Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Walking the Highway 520 floating bridge is an ambitious excursion. It's also bike-able. (Photos by Julie Hanson)

Take a family walk or bike ride across the Highway 520 bridge; here’s how

Here's an idea for a scenic and unusual family walk

You can walk the 520 bridge.

Yes, for real!

We did it, and 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 accommodate nonmotorized commuters and sightseers nicely. 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 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.)

The path is nice and wide and well separated from vehicle traffic.

Walk the 520 bridge: 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.

There are even built-in spots for taking a break!

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 than on the Seattle (Montlake area) side.


More great Seattle-area walks:

Walking areas near outdoor dining places

Best urban trails in Seattle for a walk or bike ride

5 seattle stair walks that are fun (and worth the work) with kids

Julie Hanson is a contributor 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). This was originally published in May 2019 and updated in May 2024.

About the Author

Julie Hanson