The Discovery Park Loop Trail passes by a wide variety of plant life and trees. (Photo by The Urbanist)

The Urbanist is excited to announce two more events in our summer series. This Saturday (August 27) we’ll be meeting at Discovery Park at 11am and hiking the Loop Trail, starting the hike from the North parking lot around 11:35am. RSVP for the Discovery Park walking tour.

On Tuesday August 30, we will be picnicking at Cowen Park starting at 5:30pm and doing a stroll through Ravenna Park at 7pm. RSVP on our Cowen Park Eventbrite page.

Discovery Park Walking Tour

At 534 acres, Discovery Park is the largest city park in Seattle. The Loop Trail is a great way to take in the spectacular variety the park has to offer, from thick old growth forests to flowery meadows to the scenic Magnolia bluffs overlooking the Salish Sea. The hike is about three miles with some rolling hills, but no major elevation change. The trail is well-kept, but it is not fully accessible for people with disabilities.

The West Point lighthouse is at the tip of the peninsula next to the West Point sewage treatment plant. The Magnolia Bluffs are on the south face of the peninsula.
A map of Discovery Park shows the Loop Trail in orange. (Map by Seattle Trails)

The park used to be a military base (Fort Lawton) before it was decommissioned and finally converted to a park in 1973. The fledgling park was the site of one of the most dramatic nonviolent demonstrations in Seattle history when a 1970 Indigenous occupation of part of the fort led to the creation of the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center on a northern section of the property.

“Led by Bernie Whitebear (Sin Aikst), Bob Satiacum (Puyallup) and indigenous peoples of Western Washington, 100+ Native Americans and supporters occupied areas of Fort Lawton using a base camp just outside the fence line,” the City of Seattle website notes. “Famous supporters such as Jane Fonda and Black Panther chapter of Seattle helped increase national attention to the cause.”

We’ll meet at the picnic table next to the Route 33 bus stop at Discovery Park’s North Parking Lot. (Image by The Urbanist)

More recently, activism is leading to an affordable housing complex being added, as the last remaining Fort Lawton Army Reserve compound is being decommissioned and its 34 acres converted to housing and recreational space, including about five acres to be added to Discovery Park. In 2019, the Seattle City Council approved a redevelopment plan to create affordable housing on the site, with at least 235 homes in the works. Magnolia homeowner activists led by Elizabeth Campbell fought the affordable housing and mounted a legal challenge, but they have only succeeded in slowing down the project rather than stopping it. Urbanists and housing advocates rallied in support of the project and opponents have all but exhausted legal avenues.

Discovery Park’s South Beach includes lots of driftwood to sit on and a great view of Mount Rainier, the Magnolia Bluffs, and Elliott Bay. While not on the Loop Trail, it’s a half-mile side trip. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

Urbanist staff will be on hand to answer questions about Discovery Park and related plans, but participants will also be free to mingle and take in the natural beauty during the hike.

Parking at Discovery Park’s North Lot. Take Texas Way for the less steep bike route to the North Parking Lot and find a post to lock to. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

Getting there: Metro’s Route 33 bus stops at the North parking lot. We’ll congregate at the picnic table near the bus stop (Illinois Avenue & Texas Way), which is the end of the line, and hit the trail shortly after the Route 33 run scheduled to arrive at 11:35am shows up. Thanks to the protected bike lanes on Gilman Avenue W, biking to Discovery Park is also a great option. If you’re coming from Ballard, it’s also possible to cross the Ballard Locks and take the secret forested path through Kiwanis Memorial Preserve Park, which is accessed from 33rd Avenue W. There isn’t specified bike parking area at the North parking lot, but there are lots of signposts to lock to. If you are taking an app-based bike, be aware most operators cut e-assist and do not allow their bikes to be parked within Discovery Park boundaries so you may want to park at the edge of the park and walk the rest of the way.

Cowen Park Potluck and Ravenna Park Walk

On Tuesday August 30th, The Urbanist is hosting a potluck picnic at Cowen Park starting at 5:30pm. We’ll have snacks to share, but we encourage folks to bring something to contribute or snack on/sip yourself. This social event is intended to take advantage of summer to get outdoors and enjoy Seattle’s beautiful park system.

The picnic tables are located near the playground at Cowen Park. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Parks and TIA International Photography)

Ravenna Park and the neighboring Ravenna Boulevard were designed by the Olmsted brothers as part of a plan to given Seattle a world-class park system. Cowen Park is the adjoining park to the west also integrated into the Olmsted-designed system, with the ravine trail starting at the northern edge of Cowen Park. Stand in the middle of Ravenna ravine and you hardly know you’re in the middle of a bustling city, with a new trove of skyscrapers rising just to the south in the U District, as giant trees provide thick canopy overhead.

After snacking and chatting at Cowen Park, we’ll wander into Ravenna Park to enjoy the Olmsted-designed trail system and get lost in the trees. The Ravenna walk will start at 7pm. The ravine trail is well-maintained gravel and has a steep hill at the start but is accessible to people with disabilities.

Urbanist writer Ryan Packer rides their bike over the 20th Avenue pedestrianized bridge, with tree canopy on either side.
20th Avenue NE offers a bike and pedestrian-only bridge over Ravenna Park. (Photo by The Urbanist)

Getting there: Cowen Park is well served by transit, including Route 45, 67, and 73. It’s 0.4 miles southeast of Roosevelt Station, making light rail an easy way to get there. There are also good biking options. From the west, protected bike lanes connect to the park via Ravenna Boulevard. The Burke-Gilman trails gets within a few blocks of Ravenna Park, with the ravine trail connecting through to Cowen Park.

RSVP for the Ravenna-Cowen Park event on our Eventbrite page.

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Article Author
Executive Director | Website

Doug Trumm is the executive director of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.