520 Feet in West Seattle

by Hannah Love

The highest point in Seattle is in West Seattle in the High Point neighborhood. It is at 520 feet of elevation. This is a walk from sea level at Lincoln Park to that high point, crossing through two additional special West Seattle parks. I took this walk with my wife Julie while wearing my I Walk WA shirt. It was an overcast day but warm for Seattle in April. I would like to acknowledge that this whole walk uses the unceded ancestral lands of the Duwamish Tribe. 2.5 miles, 520 feet (approx.) elevation gain one way. This walk begins at the south parking lot of Lincoln Park in West Seattle (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW).

Considering the current transit situation and the closure of the parking lots at Lincoln Park, this walk is best if you can walk to the park. In easier times, the C Line runs to Lincoln Park (get off at Barton, at the Ferry, and walk slightly north).

It ends at Myrtle Street Reservoir in High Point (3600 SW Myrtle St). You can retrace your steps to return to the park or find another route. Some suggestions are included at the end. I did it as a triangle from my house to Lincoln Park, up to High Point (the course of this walk), and back home.

Lincoln Park: The Beach
We’re actually starting at 14 feet of elevation, not 0. But who’s counting?

Lincoln Park is a West Seattle gem with rocky waterfront on the sound, forest on the bluff, and play areas. This day the park was populated but not crowded. The Olympics peeked out above the clouds to the west, beyond islands and the Kitsap Peninsula. Restrooms and water are usually available at Lincoln Park.

To follow:

Lincoln Park: The Forest
+146 feet up to 160 feet of elevation.

We took the last path up the bluff, wondering what we got ourselves into as we huffed up steps and switchbacks. Lincoln Park is home to many birds, including eagles and owls. We saw an eagle in a snag. There’s never-ending restoration work in Lincoln Park by tireless volunteers encouraging native plants. I always have my eye out for edible plants (for humans and chickens) and was tickled to see two prickly edibles – nettles and cleavers – hanging out together.

To follow:

  • When you can see the bollards at the end of the path, look to the right for an established trail up the hill. Here’s where we start climbing to the highest point in Seattle!
  • Keep to the left when you can, staying in the park until you get to 47th Ave SW.

We made our way across a short block to Solstice Park . We noted a porta potty and water fountain by the tennis courts in Solstice Park.

To follow:

  • Exit Lincoln Park at the corner of 47th Ave SW and SW Fontanelle.
  • Turn right on 47th and walk to the end. Cross 47th at the stop sign and cross Fauntleroy using the pedestrian light.
  • Walk into Solstice Park on the south side of the tennis courts and walk alongside the courts toward the Pea Patch.
Solstice Park
+107 feet up to 267 feet of elevation.

We paused in the pea patch to admire the healthy plants producing healthy food, and then resumed climbing through a grassy area to the feature that the park is named for. At the top, we turned  around see how far we’d come from the water (and get another partial view of the Olympics). We gazed at the astronomical markers. At the solstices and equinoxes, sunset will line up with these markers (assuming we will be able to see the sun that day).

To follow:

  • Just keep walking through Solstice Park, uphill, bearing left to take the stairs to exit the park at 44th Ave SW.
Getting to Orchard Park Ravine
+153 feet up to 420 feet of elevation

We said goodbye to Solstice Park and dodged a few streets over to quiet, shady Orchard. It is a good thing this street is extremely pleasant, because it is part of the climb, too. We enjoyed the gardens and wildflowers. We stayed on the uphill side of the split and made our way to the fork that dead ends into the Orchard Street Ravine park.

To follow:

  • Exit Solstice Park and turn left on 44th. This street has no sidewalks and visibility is not good. It doesn’t get much traffic, luckily.
  • Cross Othello and turn right.
  • Cross California and turn left (downhill).
  • Turn right on Orchard. Sidewalks are intermittent on Orchard, but the street is quiet.
  • The street splits – take either fork.
  • Pass 39th and keep going up.
  • At the next left, at the trio of dead ends, watch for the sign for Orchard Street Ravine.
Orchard Park Ravine
+32 feet up to 452 feet of elevation

Right by the sign for the ravine park we saw the largest wild rabbit I’ve ever witnessed in Seattle. It was not worried about us. We worried a bit about the tangle of trails, but needn’t have. The park is tiny – it’s impossible to go very wrong. As we turned the corner to see another set of stairs, an offended Anna’s hummingbird and two welcoming towhees waited for us. The towhees’ company distracted us from the stairs.

To follow:

  • Enter the ravine park.
  • You are immediately faced with two sets of junctions. Stay left at the first and straight at the second.
  • Take the stairs you come to and emerge at 38th.
Getting to Myrtle Street Reservoir
+68 feet up to 520 feet of elevation

We emerged onto 38th and paused at Myrtle to admire the view and how far we’d come. We noted a rare no-power-line view! When we turned around, we could the see the water towers. Very close now. We walked to the towers and paused between them to enjoy the view. This spot between the towers is actually higher than our destination, but we are not splitting hairs.

To follow:

  • When Myrtle ends, follow 36th right and then turn left on Myrtle to pass to the south of the water towers.
  • Turn left on 35th and then take the next left into the park. Take the first right to walk to the hilltop park.
Highest Point in West Seattle
A group of concrete markers lists the heights of various hills in Seattle, proving that we really were above the rest of the city. We squinted at the hazy city and enjoyed our accomplishment.
Options for Return
We walked back home, but if you want to do this walk you have options:

  • You can retrace your steps to get back to Lincoln Park.
  • You can go back via Orchard Street, but then go slightly farther south on California and experience the famous Thistle Stairs at Thistle & California to get back to Lincoln Park.
  • You can head north along 35th to Morgan and then catch the 128 bus back toward the Alaska Junction (and the C line, if you want to get back to Lincoln Park).
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