One Foot in Front of the Other

The calendar says June and the late sunsets have slaked my thirst for summer somewhat, but The Seattle Times is still running headlines about “atmospheric rivers” in June and I’ve about had it up to here.

To chase that summery feeling, even if caught in an afternoon of June gloom, check out this long West Seattle walking loop that starts and ends at the King County Water Taxi dock by Seacrest Park.

Nothing quite says Seattle summertime to me like Alki Beach at sunset, and if it rains on your urban hike like it rained on mine, well … go skip rocks and walk across some driftwood. If you let the rain keep you home, even in June, you’re gonna have a bad time in Western Washington.

To follow along on Google Maps, head to st.news/WS-loop.

West Seattle loop

Round-trip distance: 6.7 miles

Whether arriving on foot, wheels or ferry, start your walk at Seacrest Park in West Seattle. If you see scuba divers, you’re in the right place. The King County Water Taxi dock ushers folks to the park from the Seattle waterfront every hour, and there’s ample street parking on Harbor Avenue Southwest if you drive. We’re headed northwest on the paved path to Duwamish Head, northern tip of West Seattle.

Trace the water past the Don Armeni Boat Ramp with the Seattle skyline in the distance, capped at its left end by our galaxy gold Space Needle. It’s cruise season, so you’ve got a good chance of crossing off boat bingo boxes: cruise ship, water taxi, ferry, sailboat, barges loaded with coal.

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If you’re already slowing down, you’ll find a note of encouragement — “You are doing a good job <3 :)” — scrawled on a handrail nearby, with a more vulgar reiteration of the same phrase a few steps beyond that.

And keep your eyes open for a delightfully unhinged take on the love lock fence, a rusty barrier lined with locks signifying unbreakable bonds. There are plenty of initials and scribbly hearts, sure, but also a lock with Batman’s insignia and at least a dozen locks marked “MYTH” with a label maker. Somebody clearly had a tough breakup and too much time (and locks?) on their hands.

Round Duwamish Head at Luna Park, where on a recent Saturday a group of dapper high schoolers took prom photos framed by the Seattle skyline. A tip of my cap to the young man dressed in all black, complete with a cowboy hat.

It’s always nice to see your destination when walking. Round Duwamish Head and look for Alki Point jutting into the Sound in the distance. You’ll follow Alki Avenue Southwest all the way there, walking either on the paved walking path or the natural path that runs parallel. Walk in the wheels-only lane and there’s nothing this walks writer can do to save you; it’s outside my jurisdiction.

There are public bathrooms at Alki Beach, and plenty of spaces to stop for a break — grab a bite at a beachfront restaurant or plop down on a bench or in the sand.

On a blustery, wet Saturday afternoon in early June, the beach wasn’t busy, but a handful of tents dotted the sand, including a three-tent complex under which a man set up tiki torches. If rain means avoiding the beach, nobody told this guy, nor the dozens of other walkers on the path. Many of us donned rain coats and shorts; plenty more walked or jogged like it was a typical June beach day.

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About a quarter-mile before the Alki Point Lighthouse, you’ll be forced off the beach and onto Alki Avenue. Don’t break your path — follow the southbound curve until Alki turns into Beach Drive Southwest just south of the lighthouse. Stick on the beach and you risk trespassing on someone’s sandy “lawn.”

At Constellation Park, you can walk onto the beach to skip smooth stones or walk across the driftwood like a tightrope. You didn’t hear this from me, but you can backtrack on the rocky beach, turning around toward the lighthouse to share a romantic moment with your sweetheart on the driftwood there. Just don’t go beyond Alki Point — you’ll hit the aforementioned private property.

Walking alone on a dreary June day, I instead focused on a small boat beached on shore. With Puget Sound sprawling in the background and not a soul in sight, the scene seemed to be plucked straight from the Seattle-set apocalyptic video game The Last of Us Part II. I got moving before the zombies came.

Back on the paved path that traces Beach Drive, watch your feet: Cast in bronze and immortalized in the sidewalk are 27 constellations, arranged by the season in which you can catch a glimpse over Puget Sound around 10 p.m. on a given night. You’ll find depictions of the Big Dipper, Hercules and Cancer, along with Bible verses, poems and dedications to spouses, parents and more.

Beyond Constellation Park but before Cormorant Cove, turn left on Southwest Spokane Street and find the stairway of the same name. Climb a quick few flights and catch your breath at 60th Avenue Southwest, then take a left.

Stick on 60th northbound until you reach Southwest Admiral Way, which winds slowly uphill while offering stellar turnaround views extending over the water. I don’t want to get anyone caught out in the dark, but the panorama walking up Admiral is tough to beat.

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When that street veers diagonally northeast, keep going straight onto Southwest Lander Street. Lander will drop you at Hiawatha Playfield, another green space good for a break, which is cater-cornered from Safeway, prime for a bathroom and water if need be.

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The rest of the walk is extremely straightforward. Walk away from the park, heading north on California Avenue Southwest and crossing Admiral Way after a block. The Admiral Theater will be on your left; after the retail core fades to a residential area, California will start to slope downward, around Southwest Massachusetts Street.

The road leads to Hamilton Viewpoint Park, another prime vantage point for watching the boats push by on Elliott Bay. Don’t fret it if the lighting isn’t right on first glance; you’ll get another crack at that skyline selfie in just a moment.

Exit the park and keep walking on serpentine California Way Southwest, which leads downhill to Harbor Avenue Southwest and our starting/ending point.

When the trees clear on California, lined with a raised sidewalk, you’ll get one more walking skyline view before returning to Seacrest Park. It’s gorgeous on a sunny day, sure, but even when moody, Seattle has its own unique shine.