Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Best urban trails for a family walk or bike ride in Seattle

Seattle, city of views, hills and waters, is an excellent place to go for a walk. (Or a family bike ride, or inline skate or scooter roll …)

There are quite a few adventures to choose from: shady walkways within parks, sidewalk-based treks through neighborhoods, or something in the middle: urban trails, where travelers go on a path separate from cars, that crosses through or around neighborhoods.

Here are some of Seattle’s best urban trails:

 

Alki Trail

Maximum outing length: 7 miles (out and back)

Traffic: Feet and wheels

Neighborhood: West Seattle

This flat, paved trail running all along the northeast and northwest coast of West Seattle is something that everyone should try. Between the beaches and the views of nearby shipping and distant mountains, there’s plenty to delight and distract on this route.  It’s also readily accessible using Seattle’s most spectacular public transit: the West Seattle Water Taxi.

 

Chief Sealth Trail

Maximum outing length:  8 miles (out and back)

Traffic: Feet and wheels

Neighborhoods: Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley

There are two things that make this broad, paved trail different from the others on this list: It goes by no large bodies of water, and it isn’t flat. Instead it rolls with the terrain, following the high-voltage power line right of way through Beacon Hill, stopping and starting again at some streets. There are wonderful, surprising views up here. Othello light-rail station is a short walk from the path.

 

Lake Washington Boulevard Trail

Maximum outing length: 6 miles out and back along the trail, longer if you connect with other trails in Seward Park or Mount Baker Park

Traffic: feet and wheels

Neighborhoods: Mount Baker, Seward Park

This flat, paved trail connects a series of beautiful parks along Lake Washington Boulevard, from Mount Baker Park to Seward Park. As you amble along, you can see boats and flocks of waterfowl on the lake. And if the cars on the nearby boulevard wreck the scene for you, you can always come back on a Bicycle Sunday. During these days, which happen from May to September, this section of Lake Washington Boulevard closes to cars from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

I-90 Trail

Maximum travel distance: 20 miles to Bellevue and back

Traffic: feet and wheels

Neighborhoods: Beacon Hill, Central District, Mount Baker, Mercer Island, Bellevue

This east-west route is one of several trails on this list which are major routes for bike commuters, so it's not the best place for walkers or tiny cyclists during morning or afternoon rush hour. The Seattle portion starts at Dr. Jose Rizal park and meanders through a chain of parks before going through a tunnel that doubles as a graffiti art gallery and popping out at a spot overlooking the I-90 bridge.

Try also: You can walk or bike the 520 bridge!

 

Elliott Bay Trail

Maximum outing length: 7 miles out and back

Neighborhoods: Belltown, Interbay

Traffic: Feet and wheels

The arrival of the Expedia campus on the side of this trail brought with it a nice bit of sprucing up. Gone is a blind corner that was always tense for bike-riding families. Newly arrived: many, many more bike commuters. If you avoid high-traffic times, the portion of the trail along Elliott Bay gives spectacular views and plenty of spots to stop and relax. It ends at Myrtle Edwards Park, and you can get some culture by taking a tour of the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park.

 

Burke-Gilman Trail

Maximum outing length: 38 miles from Ballard to Bothell and back

Neighborhoods: Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, U District, Laurelhurst, Sand Point, View Ridge, Lake City, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell

Traffic: Feet and wheels

The Burke-Gilman trail is another vital commuter route that also gets its share of families on outings. My favorite stretch runs from Gasworks Park through Fremont. You go from the north end of Lake Union down the ship canal, taking in views of boat traffic, houseboats and bridges. On the minus side, there are some blind corners, a stop sign, ornery geese and — on sunny days — big crowds, so don’t venture here unless your kids are savvy enough to follow directions and share the trail.

 

Montlake Cut National Waterside Trail

Maximum outing length: 1 mile out and back, longer if you connect with trails to Washington Park Arboretum

Neighborhoods: Montlake

Traffic: feet only

This trail on the south side of the Montlake Cut is the only pedestrian-only trail on the list. Three things make it bad for wheels: a set of stairs, an area of soft gravel and spots under the Montlake Bridge that are too narrow for a stroller. The barrier between the trail and the water is minimal – in some places a single chain – so if you have kids under 7, you might want to consider how much you can trust them in that situation. It’s a cool walk, though, going along the canal and under the Montlake Bridge, and if you want a longer exploration, you can connect to the Arboretum Waterfront Trail.

 

Related

Here’s a list of Seattle’s best parks for a stroll: Carkeek Park, Discovery Park, Green Lake Park, Kubota Garden, Lincoln Park, Magnuson Park, Seward Park, Union Bay Natural Area, Washington Park Arboretum. For more on parks, check out this story.