Discovery Park – Seattle’s Great Park

Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest, greatest park and honestly a true icon, much like the Space Needle or Pike Place Market. It’s like Seattle’s version of Central Park without cars and buildings as a backdrop. For sure, it’s the largest city park in Seattle, measuring in at 534 acres (just a few hundred acres shy of Central Park).

Danica_KombolTruth? The minute you land at Sea-Tac airport, the mountains are calling.  On a clear day you can see those “only in a magazine” majestic views of Mount Rainier. However, Mount Rainier is a hike, literally and figuratively or distance wise. It’s a good two-hour drive from Seattle to get to the actual park and I personally think you should allow for more than one day to explore what is truly my favorite mountain. (Fun fact: I grew up at the base of Mount Rainier, in Enumclaw, the last town you drive through before you head over the mountain pass. It’s moniker is “The Gateway to Mt. Rainier).  If you have only a few days in Seattle and want to do some serious nature immersion, partake of killer views, Discovery Park is your place. Insiders call it “Disco Park” and it’s just a short 20-minute drive from downtown Seattle.

Discovery Park is located on this cliff called Magnolia Bluff. (Quick diversion. Magnolia is a large, gorgeous neighborhood in Seattle which juts out into Puget Sound. The name, Magnolia is pretty serious misnomer however. Evidently, the original captain who named the bluff, saw all these trees which he mistook for magnolias. In fact, the trees which abound here are Madrona trees which you’ll find all over the Pacific Northwest. They’re really beautiful trees which you recognize by their rusty, peeling bark and curved trunks).

Shilshoe BayA city that looks out  over the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains

Back to Discovery Park: It looks out over the Puget Sound, with seriously breathtaking views of both the Cascades and the Olympics. It’s hard to fathom this is a park in a major city because once inside, you’re in this completely secluded landscape. Picture towering trees, craggy beaches under the sharp bluff and dozens of trails to choose from. You can plan a long hike to one protected tidal beaches (the park has two miles of tidal beaches) or lollygag in a meadow with a spectacular view.  There are 12 miles of trails to choose from – that said, be aware that the signage in the park is way confusing. Next time I might just download this map from the friends of Discovery Park.  Then again, if I’m going to get lost in the woods, Discovery Park is a good place to do it.

What I love about the Washington State shoreline is how these rocky, rugged beaches give way to pure sand that seems to stretch for miles. On our last trip, we saw baby Dungeness crabs all along the shore. There are a number of ways to get to the water, both the North Beach Trail and the South Beach trail will lead you there.  Neither are terribly strenuous, but remember, it’s Seattle people, so it can be muddy.  Oh and yes, there’s a lighthouse, which is this iconic red-roofed structure with jaw dropping views. There’s also a playground (I’ve never been) but evidently it has a zip-line and a super modern playscape. My eight-year-old sources tell me it’s “the place to be in Seattle.”

Discovery Park is Dog Friendly

Finally, and most important, Discovery Park is very dog-friendly, as long as your dog is on a leash.  There are a few trails where dogs are prohibited, like the World Nature Trail because it has this extensive collection of native plants. There are multiple places to park and you can’t go wrong with whatever trail you choose. The Welcome and Learning Center is near the East Parking lot.

There’s so much to explore in Discovery Park . If I lived in Seattle again, I’d be there every weekend. One thing I’m curious about is the Daybreak Star Cultural Center which is a center and urban base for Native Americans.  There’s some interesting history there I need to explore – evidently the center was a result of Native American activism in the 1970’s. Totally fascination history that involves Jane Fonda, an occupation and is evidently an example of activism that really worked.

Anyway, if there are other things I should include as you discover Discovery Park, please let me know in the comments.

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