Top 20 Seattle attractions

Discovery Park Seattle

free admission
Discovery Park Seattle

Discovery Park is Seattle's largest park, with stunning forests and trails, leading to a lighthouse and beaches.

Discovery Park is an easy 15 minute drive from downtown Seattle, in the affluent neighborhood of Magnolia. 

This suburban park has a network of well maintained trails that command spectacular views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. On-leash dogs are permitted on the trails, but not on the beach.

The highlight of Discovery Park is a visit to the sandy beach at West Point Lighthouse.  Collect bits of interesting driftwood, sink your feet in the sand, and breath in the bracing sea air.  

Discovery Park also includes the historic Fort Lawton area.  Fort Lawton's 19th century military buildings have been carefully restored and many are now private residences.  Walk past the elegant buildings along the public roads, and admire their perfectly manicured gardens. 

The Discovery Park Visitor Center is along Discovery Park Boulevard, Seattle, WA 98199, near the intersection of 36th Avenue West.

10 best things to do at Discovery Park

1. Hike some of the 2.8 mile Loop Trail.

The 2.8 mile Loop Trail winds around Discovery Park, through terrain like forests, meadows, and a bluff with sweeping views of Puget Sound.  All three parking lots feed into the Loop Trail. Start at the Visitor Center at the East Parking Lot if you need a map (Discovery Park Boulevard, Seattle, WA 98199, near the intersection of 36th Avenue West).

Bird sightings are common along the Loop Trail, including Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, and Arctic Snowy Owls. There are over 250 species of birds in the park.

Hike all or some of the Loop Trail.

These are West facing views of the majestic Olympic Mountains, from the South Meadow.

This active sandhill is north of the South Meadow.   On a clear day you can see Mt Rainier to the South, and ferries gliding across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island.  The sandhill is a fun place for kids to play. 

2. The Loop Trail doesn't go down to beach level, so follow the signs for a 0.5 mile detour down to the beach.

3. Visit the stunning West Point Lighthouse.

The West Point Lighthouse is a 1.5 mile hike from any of the three parking lots at Discovery Park.  Parking passes are available at the Visitor Center for people with mobility issues.  These are for families with kids under 6, adults over 62, and anyone with a disability. However, parking passes are not available on summer weekends when a shuttle operates between the Visitor Center and West Point Lighthouse.

The West Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1881, and is still an active navigational aid.  It sits on a sandy spit that juts out into Puget Sound.  An octagonal lantern room sits above the 21-foot structure. Back in the day, the light signal flashed red and white, every 10 seconds.

The oil house at the rear of the Lighthouse was built in the 1890's, and has a corrugated roof.  The fog signal building was added in 1906, constructed from brick and stucco, and attached to the original 1881 tower. The air horns installed in 1944 are still visible on the roof.  Today's mariners key into a certain radio frequency to activate the horns.

It's hard to imagine just how isolated this West Point Lighthouse was without roads.  The earliest Lighthouse Keepers had to row 7-miles across the bay to get to downtown Seattle.

These are the cap-cod style Lighthouse Keeper's Quarters, not open to the public.

4. Explore the historic district at Fort Lawton.

The historic district at Fort Lawton, is just steps away from the South Parking Lot.  The roads and buildings were constructed in 1898.  Fort Lawton was then opened in 1899, as part of a naval defense system to protect Puget Sound. 

Some of the original buildings still remain. See the row of magnificent Officer's Quarters atop the bluff, now privately owned.  There's also a historic guard house, stables, gymnasium and administrative building around the Parade Ground.

Fort Lawton served as an embarkation station during WWII, for soldiers deployed to war.  Over a million soldiers passed through here.  Nearly 450 buildings were constructed to house these soldiers, most of them now demolished.  There were also 1,150 German POWs interned here, and 5,000 Italian POWs passed through on their way to Hawaii.  Fort Lawton again served as an embarkation station in the 1950s during the Korean War. 

Another fascinating part of Fort Lawton's history is that radar guided Nike anti-aircraft missiles, were held here during the 1950s.  This is photo of the Blue Room at Fort Lawton, where missile strikes were coordinated.

Fort Lawton became underutilized over the years, and was eventually sold to the City of Seattle in the 1970s, to become Discovery Park.  The park was named after Captain George Vancouver's ship, HMS Discovery.  He was the first European to sail into Puget Sound in 1792.

5.  Stop by the Discovery Park Visitor Center.

Stop by the Visitor Center at the East Parking Lot to obtain a park map with hiking trails (closed Mondays).  You can also learn about nature programs, and the popular tide pool exploration programs.

6.  Cycle along miles of 5 miiles of scenic paved trails.

Cycle along 5 miles of paved biking trails at Discovery Park (icycles are permitted on paved areas only).  

7. Take your kids to play in the sand dune on the bluff at the South Meadow.

8. Visit the amazing Discovery Park Playground.

The amazing Discovery Park Playground is near the East Parking Lot.  This nature-inspired playground was opened in 2017, with ziplines, slides, climbing structures and towers.  The playground is surrounded by beautiful evergreens in a gorgeous, shaded setting.  It's perfect for kids of all ages.

9. Sign your kids up for a Tide Pool exploration program at the Visitor Center.

In summertime a shuttle can transport your family from the Visitor Center, down to the tidepools at the West Point Lighthouse beach.

10. Visit the beautiful Fort Lawton Military Cemetery, and find the gravesite of Italian prisoner of war Guglielmo Olivotto, who died here during the 1944 riots.

Parking lots at Discovery Park

  1. East Parking Lot with Visitor Center:  Discovery Park Boulevard, Seattle, WA 98199. Pick up a map at the Visitor Center (closed Mondays).
  2. South Parking Lot:  43rd Avenue West and W Emerson Street.  
  3. North Parking Lot:  Ilinois Avenue and Texas Way.

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