Monday, February 20

Postcards from Seattle (guest post)

Even in cities I've visited often, I haven't run every local trail. So, I've enlisted help from resident experts in the running travel guides series.
(PS - don't forget to enter the February giveaway)

Today, we're headed to the Pacific Northwest, where Alma (The Average Woman's Running Blog) will be our tour guide. Drop by her blog and say hi! In the meantime, here's where she would take us on a running tour of her hometown:

Coming to the Emerald City for business or pleasure? Looking for a local’s view of the city via sneaker? I’ve got three great, flat options for you, my friend:
  1. Downtown waterfront via Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park – Great for people staying downtown without a car.
  2. Lake Washington waterfront – Popular running route great for sunrise runs.
  3. West Seattle / Alki Beach – Stunning cityscape and Olympic Mountain views.
Downtown Waterfront
Honestly, running downtown sucks. It can be stinky and stressful unless you’re running early in the morning before traffic picks up. Plus, you are constantly stopping and starting at each block waiting for lights to turn (yes, we obey walk signs here). The good thing is that this is easy to escape. From where ever you are, just head west until you reach the waterfront (Alaskan Way). Cross over to the “water side,” start running north, then you will have miles of uninterrupted path to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Elliot Bay and downtown Seattle.

Our entire waterfront is a tourist area with restaurants, charter boats, public ferries, Seattle Aquarium, parks, shipping boats, etc. You can check out all these sights as you run north along Alaskan Way. At the same time, you can see beyond the bay to Bainbridge Island and the Olympic Peninsula, with the snow-covered Olympic Mountains in the distance.
Olympic Mountains and Elliot Bay (view from Myrtle Edwards Park)
If it’s summer, you will likely see the Alaska-bound cruise ships. At the end of Alaskan Way, the sidewalk leads you right into our Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park. Off to your right, check out our Calder exhibit, with the Space Needle in the background. For the next several miles, you will have no built structures between you and the water! Just paved and wood chip path, sculptures, bicyclists, other pedestrians, and sometimes a seal or two.
On the way back into town, the view changes as you look to the south. 
Seattle skyline and Elliot Bay
This is where you see our city skyline up ahead and the Port of Seattle and mouth of the Duwamish River, filled with shipping containers from Asia. On a clear day, you’ll even see beloved Mt. Rainier.
Mount Rainier, Duwamish River, Port of Seattle
The path leads north to the neighborhood of Magnolia, which offers a brutal hill climb and stunning views. This run can be anywhere from 3 to 20+ miles, depending on how far north you are willing to venture.
Run this at the end of the day to enjoy the sunset. Bring some $ and stop in at Anthony’s Fish Cafe for a local microbrew to finish out the sunset then walk back to your hotel. If you’re a morning tourist, then run back via Pike Place market (take the Hillclimb across from the Aquarium to get there) and stop at Three Sisters Bakery for coffee and treats.

Lake Washington Waterfront
If you have access to a car and are running in the early morning, head over to Lake Washington to enjoy sunrise over the water and views of the Cascade Mountain range. If you’re visiting in summer, this is a great run to do the evenings as well. Pack a picnic dinner and go for a swim to cool off. I recommend starting at one of three public parks on the lake, each of which will provide water, toilets, swimming beaches, showers, and nearby coffee/beer stops: Madison Park, Leschi Marina, Seward Park.

If you start in Seattle’s upscale Madison Park, you will be near the Highway 520 floating bridge.
Madison Park, with view of Hwy 520 floating bridge and Cascade Mountains
From the beach, head south along the lake, hugging the water as much as you can. There are times when you must jog inland a couple blocks but if you keep to the east, you will make your way back to the water. The homes here are beautiful and this is where you will see many other runners out enjoying the views. On this route, you will have the chance to stop at little parks for pit stops, as needed.
Lake Washington path
About 3 miles down the road, you will come to neighborhood of Leschi. This is also a great place to start, and allows you to run either north or south along the lake. This section is included in the Seattle Half/Full marathon route (Thanksgiving weekend) and is a good place for spectators (i.e. Starbucks = hot beverages & toilets).
Rowing on the lake, just north of Seward Park
Another 4.5 miles down the road is Seward Park. This is my personal favorite. Seward Park consists of a large, wooded peninsula that juts out into the lake with a 2.4 mile paved trail around the perimeter. From this trail, you get views up and down the lake, including views of Mt. Baker to the north, Mercer Island and the Cascade Mountains to the east, and Mt. Rainier to the south. Also, between Seward Park and the I-90 bridge (about 3 miles), the waterfront is completely open – no houses. So, you can enjoy unobstructed views of the water. On Sunday mornings, this stretch of road is closed to vehicles to allow bicyclists to ride unmolested, so watch out for large packs of speeding bikers!
Trail along Lake Washington, < 1 mile north of Seward Park
Total distance between Madison and Seward Parks is about 7.5 miles, so many distance options here, especially when you throw in the 2.4-mile loop around Seward Park.

West Seattle / Alki Beach
For a more unique view of Seattle, jump on the West Seattle Bridge and take the exit to SW Admiral Way, following the road north, up and around the peninsula. This is a great out & back course along the waterfront for varying mileage and wonderful views. I recommend starting near the Statue of Liberty / Bath House so you can have access to toilets and plenty of coffee shops and food/pubs for post-run refreshments. There are two great runs from this starting point: north around the peninsula to Lincoln Park (7 miles RT), or south along the water to the water taxi (4 miles RT).

If you pick the northern route, you’ll get views of Bainbridge and Vashon Islands, as well as the Olympic Peninsula. Head north from the Statue of Liberty along the water, and just follow the water the entire route. In < 0.5 mile, you’ll get into a residential area and the road will bend south. Enjoy the smell of salt water, fresh breezes, and views of the Vashon Island/Southworth ferry as you follow the waterfront.
View from Lincoln Park
This route has some mild hills and takes you past some interesting homes. Eventually the road will turn into what looks like a private driveway (check out the large wood carving of the fisherman!). Continue down this road and you will suddenly find yourself at the north end of Lincoln Park. This gorgeous park includes a waterfront path stretching about 1 mile, ending at the West Seattle ferry dock.  The views of the Olympic Mountains from this park are the best in town. Once you reach the end of the trail, you can turn around and head back or detour up into the wooded portion of the park for some trail running before heading back into town.
If you pick the southern route, you’ll have views of Elliot Bay, the Bainbridge Island and Bremerton ferries, and the Seattle skyline. Head south from the Statue of Liberty along the boardwalk and simply follow the boardwalk the entire way.
Alki Blvd Boardwalk
Be mindful of roller bladers and cyclists! You will see swimming beaches (sometimes with seal pups), all kinds of work and pleasure boats, water birds, and seals. The view of downtown Seattle from this angle is just perfect, beaten only by the view you get from the Bainbridge/Bremerton ferries as you’re coming in to dock. The water taxi stop (runs between here and downtown) is a great turn-around point, giving you a little over 4 miles round trip and offers toilets and water. If you take a few minutes to stretch here, you’ll notice this is a popular spot for divers, kayakers, and paddle boarders.
View of Seattle skyline from Alki Beach

Other resources 
If those three routes don't keep you busy enough, or if you are looking for a social running event, check out Fleet Feet Running (Capital Hill), Sound Sports (downtown), or Super Jock & Jill for regular group runs and information about local clubs. The best resource for information on local races is at the Seattle Runs website.

If you are looking for more ideas, contact the Average Woman Runner and I’ll be happy to help you find additional routes.

Happy running!


  1. Makes me want to go for a run!

  2. Great pics, Alma! I love Alma and I love Seattle.

  3. Can I "like" that comment above? :)

  4. So fun! This is a great post. Alki is my home base, I do about 90% of my runs along Alki Trail. I also find it a safer (and still beautiful!) choice at night because it is very well lit along the route from the bathhouse up around the tip of the peninsula and Alki Trail is off of the street and there are usually still lots of other people out. It probably doesn't matter that much, but technically if you want to stay along the point towards the water taxi from the bathhouse, you head northeast and if you want to head towards Linoln Park you head southwest.


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