Emerald City Run

No…this is not the Wizard of Oz story, but another running log of a great run in a great city. The land of Curt Cobain, Starbucks, and the wettest city in the West. Seattle was the latest city that showed up on my work schedule, and as always, I packed the Asics, Garmin, and running gear to explore a new run.

As usual, I consulted the audience of twitterland, DailyMile, and MapMyRun.Com to see what was recommended in Seattle. I’ve had some cool runs (literally) in Bellevue before and for those not from (or have never been,) Seattle has gorgeous terrain with a mix of mountains (St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier fame,) ocean, and some serious trees from all that rain. You put a pencil outside and it will have moss on it within a week, but runners like their cool temps.

I owe a special shout out to twitter runner @wsearunner for providing an awesome list to pick from below which was tough to choose from, but settled on Alki beach. I’ve been to Seattle countless times and never saw a beach; plenty of hotels, restaurants, office buildings, coffee shops…”they have a beach in Seattle?” For some reason, I thought it was not really a beach city—kinda like San Francisco. I guess I fail geography.

Bellevue / Eastside
Like every metropolis there is some kind of divide in town - here it's "East Side" and "Seattle." Seattle is on the water so we the sea level option. Bellevue is suburbia but as you get closer to the Cascade Mountains you hit more and better trail running.

Downtown Bellevue has little to offer but if you want to street run you can get out there. I'm guessing you're staying in the central business area. If you do want to run on the streets then I'd suggest the Marina area in Kirkland but there are better options in Seattle.

Most of what I run on the East Side is trails so I'm a little biased toward that medium.

1. Bridle Trails



I have honestly not run much here but for Bellevue / Kirkland this is a hidden forest in the middle of town about 3 miles from downtown Bellevue. There are lots of horses here but the trails are nice. Not terribly hilly or interesting otherwise.

2. Cougar Mountain


Probably the coolest place to run around the East Side - 36 miles of trails and plenty of up and down. Trailhead is 6-8 miles from downtown Bellevue. Lots of people out here on a nice day but with the route variations you can quickly get away from the crowds. Trails start wide and switch to single track further in.

3. Grand Ridge


By comparison, Grand Ridge has virtually no one on it and other than the feeder path to the trails it's all single track. This is a "get away from everyone and everything" kind of run. Ups and downs are a little steeper but runnable. Tiger Mountain is across I-90 and has much more traffic (and is brutally uphill) so I prefer this one. While you feel isolated it's also tucked under a big housing development so you are in civilization.

This one is 20 miles from downtown Bellevue to the East and a touch tricky to find.

4. Gene Coulon Park

This is in Renton but is along Lake Washington on the East Side. You're not going to get huge miles in down here but there are paths out to the streets along Lake Washington to the north. Parking is good here and there is an Ivar's fish house if you want to eat after the run (ok, there is a Kidd Valley burger but why would you want that when you can have Fish & Chips?). You get views of South Seattle, Mercer Island, and the Boeing Facility in Renton. The path is all asphalt until you get to the roads to the north.

Seattle Runs from Jeff @wsearunner

1. Alki Beach


North end of West Seattle, this stretches 3-4 miles from the West Seattle Bridge on the east to 63rd on the west. I run here often (usually on a long run) and it's flat and has an asphalt multi-use path (I compare this to the Marina in San Francisco) so you will see plenty of runners, roller bladers, cyclists along with walkers, skaters, and kite flyers! BEST VIEWS of the Seattle downtown from across the bay here as well as great views of the Olympic Mountains and all the Sound traffic (ferries, port traffic) which I much prefer to the jet skis of Lake Washington. This is what you'd imagine - it's flat and allows you to mindlessly gawk at the scenery (on shore and off :-)). Plenty of restaurants and pubs along the path for post-run fueling (I partook of the Irish Pub after the marathon last year).

You can also run as far as you like south on Beach Drive if you want to venture around the point - I live all the way south in West Seattle so this is what I do. You're sidewalk running here but it's open views to the Sound in many places and you're surrounded by houses with open views to the Sound otherwise which isn't so bad.

2. Lincoln Park


This is where I run the most mainly because it's closest to my house. Actually that's not true - it's a great park with probably 8 miles of paths. There is an upper part of the park which is trail / forest running. Not too up and down. The lower section is along the water. There are feeder paths between the two and they are steep - I do hill repeats there. Lower path is asphalt, gravel, and limited single track. The lower area has open views to the Sound, Olympics, inner San Juan Island as well as the Kitsap Peninsula.

North end of the park hooks up with Beach Drive so you can run north as far as you like as well.

3. Seward Park, Lake Washington Drive


Best lake running by far. Seward has a 2.4 mile asphalt path (some gravel single track) around the peninsula with open views to Lake Washington, Mercer Island, and Mt. Rainier to the south if it's a nice day. Can be crowded with some bike traffic but usually not too bad. Parking can kind of suck but you can park up Lake Washington drive in some of the auxiliary lots. The RnR route comes by Seward Park and runs all the way up Lake Washington Drive to I-90. The Seattle Marathon runs down Lake Wash, around Seward and back up all the way to the Arboretum so as you can imagine there is a lot of marathon training that happens here.

Lake Washington drive runs about 3-4 miles up to I-90 and there is a runner's path fully along this distance. Open views to Lake Washington the full way, beautiful houses on the left. Not much bike traffic - they are in the streets as the road is unofficially a cycling road (they do shut it down to cars on the weekends). Not bad for views but a little flat and meandering.

4. Discovery Park


Great park - I run here often. It's a bit remote out in the Magnolia hood but it's a great location. Once you're out on the Sound you are high and have expansive views to the west. Main trail is 2.5-ish miles but you can hit various spurs to lengthen that. You are really "in a forest" when you run here especially on the NW quadrant. There are paths to take you down to the beach - pretty up and down. Temple of the Dog filmed their video for Hunger Strike here. The path around is all dirt and wide - some single track on the spur routes.
5. Green Lake


Total outdoor hotspot - if you are 20 and active you run at Green Lake. Path is 2.8 miles around - asphalt with gravel single track most of the way around. There is an outside path along the road but I don't find it as appealing - may as well run on a sidewalk. Green Lake is crowded - runners, LOTS of walkers, bikes, roller blades, you name it. Lots of folks (was about to say kids) play their rec league stuff here. Lots of options post-run for food, coffee, etc.

Thanks again for the great route info from Jeff...you can catch his blog at;


I finished the day with a great meal at the stone bar at the Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in downtown Seattle which featured a great wine list, bar menu, and Seattle friendly service. I now have a number of other good options above to test out next time I’m in the Emerald City.


  1. When I was in College years ago at the University of Washington, the Burke-Gilman trail to Ballard or up to Lake Forest Park, but the trail went far beyond that, most of it was paved back then (early 90's). Not sure if it's just gone out of fashion with runners in the know, but as far as paved multi-use trails, I always enjoyed it. Recently, I've heard it was extended in Ballard and some other places.

    Once at Cougar Mountain, some friends reported seeing a nice man out for a trail run in nothing but a hip pack.

    Green lake was often overly crowded on sunny days, but is still a nice place to get out.

  2. Alki and Lincoln Park: my two favorites. I have a 20 mile route from Alki to L Park and around. I've done this route for years and never get tired of it.


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