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Seattle's Top 10 : Discovery Park

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Occupying the northwestern edge of the Magnolia headland north of Elliott Bay, Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest and most varied in-city escape. Even though the US Army’s Fort Lawton sold surplus base territory to the city, Army Reserves still use a portion of the park for training and officers’ quarters. At 534 acres, the park consists of densely wooded rainforests crisscrossed with trails, high bluffs of eroding sand at the edge of a huge meadow, and 2 miles (3 km) of driftwood laden beaches on Puget Sound, providing a real sense of wildness.

Discovery Park

  • 3801 W Government Way

  • 206 386 4236

  • 4am– 11:30pm daily; Visitors’ center; 8:30am–5pm Tue-Sun

  • www.discoverypark.org

Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

  • 206 285 4425


Sharing the Land

In many ways, land use at Discovery Park represents the harmo­nious balance between natural conservation and urban development, and a co-existence of US military and Native American tribes. In 1970, a group of protesters led by activist Bernie Whitebear staged an invasion and occupation of the still active military base, in part to establish a cultural land foundation for urban Indians. After an exhausting three months for both sides, and many arrests, Whitebear’s group acquired a 99-year lease for 20 acres of parkland.


Plan an itinerary in advance based on the amount of time you have to spare. There are no concessions in the park, so bring snacks or a picnic lunch.


Stay off the sandy, constantly eroding bluffs. Rangers periodically relocate the Bluff Trail to prevent accidents.




Top 10 Sights
  1. Bluff Trail

    The trail leads from the South Gate along a meadow’s edge to the majestic overlook with breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

  2. Military Residences

    The park is dotted with clusters of abandoned and still-in-use army base housing, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most are off limits to visitors, but you can get a closer look at them near the former parade grounds.

  3. Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

    Operated by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, the center houses a collection of Native American art. There’s an arts and crafts gallery, traditional salmon bakes, and an annual summer pow wow celebration on the grounds of Discovery Park.

  4. West Point Lighthouse

    As picturesque as can be, the lighthouse shines light through the fog from its perch on a narrow spit of land jutting out into the water. Feel free to stroll up to and around the automated sentinel, even though it’s not open for touring.

  5. Beach Walks at Low Tide

    Seattleites escaping the hustle and bustle of the city come to walk along the waterfront parks around the Sound. The beach at Discovery Park is a preferred spot for those in the know.

  6. Loop Trail

    Stroll along the trail that brings you through the varied terrain of Discovery Park. Explore the easy route to find overgrown rainforest ravines, flowering meadowlands, creeks, thickets, streams, sand dunes, and blackberry brambles galore.

  7. Eagle Watching

    Occasionally, bald eagles nest in the highest treetops in Discovery Park, home to more than 250 species of birds and other wildlife. You may find park volunteers surrounded by eager bird-watchers with binoculars. Chances are, they have sighted a nest.

  8. Playgrounds

    For an outing with children, head for the small playground behind park head­quarters at the East entrance. Or, ask for one of only five parking passes available for families with young children so you can drive directly down to the alluring shore of Discovery Park.

  9. West Point Treatment Plant

    An extraordinary reminder of the city outside, this facility is so exquisitely landscaped to be almost invisible from hiking trails. This ultra­modern wastewater treatment plant is as en­­vironmentally conscious as technology allows.

  10. Go Fly a Kite

    The hilly field between the main bluffs and a radar ball behind barbed wire makes for some of the best kite flying in town, as updrafts from the sea seem almost constant throughout the year.

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