Seattle’s complicated topography has made our city home to some of the most beautiful urban hikes in the country.
Hills, like Capitol Hill and Queen Anne, overlook multiple bodies of water, like Lake Union and Lake Washington. Bluffs, like those ringing Magnolia’s Puget Sound border, are complimented by canyons, like Ravenna Ravine.
To traverse the steep hillsides, our city’s early settlers built a collection of stairways. Scattered throughout the city, these pedestrian byways played an essential role, connecting residents with trolley lines.
Seattle continued to grow, laying down an inevitable eight-lane stretch of concrete highway through its core. To ensure many of the city’s neighborhoods were not cut off from downtown, additional byways were added. They often took the form of a freeway-overpass.
Between the stairways and the overpasses, Seattle offers a veritable goldmine of views and quiet hideaways perfect for exploring on foot.
Among my favorite urban hiking destinations is North Capitol Hill. I like to start at the base of the Lakeview Blvd. E. overpass. At its crest, it offers a stunning view of the Space Needle and Lake Union. If you time your hike correctly, you can see Kenmore Air’s seaplanes approaching from the north to land on the lake below.
Continue north on Lakeview Blvd. E. until you reach E. Blaine St. This 293-step stair climb will take you past the Streissguth Gardens. Spanning approximately one acre, the gardens are a refuge to carefully tended native plants. They feature a collection of wandering paths studded with peek-a-boo views and small benches.
At the top of the steps, walk one block north along Federal Ave. E. to E. Howe St. The 388-step descent is known as the “Howe Stairs.” The longest stairway in the city, it is frequented by residents and exercise aficionados.
Continue on E. Howe Street, as it cuts through the Colonnade Mountain Bike Skills Park. The park, a two-acre stretch of bike jumps and trails is located beneath I-5. To return to your starting position, take a left on Eastlake Ave. E. and continue south.
Alternatively, turn right on Eastlake Ave. E. It’s less than a mile stroll to the Eastlake Bar & Grill where fish and chips are dished up with a view.