It’s no secret that the people of the Pacific Northwest pride themselves on living in a region with such abounding natural beauty. Seattle models this well, and aspects of its cityscape blend bustling urban life and incredibly scenic views of mountain and sea. While you don’t have to travel far within the city to find a great view, scoring a little solitude isn’t always as easy; set within the quiet Magnolia neighborhood on 534 acres of forests, beaches and meadows, Discovery Park has more than enough space and scenery to go around.
Much of the grounds overlook the Puget Sound, and on clear days you can see the Olympic Mountains jutting into the western horizon above Bainbridge Island and Mount Rainier towering over headlands to the south. An efficient, 11.8-mile network of hiking and biking trails navigate the park’s diverse terrain. The Loop Trail is a favorite among visitors, making a wide circuit through the park’s forest and prairie habitats. Chances of viewing wildlife are high, and over 270 different species of birds have been sighted and documented by the Seattle Audubon Society.
Discovery Park rests on the historical grounds of Fort Lawton, which was operated by the United States Army for most of the 20th century. In 1971, almost half of the 1,100 acres were deemed as surplus and later given back to the city, eventually becoming Seattle’s largest public park. Today, many of the buildings remain standing near the center of the park, which has been designated as the Fort Lawton Historic Area. This, along with the West Point Lighthouse at the convergence of the north and south beaches, are both on the National Register for Historic Places.
Note: Car access to the beach area is restricted, and required permits can be obtained from the visitor center.