The Washington Park Arboretum Trail is a fascinating mixture of water, wildlife and urbanism all wrapped into a short hike along and across Lake Washington. The din of traffic crossing the 520 bridge never abates, but you will quickly forget you are next to a major highway and instead focus your attention on the plethora of water fowl and sweeping views of Lake Washington.
The trail consists of a number of elevated walkways, and not so elevated bark paths through the wetlands, taking you to the aptly named Marsh Island and then onto Foster Island. There are also side trails which lead to a number of viewpoints along the water (although you will have plenty of views along the main trail). Beware,the bark paths can be very soggy, and certain parts of the trail may be underwater after heavy rain. The Seattle Parks and Recreation are planning on making improvements to the trail, including stabilizing the float walkways.
This gives a whole new meaning to a waterfront trail - you walk over the water on platforms and through a wetland like area with water directly on both sides of the trail. The only downside is the constant hum of traffic on the 520 bridge. But that minor distraction is worth it to enjoy sweeping views of Lake Washington. This is definitely one of my favorite Seattle hikes.
I was able to find a spot in the very small parking lot on East Park Drive. The start of this hike certainly is not inspiring. While the parking lot and immediate area around it have been nicely landscaped, there is on-going work from the construction of the now not so new 520 bridge, or maybe it’s the destruction of the old 520 bridge. But a couple hundred yards later, you venture onto the Arboretum Waterfront Trail and are greeted with a cool raised platform to carry you across Lake Washington to the somewhat solid ground of Marsh Island.
Marsh Island had a couple of very short side trails to either side. Head right to view the new 520 bridge, and head left to get a great view of Lake Washington and Husky stadium. The trail itself was in good shape, it looked as if wood chips had been placed recently. I can imagine this could be a very wet trail, as there is water on both slides and the trail itself just a hair higher than the actual waterline.
There were a number of decrepit benches along the trail. Apparently Seattle Parks is trying to fund trail maintenance. It's not hard to imagine that this trail takes a significant amount of work to maintain given the number of raised platforms that are subjected to the elements.
After Marsh Island, it was back onto the elevated platforms and over to Foster Island. I was surprised by how few people I saw. It was a weekday, but the weather was nice. Maybe the limited parking keeps the hordes away? There were more elevated walkways along Foster Island, seemingly arranged in a haphazard array rather than straight like the previous ones. I walked out to Forster Point and soaked in the views of Lake Washington, and then started the trek back.
On the walk back along the trail, I went to my right and found a viewing platform. It was a little tricky getting onto the stairs leading up to the platform as the water had encroached on the trail.
I noticed all throughout the walk there were wooden signs with numbers. I’m guessing there is a companion guide that provides information for each sign, but I didn’t see any indication of how to get it. There must have been at least 20 signs.
A great hike through the marsh and wetlands of Lake Washington and a couple of islands. Lots of waterfowl, including ducks, geese and various other birds.