worth ducking into the marina to point out the boats you’d buy your sweetheart if you could. “Someday, lover, there’ll be 15 boats in there with your name on them.” I don’t know; you’ll think of something.
The final stop before winding back up the hill is Ray’s Boathouse — not for a seafood dinner, necessarily, but for the accompanying show. Let the choir of barking sea lions that has taken up residence on the nearby pier serenade you with their stank-breathed songs, entertaining all with their boisterous roughhousing.
At this point in the walk, I see a few possible routes home. You can: get up that hill and finish the walk; Uber/Lyft/taxi back and call it a night; or elect to make that decision over a drink at Ray’s, which inevitably will lead back to Option B.
If you’re still on your feet, don’t worry: Your date may still sweep you off them. (Why are you booing me?) A few hundred feet beyond Ray’s on Seaview Avenue Northwest, cross the Burke-Gilman Trail to find 38th Avenue Northwest, which becomes Northwest 61st Street when it crosses the train tracks.
You’re bound to work up a sweat walking up the hill and back to our starting point, but the last gasp marks the end of our route. Traipse back through the neighborhood to the starting point — and know that nobody will judge you if you stop back at Picolinos for another glass of wine. Go ahead and call that Uber.
Happy Valentine’s Day!