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Elliott Bay offers trail users the opportunity to enjoy art, history, and a wide variety of outdoor activities in a beautiful waterfront setting. Myrtle Edwards Park is adjacent to the Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum, and a public fishing pier, while Elliott Bay Marina and Smith Cove Park boast beautiful mountain views. Creative trail bridges facilitate access to city streets for recreation and commuting.
To reach the Terminal 91 Bike Path, park at Elliott Bay Marina, and head downhill past the parking lots to Smith Cove Park. Here, you'll be treated to bay views of the Ferris wheel and stadium, dwarfed by Mount Rainier. This is also the site of the once-active Northern Pacific coal bunker pier—a 2,500-foot trestle constructed in 1891—replaced in 1899 by Great Northern Railroad Piers 88 and 89. In 1921, the Port of Seattle built Piers 40 and 41 (later renumbered to 90 and 91), which—at 2,530 feet—were acknowledged to be the longest concrete piers in the world.
Signs direct you toward a fenced pathway and past 20th Avenue W., which leads to the Ballard Locks. Beside active BNSF Railway tracks, a steep overpass suggests walking your bike or sidestepping your skates down the very narrow descent. After crossing a set of tracks, you'll arrive at the civilized and scenic trail beside the West Galer Street parking area at 1.75 miles. (Park here to avoid the Terminal 91 section.)
Once in Myrtle Edwards Park, you'll pass a public fishing pier and a grain terminal. A grassy area with benches and landscape art separates pedestrian and wheeled paths. Beginner skaters can expect a bit of buckled pavement and a few curves. An impressive bridge rises above the park to a Puget Sound viewpoint before the trail exits by stairway to Elliott Avenue W. and by ramp to Third Avenue W., with a signed route to Seattle Center. The bayside rocks, benches, and grassy areas invite a break before you reach Olympic Sculpture Park.
Exit to the sidewalk or the trail on the east side of Alaskan Way to enjoy summer concerts, the Ferris wheel, an aquarium, Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, and the ferries. The Seattle waterfront redesign begins in 2016 and will include open space and nonmotorized pathways along the waterfront.
On-street parking can be found at the southern trail endpoint if you're willing to search a bit and walk or cycle to the park. Busing here with a bike and to other pedestrian/bike access points is common.
Three pedestrian/bike bridges access the western side of the trail from Elliott Avenue. Turn west off Elliott Avenue on Galer Street, and walk up steps to a separated roadside trail over the BNSF tracks. Steps and a sidewalk descend to the road and under the bridge to the well-signed trail sites. An additional pedestrian/bike bridge with an elevator crosses the tracks here, closer to the fishing pier, to land on W. Prospect Street at Elliott Avenue The third bridge, described above, crosses from the south end of Myrtle Edwards Park and reaches W. Thomas Street for pedestrians and Third Avenue W on a cyclist ramp.
To reach Elliott Bay Marina from Interstate 5, take Exit 167 (W. Mercer Street). Go 1.6 miles, and turn right onto Elliott Avenue W. At 0.6 mile, turn left onto W. Garfield Street (follow the Magnolia Bridge signs). Stay in the right lane, and take the first exit to the right (follow signs for the Cruise Terminal and Elliott Bay Marina). At the bottom of the ramp, turn left. Park at the street end sign. Only permit parking is allowed in the lots unless you are dining at a restaurant.
To reach the parking area across from Pier 90, follow the directions above to Elliott Avenue W., and turn right. In 0.4 mile, follow the exit only signs for Terminals 86–91 and the Magnolia Bridge. Once you turn right, immediately bear left; the bridge will carry you over Elliott Avenue. At the end of the bridge, turn right onto Alaskan Way, and then turn right onto W. Galer Street. Parking is available along the trail.
great walk into the city!
TRAILBEAR ON THE WATERFRONT – The Elliott Bay Trail
Short but scenic.
It’s hard to get up to speed on this trail (no pace lines, please) as there is a lot to see and a lot of peds, dogs, etc. to avoid. Color it a Family Fun outing. Take the kids. Relax and enjoy.
The pavement is blacktop, somewhat narrow but double tracked in places. The scenery ranges from the Interbay rail yards and the cruise ship terminal on the north end to the Olympic Sculpture Park on the south end with a lot of waterfront views in between.
TrailBear happened to be doing his survey on the day they were setting up for HempFest, so he was dodging a lot of interesting counter culture and stoner types. He was sniffing the air as he went along, but a day too soon he was.
Suggest you start in the north at Smith Cove Park because the parking down on the waterfront is “iffy.” It’s a tourist area; there is competition; they want money.
SMITH COVE PARK, N47.63173 W122.38669
Not much of a park, but there is free parking and a nice picnic area on the point with tables, views and water. No restrooms over on this end. There is more park uphill, but the chain link fence shuts you off. Try the marina offices under the restaurant at the Elliott Bay Marina, just down the road. Failing that, go up to Magnolia Park.
Head up the bike-walk or road to the Magnolia Bridge and…
CONFUSION CORNER, N47.63321 W122.38692
Here, below the Magnolia Bridge, the road turns right, but where is the trail? There are no trail signs over on this side of the trail. If TrailBear had not been had a Senior Moment and left his Google Earth trail map in the van, he would have known that it went under the bridge and between a sign for Northwest Harvest and a warehouse over yonder. He could have uploaded the TrailLink gps route, but where is the fun in that?
If you want to go that way, steer for the yellow ecology blocks, enter the parking lot beyond and follow the fence line. The trail runs along the base of the hill, around a vast collection of parking lots, turns east at the top of the school bus parking lot and then heads south alongside the Interbay rail yards.
TrailBear turned right instead and headed up the sidewalk onto the Magnolia Bridge. It is a sight. The underside of the bridge is festooned with steel clamps and trusses and beams and braces and such. One look at the bridge and you know you really do not want to be on, under or near this thing in a quake. Of course, the problem is knowing when the quake will arrive. TB has a dollar that says it will come down in a cloud of dust and rubble.
TB takes the sidewalk and makes his way to the far end at Elliott Ave. Head down Elliott for a block and you will find your first trail sign pointing the way to…
THE BIKE/PED OVERPASS, N47.63220 W122.37603
Up you go. They have hung this on the Galer St. Bridge. It will take you over the rail lines and deposit you (if you use the sidewalk, not the stairs) at the Terminal 91 Trail at Galer and 16th Ave. Here are some more trail signs.
Notice the rope work design on the walls of the overpass ramp. This is better looking art that some of the stuff over in the Olympic Sculpture Park. Head down the trail with a parking lot to the left and Pier 91 on the right. Ride on down to the point and continue on to Elliott Bay Park and the …
FISHING PIER, N47.62633 W122.37452
If you are not here to fish, the other feature at the pier is a restroom with water. This is the only restroom that the TrailBear found on the trail, so note the location. There may be others tucked in corners. If you find one, send TrailLink a note and update the map. From the fishing pier you have a good view of the grain terminal ahead. Note that the trail splits into a waterfront track and an inside track. Ahead is Myrtle Edwards Park and the …
THE POCKET BEACH, N47.61698 W122.35788
They created this beach out of a pile of rip rap and a failing seawall. The results are a nice little pocket beach and a great boardwalk with views over the Sound. Nice job. The sign explains how they did it. Ahead, at the end of the boardwalk is the trail end and …
THE FATHER AND SON FOUNTAIN, N47.61498 W122.35505
When Der Bear arrived at the end of the trail, here was this guy with no clothes, arms outstretched toward a large fountain of water. Little did he know that the son is hidden in the water. On the hour he will be revealed and dad will be hidden. This means that we have left Myrtle Edwards behind and entered the …
OLYMPIC SCULPTURE PARK, N47.61596 W122.35572
Here is a nine acre park straddling the rail line. You will need to explore the corners to find all the art. TB liked the Calder “Eagle.” He was not impressed by the grouping of the two washers and old record player. (It’s a joke, right?) He has seen this sort of thing done much better in front of many trailers in rural Washington, including some very vigorous folk art arrangements of tires and cars.
For a map and interactive tour of the park, check out this site…
Now you can retrace your ride up to Terminal 91. If you want a loop ride, go the opposite direction – along the rail yards or over the Magnolia Bridge.
If you want more, there is a bit of the Burke Gilman Trail from the locks to Golden Gardens to the north, along with the Ship Canal Path on the south bank and the rest of the Burke Gilman on the opposite shore. You could make a day’s outing with these three trails. Be sure to stop off in Fremont and have your picture taken with Vladimir Illich Ulyanov, o.k.a Lenin. It’s just three blocks up from the trail.
Improving his mind at the sculpture park
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