Carkeek Park Loop

Carkeek Park Loop

Elev. Gain: 
250 ft.
High: 
275 ft.
Where:
Seattle, WA
Distance: 
1.95 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: 
Easy
Rating: 
2
One of the best urban hikes in Seattle, but, like we said, it's urban.
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Features

Overview

Carkeek Park is one of Seattle's finest beachfront parks. Surprisingly though, many locals don't even know where it is. Perhaps the name isn't as intriguing as Golden Gardens or Discovery Park, but acre for acre, we think Carkeek has the most going on. Consider the 220 acres of lush forest right up against the Puget Sound, several miles of running and walking trails, two large play fields, a fully stocked playground for kids, active wetlands, and a nice sandy beach with magnificent views on a clear day. Hard to beat.

Combining several trails in the north and south sections of the park makes for a nice two-mile loop with 250' of elevation gain (total gain and loss is closer to 450'). Before you begin your hike, stop by the info station (next to the bridge that crosses over the BNSF Railway tracks) and pick up a park trail map. There are many trails that crisscross in the park, and it's nice to know where they all go.

For our loop, start at the North Bluff trail near the fire pit and begin climbing up through recovering forest to several viewpoints that overlook Puget Sound. At about 0.25 mile, take a right at an unmarked intersection and head down several steps to a signed junction. Go left at this junction to Grand Fir trail. When Grand Fir hits the road, stay left and join the North Traverse as it parallels the road and drops down to the main entrance road and Piper's Creek at 1.0 mile.

Cross the entrance road and head east along the Metro Plant building to a signed intersection at 1.10 miles. Head right here and continue on the South Ridge trail for 0.5 miles, hugging the southern edge of the park. Reach a highpoint of 275' at the South Bluff overlook (rest on the bench if needed) and then begin your descent down several long staircases to a grassy field at 1.75 miles. Follow the fence north along the railroad tracks back to the bridge and info station at the parking lot at 1.95 miles.

From here it's your call: head to the beach for some views, enjoy the expansive playground, or press on for many more miles of exploration in the park.

Permits & Tips

Park hours are 6am–10pm. No parking passes required, but there's only 75 parking spaces in the park. Restrooms located near the north play field. Foot traffic only on park trails. Dogs allowed on leash. If timing allows, it's quite a rush to stand on the bridge while a train passes beneath. For those who like to trail run, there is a yearly "ultra" race in the park called the Carkeek 12 Hour. Held on Halloween weekend every year, it's billed as the world's scariest race. Don't say we didn't warn you. 

>>Google Directions

How to get there

From I-5, take the Northgate Way exit (173) and head west.
Continue on Northgate Way as it becomes NW 105th Street.
Turn right onto Greenwood Ave N.
Turn left onto NW 110th St (look for the crosswalk lights above the street).
After 6 blocks, NW 110th Street becomes NW Carkeek Park Rd
NW Carkeek Park Rd. winds down into the valley for 1/2 mile to the park entrance.