Take a family walk or bike ride across the Highway 520 bridge; here's how
We walked the 520 bridge.
Yes, for real!
It was kind of a hoot.
I might do a few things differently next time (start earlier, bring more water, go by bike), but all in all, I recommend it.
Go for the views of Mount Rainier, various nature and history lessons along the way, a peek at some lovely riverfront residences — and the cool feeling that comes with using a piece of infrastructure generally associated with motor vehicles. In fact, this bridge was built to nicely accommodate nonmotorized commuters and sightseers. The path is wide, smooth, paved and separated from the roadway by a 4-foot-tall barrier.
It's a 2.7 mile one-way walk, maybe a little more because we street-parked in a neighborhood and walked to the trailhead. Full disclosure: We took an Uber back to our car. We are pretty hardy walkers, but we were warm and running out of water. I kind of envied the passing bicyclists (lots of them families with kids) as they had a quicker journey.
You do get quite a bit of traffic noise, and I wonder if there would be water spray on a rainy day. (Solution: Go on a dry day.) A couple more tips:
Make sure everyone knows the rules of the road, er, trail. In general, keep to the right. The signs instruct bicyclists to yield to pedestrians, but I implored my pedestrians to please watch for bikes whenever we crossed the path to visit a turnout or get a better view. Some of those bikes go flying by, and it would be tough for them to stop.
Prepare for a long haul. You can't really bail out on this journey, and there are no shortcuts, so make sure you have what you need. Water, snacks and sunscreen come immediately to mind. There also are no bathrooms; plan accordingly. My fitness tracker said I was on my feet for 90 minutes; that sounds about right. My family keeps up a pretty good pace, but we took plenty of breaks and then wandered around a little on the other side while waiting for our, ahem, ride back.
Know your audience. If you've got someone who's likely to get really tired and whiny, maybe this excursion isn't for you/them. (See "Prepare for a long haul," above.) There are ample places to sit down and, if you're like me, maybe you're not above stashing some sugar-filled incentives ("bribes" is such a negative word) in your daypack, but still ... it's a bit of a haul, and it's not for everyone.
But if it is for you — and your family — it will feel like an awesome and unique accomplishment when you're done.
Nuts and bolts: Thank you, Washington Trails Association, for a useful guide to this trail. As they point out, parking seems more available on the Medina side, less so on the Seattle (Montlake area) side. The state Department of Transportation also offers information, including neighboring trails, if 2.7 miles is not enough for you.
[Looking for more kid-friendly activities? Download our app and discover our customizable events calendar. Filter by child ages, location, free events and more.]
Julie Hanson is the online editor for Seattle's Child. She has a love-hate relationship with her Fitbit. On this day, it was love: to the tune of 23,136 steps (not all achieved on the 520 bridge).