Trip Summary

What: day-hikes on city streets and in parks.
Where: Seattle, Washington.
When: July 28 to August 3, 2021 (7 days).
Distance: about 78 miles.
Highlights: great views, gardens, public parks, Little Free Libraries, bakeries.

Why we went

We were 17 months into the pandemic, and although we have done a fair bit of hiking and backpacking, we were feeling a desire to do something novel. Neither of us had spent much time in Seattle and we decided it might be fun to do some walks there similar to the San Francisco Stairway Walks that we enjoy so much.


We used information from four sources to create our routes:

As for all our trips, we used our two favorite mapping tools: to prepare gpx data and printed maps, and Gaia GPS while hiking.

Click map to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab. Instructions for using CalTopo.

Amy’s Assessment

I thoroughly enjoyed our week in Seattle, and taking roughly 11 mile walks on seven consecutive days was a nice way to see the city and get some exercise. It was warmer than I like, as high as 85º every day, but we managed to walk all day every day until dinner time.

I enjoyed all seven of our routes. There were great gardens, beautiful public parks, public and private art, good vistas, and terrific scenic diversity. Seattle is a beautiful city that was very fun to visit and seems like it would be a great place to live.

Overall there was only one thing about Seattle that disappointed me. Seattle has many miles of waterfront, but much of it is private. There are occasional parks providing access to the water, but most of the waterfront is privately owned and not accessible. In my childhood hometown of Chicago and my adult hometown of San Francisco the waterfronts are predominantly public, and I had come to take that for granted. Walking in Seattle makes me really appreciate that San Francisco’s waterfront is nearly entirely public.

James’ Assessment

I was a bit skeptical about taking this walk. It would be a long drive from our Bay Area home to Seattle and back and require uprooting myself from my routine. Since it was along the way, we agreed to add a short backpacking trip at Mt. Hood and that tipped me over into going. In the end, I was pleased that Amy convinced me to go and had done the planning that enabled the trip to go so smoothly.

One big reward was to see a place I was barely familiar with; although I had traveled to Bellevue on business many times, I had last been to Seattle proper sometime in the early 1970’s. Walking through the city and its surrounding area proved to be a lot of fun. There were constantly new and interesting things to see, and doing a city walk like we did is a great way to learn about a place. Beaches and forests were mixed with a big city downtown, the busy industrial harbor, and quiet neat suburban neighborhoods. There was much public and private street art and more Little Free Libraries than anywhere else I have been.

Amy has created a very satisfying walk that others could easily enjoy. Our route was just that: our route. Certainly many other walks could be put together that might be just a rewarding and we obviously did not come close to hitting all of the local highlights. However, the variety of places we visited and new things we saw, ranging from vast landscapes to intimate gardens, was a constant pleasure.

Notes for Potential Hikers

While researching our trip to Seattle, we found many city walking guides. However, nearly all have routes that are just a few miles long. We wanted to have day-long hikes, so we pieced together routes using pieces of information from the four sources listed in Resources, as well as incorporating convenient streets to connect places we intended to visit. The routes are not random, but they are also not refined over multiple iterations like our San Francisco Stairway Walks have been. That said, we think this set of seven routes is satisfying and we do not hesitate to encourage others to use them. A walker can use our routes as starting points and easily modify them to suit their personal interests. Our ultimate goal is to encourage people to get out walking and exploring and not to proscribe a specific path to take.

On this series of walks, we enjoyed the company of a friend who lives near us and had joined us previously on many of our San Francisco walks. It was great to have her along and she pointed out many things we might have missed. We also had a few friends from both Seattle and Portland join us for one or more of the walks, so the experience was nicely reminiscent of our Stairway walks.

We drove to Seattle, but made little use of our car to access the start or finish of the walks. We used a ride-sharing service on two occasions and public transit a few times. We stayed near Gas Works Park where several of our routes started and/or ended and did not need to use vehicular transportation. On one walk, we took a public ferry from downtown Seattle to Bremerton and back. This was a fun and easy way to experience another aspect of the Seattle area and provided great views of the city and the surrounding area. Bremerton itself, the home of a major naval shipyard, was interesting place to visit as well. The ferries run frequently to many different places around Seattle providing a variety of itineraries. The ferry ride was a great addition to our itinerary.

One thing we really enjoyed were the Little Free Libraries scattered throughout the area. We encountered a surprising number of these and some were wonderful pieces of street art in their own right. We also spent an hour in the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. Normally  we do not stop to visit places like a museum, but it was along the route, and we happened to be there on a free admission day, so we went in. We all had a very enjoyable time in a well designed, compact and very human scale institution filled with wonderful visual treasures. It was well worth the time we spent there.

Another highlight was Seward Park on Lake Washington. Through lucky happenstance, the park is home to some of the last remaining old-growth forest in the entire region. A series of quiet trails allows visitors to experience what the Seattle area must have been like prior to the arrival of European settlers. As a contrast, the Olympic Sculpture Park on Elliot Bay has a number of striking works; Serra’s Wake was a favorite for our group.

Although Seattle has a reputation for being damp and gray, summertime there can be very sunny and quite warm. We were there for their 50th consecutive day without precipitation.