7 Seattle Parks Not To Miss on Your 2023 PNW Trip
Seattle, Washington, is a city known for its natural beauty, and one of the best ways to experience it is by strolling through (or hiking through) one of the many parks scattered throughout the city. Thanks to nearby mountains and miles of waterfront access Seattle parks offer a wide range of recreational activities, and many boast incredible mountain or water views. Some of the best Seattle parks are on the shores of Puget Sound, while others sit closer to mountains and forested lakes.
Many parks in Seattle have well-maintained biking and walking paths, and kayak rentals are readily available during the spring and summer. Sure, the sun may not come out quite as often in Seattle as in other cities, but when it does, there are plenty of options for where to enjoy it. Here are seven of the best parks in Seattle you truly don’t want to miss if you’re planning an outdoorsy PNW vacation.
The best parks in Seattle
Seattle is one of the best gateway towns for PNW adventures, especially because it has a large international airport. And while it may be tempting to fly in and quickly head out to stunning sites like Cascades National Park or one of the state’s many waterfalls, you actually don’t need to leave the city to feel immersed in nature. Many Seattle parks are quite large, and some, like Discovery Park, have the boulder-strewn beaches and mountain views you’d expect to find in more remote areas of the state.
Myrtle Edwards Park
Myrtle Edwards is a beautiful public park on the Elliot Bay waterfront, offering visitors a chance to take in the stunning views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The park is approximately 40 acres in size, making it one of the larger waterfront parks in the city. It’s also just a quick walk from sites like the Space Needle and the Chihuly Gardens glass gallery.
The park is on a popular bike and walking trail, which runs along the waterfront and offers great views of the water and the surrounding area. Along the way, there’s public art that changes on a semi-rotating basis. There’s also a small beach area with a pier and dog park, perfect for pet owners who want to give their furry friends a chance to run around and socialize (or just want to pet some cute dogs).
The park is on the Elliott Bay Trail and there are sometimes sea otters and harbor seals playing in the water. Parking is limited, so walk or bike to the park if you can.
Gas Works Park
In Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, Gas Works Park offers an incredible view of the downtown skyline across the waters of Lake Union. The hilly park has a great view of the city from the top and dramatic views of both the region’s famous Olympic Mountains and the Aurora Bridge to the east. The park also has grassy, flat areas popular for everything from tossing a frisbee to kite-flying to hackysacking, and there’s free parking in a large nearby lot (though it does get full on busy weekends).
In addition to being a cool place to take photos (it’s on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, which was in operation from 1906 to 1956), it’s also one of the best Seattle parks for catching a sunset. It’s quite pretty to watch the buildings downtown light up as the sun sets in hues of rosy pink and orange.
The park also hosts fun events and festivals throughout the year, like the annual Fourth of July celebration and Summer Solstice Parade.
Washington Park and Arboretum
This park is expansive, covering 230 acres northeast of Seattle’s downtown. The best way to see this large Seattle park is probably via bicycle, though there are some nice hiking trails toward the upper end of the park. You can rent bikes from the nearby MontLake Bike Shop (regular bikes or e-bikes), Recycled Cycles, or use Seattle’s bike share system.
For a leisurely, stress-free morning, visit the park’s Graham Visitor Center (near the Arboretum) to sign up for a guided park walk. The Arboretum, managed by the University of Washington, is also worth a visit — and is totally free. It has more than 40,000 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, representing over 5,000 species from around the world, plus specialty gardens, such as the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Medicinal Herb Garden. It’s open until 8 PM most days, but hours can vary seasonally.
Green Lake Park
Green Lake Park is certainly one of the most popular Seattle parks. You’ll see locals on rollerblades, bikes, skateboards, or just walking or jogging around the lake on most weekends, and if you’d like to be a bit active yourself, you can rent boats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards from the park’s Greenlake Boathouse (which also has a popular coffee shop). The park wraps around Green Lake, a freshwater lake with approximately 2.8 miles of shoreline, so it’s plenty large enough to fill a few hours of paddling. There’s also a nature trail around the lake connecting to a bird sanctuary on the lake’s small island, which is great for birdwatching.
For something unexpected in this Seattle park, take a dip at the indoor Evans Pool. It’s the oldest public pool in the city and the admission fee is only $4.50 for adults. If you work up an appetite, just head across the street to find restaurants like Bongo’s Caribbean or St. Andrew’s pub, with a large collection of international spirits and a nice outdoor area.
This is one the smaller Seattle parks and you may not have heard of it, but if you want a perfect photo of the city’s famous Space Needle, head to Kerry Park. It seems like every postcard of Seattle’s Space Needle is photographed from here, atop posh Queen Anne Hill. And on a clear night at sunset, you can watch as Mount Rainier turns pink and purple behind the city skyline.
It’s a small park at only 1.26 acres, but it’s one of the most popular spots for taking photos in Seattle and easy to reach, so there’s no justification for skipping it while you’re in the city.
Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle, covering an area of approximately 534 acres. It overlooks Puget Sound, so of course, there are stunning views of the water and the Olympic Mountains. It has a diverse ecosystem of forest, meadows, wetlands, and seashore habitats, which makes it a perfect place for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
This is one of the best Seattle parks for some light hiking as it has several miles of trails, including a 2.8-mile Discovery Park Loop Trail. It winds through a few of the park’s various ecosystems and has some interpretive signage along the way about the park’s plants and animals, including more than 300 bird species.
The park also has a beach area, which is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, or beachcombing, as well as a lighthouse (reopening June 2023) and a visitor center. And while you’re roaming, be sure to stop by the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, near the north parking lot. It has a permanent collection of Indigenous art and hosts events and art markets throughout the year.
Golden Gardens Park
Golden Gardens Park is in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood and has hiking and biking trails, a playground, and a large beach for swimming and sunbathing that’s very popular on summer weekends. It’s one of the best Seattle parks for great views as many trails look out on the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. There are also bonfire pits available, which are very popular for group events and gatherings. They’re on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early; they open at 5 PM (and have to be put out by 9:30 PM).
Visitors can get on the water by renting kayaks and paddleboards or taking a tour with Ballard Kayak (in nearby Shilshole Bay Marina). If you’d rather explore on foot, take the park’s 2.5-mile trail, which gains 300 feet of elevation and has excellent mountain and waterfront views.
Hotels near Seattle parks
When visiting Seattle, you can stay in Seattle or just across Lake Washington in Bellevue, which is only a few minutes from downtown on public transportation.
Seattle is a big city and traffic can be rough, so you may want to take advantage of one of Seattle’s bike share programs. Both Veo and Lime operate in the city and should make moving between Seattle parks easy, even if your hotel is a few miles away.
We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
The Lotte Hotel: near Seattle’s top sights
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A Matador staff writer stayed at the chic Lotte Hotel recently and loved the experience, describing the building as “like stepping into a time machine” and the rooms as “spacious rooms, with wood and marble interiors, and contemporary vibes with superb artwork.” And since the hotel sits near Pike Place Market and the ferry to Bainbridge Island, it’s an ideal spot for first-time visitors keen on seeing the city’s top sights as well as Seattle’s best parks. Rates start around $350 a night but can go into the $700s on summer weekends.
Hotel Ballard: across the water from Discovery Park
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If you plan to spend a good amount of your time around Discovery Park, consider staying at Ballard Hotel, just on the other side of Salmon Bay. The hotel is in a historic building from the 1920s and blends vintage charm with modern amenities. It has just 40 rooms, all in a vintage style, plus a communal library and a rooftop deck with good views. Nightly rates start at $361.
Staybridge Suites Seattle: near Golden Gardens and Green Lake
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Staybridge Suites Seattle is a great choice for travelers who want a clean, large room from a trusted brand in good proximity to several of the parks in the northern part of the city. The hotel has a lovely rooftop terrace, rooms are dog friendly, and all come with a small cooking area and refrigerator in case you want to make a picnic for lunch before you leave for the day. No need to worry about breakfast, though — it’s included with every stay. Rooms start around $149, which is one of the better rates you’ll find in a city as pricey as Seattle.