A bird’s-eye view is a great way to get your bearings when you’re in a new place. It lets you wrap your head around the neighborhoods and topography. But after you’ve drunk in the lakes and building tops, neighborhoods and needle points (hello Space Needle!), putting boots on the ground gives you a bit more intimate look.
In Seattle, we’re blessed with a plethora of urban hikes. As the city’s complicated geography was developed, stairways were carved into steep hillsides, connecting neighborhood to neighborhood. Today, these same pedestrian pathways offer the ideal way to explore – while also stretching your legs (and racking up a few thousand steps, if you’re into that sort of thing).
The Lake Union – Kerry Park Loop features big climbs, long descents, and a veritable feast of views. I like to begin this urban trek at Kenmore Air’s Lake Union terminal (A). It’s less than a half-mile stroll to the Westlake Pedestrian Bridge.
Spanning 130 feet, the Westlake Pedestrian Bridge (B) stretches over Westlake Avenue. With its large support beams and long cable-stays that echo the masts of sailboats in the marina below.
On the west side of the bridge, a series of switchback stairways lead to Dexter Avenue. They border a commercial building. At the top of flight small verandas offer exceptional views of Lake Union, downtown, and Capitol Hill.
Cross over Dexter and follow the Galer Street stairs up and over Aurora Avenue. Take a quick jaunt south on Taylor Avenue North, west on Lee Street, and south on 5th Avenue North. You’ll arrive at the edge of Bhy Kracke Park (C). This sliver-sized park is nestled among residential houses. Follow its short trail system for a lovely way to keep climbing upward. Don’t be surprised to find families tucked along the path enjoying a picnic or couples enjoying a lazy stroll. At its peak, an expansive view of the city unfolds.
Take Comstock Place to Bigelow Avenue North and head southwest. Take a left on 3rd Avenue North’s pedestrian-only stairway and west onto Prospect Street until you hit 2nd Avenue North (D). Take a left. This small 75-step stairway is the oldest in Seattle. It was built in 1904. At its base, rests a large white house that looks like it was plucked from a storybook. And, it very well might have been. Check the Little Free Library that rests just beyond its gate. You might find yourself lost in a story.
Continue south on 2nd for one block and then head west on Ward for one block. Heading back north up Warren Avenue North, take a left on head Highland Drive. (You’ll now be headed west.) In four blocks, you’ll reach Kerry Park (E) – the ultimate star of this urban hike.
While it spans just 1.26 acres, Kerry Park offers one of the best views in all of Seattle. Located on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill, you’ll be able to see the Space Needle, Key Arena, and Safeco Field. Elliot Bay will rest beneath you and West Seattle will stretch out to the south. Ferry boats will come and go. You might see large shipping vessels coming into port and dinosaur-esc cranes unloading them. On a clear day, you’ll even be able to see Mount Rainier.
Once you are finished soaking in the view, follow 3rd Street West north to West Galer Street and head east. You’ll run into Queen Anne Avenue, where a plethora of great restaurants and quaint coffee shops reside. (This is a great spot for a break, if you want one.)
From Queen Anne an elegant stairway connects West Galer Street to Galer Street. In three more blocks, you’ll come to Old Queen Anne High School (F). Built in 1909, this magnificent landmark is on the National Register of Historic Places. While the high school closed in 1981, the building was converted into condos and remains occupied today.
Take a left on Nob Hill Avenue North, a left on Garfield Street, and a right on 3rd Avenue North. Along the quiet residential street, you might see kids playing basketball and 20-somethings walking their dogs. You might find grandmas tending their plants and workmen repairing a broken fence. This is Seattle, quiet and quaint.
At Howe swing east and then take a quick left on Nob Hill. In two blocks you’ll find an eclectic Victorian-style cottage (G). The yard features eccentric statues and the house itself has been painted a breathtakingly wonderful collection of colors.
Continue along the path by taking a right on Crockett Street, right on 4th, and left on Newton. At Bigelow head south for one block. A small 60-step stairway will connect you to 5th Ave North. Follow 5th to Taylor, Taylor to Galer (H) and Galer back to Westlake .