Hike a network of forest trails in this large park in the southwestern corner of Seattle. Douglas-fir, redcedar, maples, madrone - they are all here in abundance, some of them quite large.
Westcrest Park is Seattle's seventh largest park, and in addition to hiking trails it offers a community garden P-Patch, a large off-leash dog park (even a separate area for small/shy dogs,) plus a playground, sports fields, and a viewpoint looking north toward Seattle's downtown skyline and, on a clear day, Mount Baker.
A bulletin board just north of the main (South) parking area offers a trail map. Also, you can check the Google street map and, if you use GPS, the Northwest Topo map. From any of these sources it will be clear that there is a large network of intersecting trails in the forested section of the park. The maps differ somewhat in details, and you should not expect precision.
A few trails are well-signed, others less so or not at all. And you might find some existing signs confusing. Try to stick to official trails, whether signed or not, and avoid minor social trails.
You can, of course, explore on your own. Or, if you prefer a more structured approach, the routes suggested below will get you to the most interesting areas.
As an opener, here's an easy half-mile loop. Begin at the SE corner of the South parking area, where a signpost directs you east toward the West Duwamish Greenbelt Trail (referred to below as the WD Trail) and the Douglas Fir Trail.
Head slightly downhill on the obvious trail. In about 350 ft, the signed WD Trail enters your trail from the left and, in another 100 feet, it leaves your trail on the right. Take that right turn onto the WD Trail. In about 200 feet, come to a signed Y and head left on the Douglas Fir Trail.
The Douglas Fir Trail offers an enjoyable meander through a section of mixed forest. Yes, there are some large Douglas firs here, but there are other trees too, including some very large madrones. Occasional side trails lead out to nearby streets. Just stay on the Douglas Fir Trail as it eventually meanders back and rejoins the WD Trail. Turn sharply right and follow the WD Trail back to reconnect with your incoming route, and then head back toward your trailhead.
Now, for something more challenging. The north-bound WD Trail leads into an area with a maze of intersecting trails, not all signed. But they will never take you far from the parking area, the dog park or a neighborhood street so there is no danger. You might as well go for it.
It may help to print the following section, or display it on your phone if that is an option. And note that, in the following description, distances are approximate. This ongoing part of your hike will add about 1.5 mi to your round trip.
From your incoming trail, head north on the WD Trail for about 200 ft and turn right at a sign post that, from your direction, will seem to have no information on it.
- In 150 feet, at a junction, head left toward a low fence.
- In 200 feet, bear right on a trail that has fences on both sides.
- In 100 feet, head left toward a distant gate, one of several that offers access to the dog park.
- Immediately before you reach that gate turn right and head downhill, parallel to the fence.
- Continue about 200 feet and, when the trail levels out, turn left and head down a set of concrete stairs. Then continue on downhill.
- In about 300 feet, when a narrow trail merges from the right, stay left on the wider trail.
- In 400 feet, continue straight across a gritty former service road, now very eroded.
- In 75 feet go right at a fork, and in another 100 ft go left along a low fence.
In 800 ft the fence ends at a V, where another trail merges from the right. Remember this point, but for now continue on straight ahead. In summer, look for an exuberant growth of fireweed along the ongoing trail.
At the next trail junction, go right to a gate that leads out to the street at the corner of SW Cloverdale St and 4th Ave SW. Just note this as an alternative trailhead for a future hike (you could park two blocks west, near the dog park.) Now, backtrack to that point you remember where the two trails merge and the fences come to a V. Take the left fork here, and in 350 feet, turn left at a Y and head downhill on a few gentle switchbacks. Notice that the forest here is almost all maples, unlike the mixed forest of the earlier part of your hike.
In 300 feet, go left at a T junction, and in another 300 feet pass under a power line. In just a few more feet, approach the edge of a steep ravine that has a very small pond at its upper end. The trail ends here. Ongoing routes are best left for wildlife, and are not suitable for hikers. Just turn around here and return to your trailhead.
Of course your hike is not just about route finding. Take time to appreciate the diversity of the forest you hike through, and be alert for birds. Pileated woodpeckers, other woodpeckers, jays, crows and smaller birds are likely to be heard, and often seen.
In season, look for wildflowers. Early bloomers include trilliums and buttercups. Later you will see avens. In late summer look for asters, Oregon grape, salal, and tall pink penstemons. Fireweed blooms in the more open areas. And it's likely you will see other flowers.
Footnote: So you're back at the trailhead and would like to hike farther today? Well, OK. You could explore some of the many other forest trails. Or, if you appreciate the openness of the rest of Westcrest Park, you could follow the paved trails north to the large green open area that covers the reservoir. Hike all the way around it and enjoy the distant views of the city, and beyond. Perhaps even see Glacier Peak in the distance if the day is clear.
And note, at three different locations around the green area, the pole-mounted metal sculptures that always point into the wind and seem to represent small aircraft (or perhaps strange birds or large insects.) This park has much to offer.