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Top 10 Running Trails in Seattle

Map of top 10 places to run in Seattle.

Seattle is the largest city in Washington and is home to some of the best urban running in the state. To help you locate the most popular routes, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best places to run in the Seattle area. From beachfront coastal trails to vibrant urban neighborhoods, there’s a little something here for every type of runner!

1. Elliott Bay Trail

View of the Elliot Bay Trail with runners and cyclists.

The Elliott Bay Trail is the main waterfront trail along Puget Sound in Seattle. The route is a collection of trail segments that span about 7 miles, connecting Lumen Field and Smith Cove in Magnolia. The trail is very flat, and you can run the entire seven miles at once or break it up into smaller pieces for shorter runs spread out over a few days. As you run this trail, you’ll pass several landmarks, including the Pike Place Market waterfront viewpoint, Olympic Sculpture Park, and Myrtle Edwards Park.

Tips: From the Elliott Bay Trail, you can also use several connections to make your way downtown, including the Pike Street Hillclimb and the Lenora Street Bridge.

2. Discovery Park

Discovery Path next to the beach.

Discovery Park is the largest urban park in Seattle and one of the most beautiful. Situated on Magnolia bluff and overlooking Puget Sound, the park spans an impressive 534 acres and is home to 10 miles of gorgeous trails. The running routes here vary, some featuring wooden staircases with views of the water while others wind through more forested areas. Whether you run on the trails or enjoy a jog on the beach, Discovery Park is a tranquil place to exercise, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Tips: The main loop trail is very hilly and challenging, so prepare for a good workout! If that loop is too much for you, no worries! There are plenty of other trails to check out.

3. Green Lake Park

Green Lake Park in the fall with view of the lake.

Another top-rated park for urban running in Seattle is Green Lake Park. Just six miles north of downtown in the Green Lake neighborhood, this park features an inner loop (2.8 miles) and an outer loop (3.1 miles) surrounding a large glacial lake. The inner loop is often more crowded than the outer loop, but both are excellent running routes. The park is also a natural preserve for hundreds of species of plants and animals, ideal for nature-loving runners! If you like to cross-train, Green Lake Park also has soccer, baseball, and softball fields, tennis and basketball courts, swimming beaches, and wading pools.

Tips: You can also extend your run into the Woodland Park trail network, located at the south end of Green Lake.

4. Washington Park Arboretum

A runner on the pier at the Washington Park Arboretum.

The Washington Park Arboretum across from the University of Washington is a breathtaking place to go for a run. Located on the shores of Lake Washington, the arboretum is a dynamic 230-acre living collection of plants. Visitors can enjoy miles of trails that weave through the gorgeous trees and the famous Azalea Way, a 0.75-mile route through the heart of the arboretum that features azaleas, flowering cherries, dogwoods, magnolias set against a deep green backdrop of evergreen and conifer trees. When it’s all said and done, an out and back run at the Washington Park Arboretum is about two miles, and it’s one of the prettiest runs you’ll find in the city!

Tips: This location is perfect for running in the spring when many plants bloom. For a longer run, you can also incorporate a loop around the nearby University of Washington campus.

5. Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park during the day with runners, walkers and cyclists on the path.

Lincoln Park is a park in West Seattle, just north of the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal. It offers 4.6 miles of walking paths, recreational fields, and an outdoor heated saltwater swimming pool. Many of the trails wind through the woods, encircle fields, and follow the coast. Some are paved and others are gravel or natural surfaces. The routes are gentle, making them ideal for runners of all skill levels and anyone who enjoys the natural scenery and sounds of the nearby Puget Sound.

Tips: None of the trails here are very long, but you can refer to this trail map to create a longer route by connecting several of them.

6. Burke-Gilman Trail

Burke-Gilman Trail during the fall with leaves on the trail.

The Burke-Gilman Trail is popular among runners in the Seattle area, boasting 27 miles from Ballard to Bothell. Although the route is heavily populated with bikers, skaters, and other pedestrians, it’s a fantastic trail for long-distance runners! If you start your run at Puget Sound, you’ll run through a park beside the Fremont Canal and find yourself at Lake Union. You’ll also pass the University of Washington and the U District, Matthews Beach Park (the city’s largest freshwater swimming beach), and many lakeside homes and parks along the trail until its end in Blyth Park. 

Tips: From Blyth Park, you can take a bus back to Ballard or arrange for someone to pick you up.

7. Seward Park

Seward Park during the fall at dusk.

Seward Park is home to 300 acres of beautiful forests and a scenic 2.4-mile running and biking path that encircles the park’s perimeter. The park offers gorgeous views of Lake Washington, and on some very clear days, you can even see Mt. Rainier. A native plant garden, art studio, beachfront areas, and several boat launch options are also available here, so after your run, you can stick around and enjoy the area.

Tips: Seward Park also connects to Lake Washington Boulevard, making extending your run along the lake easy if you need more mileage.

8. Saltwater State Park

The curved path at Saltwater State Park.

Saltwater State Park features 137 acres that rest on a stretch of shoreline between Tacoma and Seattle. It’s home to cool, shady trails for running and hiking that you just can’t beat. The Saltwater State Park Loop is a well-maintained 1.5-mile trail through the woods that features some steep areas but is perfect for beginner trail runners. This is a popular place for outdoor recreation, so you won’t have the trails to yourself, but it’s unlikely to be overly crowded. To enter the park, you’ll need a Discover Pass. A day-use pass costs $10.

Tips: Saltwater State Park also has 35 standard campsites and an artificial underwater reef for diving! 

9. Capitol Hill Neighborhood

A night aerial view of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

If you’re looking for a residential area to run in the Seattle area, the Capitol Hill neighborhood is one of the best. Situated between Cal Anderson Park and Volunteer Park, most of the streets in this area have great sidewalks, and it’s a spirited and active community full of shops, lovely homes, and calf-busting hills. If you want to check out some fantastic homes while you run, head over to Millionaire’s Row, south of Volunteer Park along 14th Avenue E. Or, if the hills are what you’re after, check out some of the following roads with 18 to 21% grades:

  • E. Roy Street between 25th and 26th Avenues E. (21% grade)
  • E. Boston Street between Harvard Avenue E. and Broadway E. (19% grade)
  • E. Highland Drive between 24th and 25th Avenues E. (18% grade)

Whether you want a short, leisurely run through the neighborhood or you’re after those hills, the Capitol Hill area will not disappoint!

Tips: After your run, there are plenty of nearby places to refuel with food or coffee, including Victrola Coffee and Art, Aviv Hummus Bar, Caffe Ladro, and more.

10. Alki Beach Coastal Trail

Path of the Alki Beach Coastal Trail with benches facing the water.

The Alki Beach Coastal Trail is located in West Seattle and offers gorgeous views of Puget Sound, the Olympic mountains, and the Seattle skyline. Offering 4.4 miles of trail, the coastal route is incredibly scenic and enjoyable, weaving past the old Luna Park dock and the Seattle State of Liberty plaza. You can also run on the beach, but we don’t recommend it. The sand tends to be very soft, so running on it can be challenging. However, the beach is an excellent option for a cooldown walk post-run.

Tips: From the Alki Beach Coastal Trail’s east end, you can easily access the Duwamish Trail and West Seattle Bridge Trail. Or, you can get to the Schmitz Preserve Park trails from the west end.

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References:

  1. https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/elliott-bay-trail
  2. https://www.seattle.gov/parks/find/parks/discovery-park
  3. https://greatruns.com/seattle-discovery-park/
  4. https://botanicgardens.uw.edu/washington-park-arboretum/
  5. https://botanicgardens.uw.edu/washington-park-arboretum/gardens/azalea-way/ 
  6. https://www.seattle.gov/parks/find/parks/lincoln-park
  7. https://www.traillink.com/trail/burke-gilman-trail/
  8. https://www.seattle.gov/parks/find/parks/burke-gilman-trail
  9. https://www.seattle.gov/parks/find/parks/seward-park
  10. https://cosparkways-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/seward-map-4.22.21.pdf
  11. https://www.parks.wa.gov/578/Saltwater
  12. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/washington/saltwater-state-park
  13. https://greatruns.com/seattle-capitol-hill-neighborhood/ 
  14. https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/alki-trail 

Photo Sources:

  1. Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  2. Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  3. Shakespeare, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Seattle Parks, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Ron Clausen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  6. Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  7. Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  8. Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  9. Dllu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  10. Adbar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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