One of Seattle's most unique urban hikes, the Arboretum Waterfront Trail dashes through Washington Park Arboretum's north end, traverses over nearly a 0.25 miles of floating docks, ventures through Union Bay's Foster Island, travels under Washington's Highway 520. If you choose to hike the route as a loop, which is highly recommended, the trek also meanders through Seattle's primly kept Montlake neighborhood.
The highlight of this relatively short 1.9-mile hike is the exposure to Union Bay's southern inlets, islands, marsh, and wetlands, which are arguably best explored via kayak. The trail tucks in and out of willow-filled islands and gives way to viewing platforms where bird watchers will likely glimpse Canada geese, countless mallards, red-winged blackbirds, swallows, and great blue herons. In the marsh, keep your eyes peeled for American toads and perhaps even the endangered western painted turtle.
Densely populating the water's surface, you'll definitely notice the fragrant water lilies (Nymphaea odorata), often known as "beaver root" or "American white water lily." The ornamental aquatic plant that is ubiquitous throughout the Arboretum is actually a non-native and aggressive invasive species. The lily is native to the northeastern United States.