Discovery Park encompasses 534 acres within the neighborhood of Magnolia and has 12 miles of trails. While it;s hard to go wrong choosing a trail, The North Beach and South Beach trails are a great way to explore the park. It obviously features a trail along the beach where you will likely encounter wildlife like blue heron, ducks and seals, but includes a forested section and passes by the West Point Lighthouse.
From the Discovery Park North Parking Lot, follow Texas Way road west towards the Puget Sound and take a right onto the Loop Trail. Shortly after getting onto the Loop Trail, continue to your right to merge into the North Beach Trail. Proceed down the hill and follow the North Beach Trail along the water and past the West Point Lighthouse until it merges into the South Beach Trail. If time permits, walk along the beach before following the South Beach trail into the Loop Trail. From this junction, there are a number of different ways you can make your way back to the North Parking lot, including following the Loop Trail into Texas Way, which will drop back at the parking lot.
Discovery Park was calling my name when a break in the dreary Seattle weather lined up with a little extra time during my lunch break. I landed on the North Beach trail at Discovery Park - as I had only hiked once before and that was at least ten years ago. I quickly consulted a map and decided on the North Parking lot as my starting point.
Upon exiting the car and figuring out what trail to take to the North Beach Trail, I noticed some signage for the Wolf Tree Nature area. There were a number of different trails going through the area, but it looked straightforward to connect a couple together to take me West towards the North Beach trail. I started walking on the Wolf Tree Trail and guessed which direction to head at a coupe of intersections, knowing the trail sections were short and they would all take me to the same general area - a series of ponds. I then made my way to Texas Way road and continued on the road until reaching the Loop Trail.
After a short walk on the Loop Trail, I took a right onto a trail that connected into the North Beach Trail, and began the descent down towards the water. On my way down I noticed a large group of birds that were gathered on some bushes, and they appeared to be eating the leaves, or possibly eating insects that were on the leaves? They didn’t seem to mind me passing by so close, and I tried to snap a photo, but it was difficult as they were busy fluttering between the different branches of the bushes.
I eventually reached the water’s edge and across the Puget Sound I could make out snow on the upper part of the Olympic Mountains. While the clouds hadn’t abated like I had hoped, at least it wasn’t raining. While walking along the North Beach trail, I spotted something moving in the water a couple hundred yards offshore and am pretty sure it was a seal, as it appeared fairly large. A short distance later I saw a large number of ducks in the water.
Walking along the trail, I smelled a mild and unpleasant odor - was it the waste treatment plant, the stagnant water along the trail or was I smelling a non-existent odor because I knew the waste treatment plant was there? Not sure, but it didn’t matter as I left the trail and walked along the beach until I reached the lighthouse, passing by a blue heron along the way.
Reaching the West Point Lighthouse, I noticed a group of people with telephoto cameras and spotting scopes surveying the Puget Sound. I tried to eavesdrop on their conversation to figure out what they were looking for, but couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, and I couldn’t see anything moving in the water.
The sun started to come out as I was walking along Fort Lawton Beach, and I decided to walk to the end of the beach before making my way up to the South Beach Trail. Near the end of the beach was a cool cave in the side of the bluff.
I headed back along the beach, and then took a short trail up to Discovery Boulevard Road and then got on the South Beach Trail and stopped a couple of times when there was a break in the trees to take in the view of the Puget Sound.
I merged onto the Loop Trail, and chose one of the many paths meandering through the open meadow, eventually passing through the Capehart Forest. By this point, the hike had taken longer than I planned for, so I upped the pace and briskly walked back on Texas Way to Loop Trail to Kansas Ave and finally to the car.
Although a little longer than I planned, it was a great hike. Fort Lawton Breach is a cool place, and one I plan on spending more time at. Not being able to drive there keeps the people to a minimum, at least on weekdays outside of summer. The North Beach trail is okay, it does provide some nice views of the Sound, but it’s not a trail I will be rushing to do again - can’t put my finger on why that is...