Hike through a pastoral area first settled and farmed in the 1880s. Along the way, enjoy a dense grove of cedars, followed by close-up views of blueberry fields that still produce an annual crop. Circle Larsen Lake, and view a restored pioneer home. Optionally, extend your hike to view nearby Phantom Lake.
Because the park includes some side trails and route options, it will be helpful to refer to a trail map. A map is displayed on the bulletin board at the trailhead, but it's even better to have one in hand. You can check at the Ranger Station one block west, or can download a map from parkstrails.myparksandrecreation.com/Details.aspx?pid=467 (Click the link for "Detailed map of Lake Hills Greenbelt Trails," not the link for "Map/Directions.")
Find the trailhead at the east end of the main parking lot and follow the signs toward Larsen Lake. The initial surroundings may seem somewhat swampy and weedy, with a lot of blackberry bushes and some invasive bind weed. But things get better! You will come to a grove of cedars. It's rather dark, and is the only part of your hike that will feel like real forest. Beyond the forest, the route returns to more open country and soon passes a Little League playfield.
Beyond the playfield, cross Lake Hills Blvd at the crosswalk (there is no stop light, and traffic moves quickly.) Soon, you will be passing rows of neatly planted blueberry bushes. The land here is leased for farming, and it still produces an annual crop of berries. In about 0.1 mile from Lake Hills Blvd, note a trail arriving from the west and signed "148th Ave SE." That will be your return route after you circle Larsen Lake.
For now, continue on another 0.1 mile or so, then turn left on the trail that heads west. (If, instead, you were to continue on straight ahead you would come to one of Bellevue's ubiquitous shopping malls. The mall trailhead is rather unglamorous, approached along a high mesh fence with a view of the back and side of a Walmart store. But hey! If you want to liven up your hike with a bit of shopping, or get a coffee, the mall does offer some options.)
Once you have turned left, continue on west about 0.1 mile and take the short side trail to the left that leads out to a viewing platform that offers a fine view across Larsen Lake. Pause and enjoy it for a while. Then return to the main trail and continue west another 0.1 mile where the ongoing trail bends around toward the south. Continue on south to the obvious parking area next to two buildings.
One building is the Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm produce stand. The other is a genuine pioneer home, originally built near Phantom Lake by Henry Thode, and relocated here and restored to ensure its preservation. Note the carefully hewn joints of the main timbers. Sign boards here offer interesting commentary about the early days of settlement, beginning in the 1880s when this part of Bellevue was mostly a wilderness.
The south side of the Thode home now sports public restrooms that are open seasonally from May through September. The adjoining parking area is available for those who prefer to begin their hike at this corner of the park, or who just want to hike around Larsen Lake.
Your ongoing trail heads back east, skirting additional blueberry fields, and it rejoins your incoming route at the junction noted above. Turn right at the junction and return to the main parking lot to complete your hike.
EXTENDING YOUR HIKE
From the parking lot, Lake Hills Greenbelt extends another half-mile to the southeast, and that section of the park offers one of the best publically accessible views of Phantom Lake. The round trip adds about 0.6 miles to your hike, and if your time and energy permit you really shouldn't miss it.
At the intersection of SE 16th St and 156th Ave SE, cross both streets on the crosswalks and head south on the wide asphalt path that parallels 156th Ave SE. In about a quarter mile, take the side trail downhill to the left. Along the way, an interesting sign board tells how the lake levels have changed over time, in part due to excavations done in the 1890s by Henry Thode, whose relocated home you hiked past earlier.
As you approach the lake, the trail forks. The right fork leads to a picnic table that offers only a minimal view across the lake, obscured by offshore cattails. But the left fork leads to a viewing platform that stretches out into Phantom Lake and offers a panoramic view around the lake. Stay a while and take it all in. Then head back toward 156th Ave SE, where you will find a restroom, some picnic tables and a small 10-car parking area. From there, return back north the way you came to reach the main parking lot.