Try urban hiking: Fall and winter weather is dark, wet and cold, with shorter days leading us into the new year. In this particular year, we seek the comfort of the great outdoors. But with harsher weather and gray skies, traditional hikes are few and far between.
Mix it up this season with urban trails instead of your usual walk around the neighborhood. (Call it urban hiking.) Take routes that explore Seattle’s popular landmarks and hidden treasures, including cobblestone walks in Pioneer Square and skyline views. Bundle up the kids, grab your masks and hand sanitizer and walk the town in a whole new way.
Elliott Bay Trail: Water views and sunset strolls
Distance: 2 miles
What to know: Jogger stroller-friendly, many walkers and runners, bike-heavy
Start your urban-hiking walk at the Seattle Aquarium. Head north on Alaskan Way to Pier 66, where kids can run along the path, looking out over Elliott Bay.
Continue north to the Olympic Sculpture Park and check out large pieces of outdoor art. Take a quick selfie with the Space Needle and head into Myrtle Edwards Park, then Centennial Park. Skip rocks at the beach and count cargo ships coming and going in one of the city’s most scenic places, with the occasional amazing sunset over the Olympic Mountains.
Pike Place Market: Architecture and history
Distance: 1.2 miles
What to know: Jogger stroller-friendly, busy streets
Start your urban hiking at Victor Steinbrueck Park at the north end of Pike Place Market; be sure to measure your height against the 50-foot cedar totem poles carved by local artist James Bender. Walk through the market; browse the food, flowers and art. Stop at the bronze market pig, Rachel, to rub her nose and snap a picture.
Make your way out of the market and turn onto Post Alley to see the Gum Wall; chew a piece of bubble gum and stick it to the wall!
Head back up Post Alley and walk south on First Avenue for two blocks. Pause at the colossal mechanical sculpture Hammering Man outside the Seattle Art Museum.
Make a left onto University Street, then a right onto Fourth Avenue. Check out the Seattle Public Library, home to more than a million books. The beautiful architecture by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus is astounding, even for the smallest eyes. A right turn onto James Street takes you to Pioneer Square.
Head south on Washington Street into Occidental Square Park. It’s time for a rest, with enough space for kids to explore on their own. Be sure to check out Waterfall Garden Park a couple of streets away.
Near the UW: Urban birdwatchers and nature seekers
Distance: 1.5 miles
What to know: Stroller-friendly; stay on trail
Park at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture (3501 NE 41st St.). Head into the Union Bay Natural Area, filled with native plants, shrubs and trees. A great space for birdwatching, the natural area is one of the city’s largest wetlands. From the Wahkiakum Lane trail, choose between the Yesler Swamp Loop or Loop Trail.
The Yesler Swamp Loop, east of the Douglas Research Conservatory, is a boardwalk, making for a perfect walk (or run) for little legs.
The Loop Trail, a little over a mile, hosts two pond habitats. Look closely for turtles and frogs. Listen for birds and try to spot one of the more than 150 species that live in this area. On a clear day, you’ll see the 520 floating bridge and Mount Rainier.
Originally published in November 2020