Elliott Bay Trail--The Scenic North

* Introduction * Wheels in the Garden * Wheels Outside the Garden *

The Elliott Bay Trail is comprised of three sections: the downtown section, the waterfront, and the scenic north. This page focuses on the scenic north. Scenic is in the eye of the beholder of this industrialized area, although tiny Smith Cove Park actually is quite beautiful. But we did enjoy the narrow confines of ten-foot barbed wire topped chainlink fences, less than three feet apart in places; the expansive working rail yards; and all the industrial equipment busy going from here to there. Maybe most exciting was the flyover connecting a spiraling ramp with a multi-level zig zag descent to Elliott Avenue. Even this industrial section is gradually getting a transfusion of art, including the architecture of the spiral ramp and flyover themselves, a nautical rope and concrete bas relief, and a few pieces of metal sculpture. And to be fair, Smith Cove Park lies at the end of this trail. It is right on the saltwater and looks out over the Sound, the Olympics, and the cruise ships if they are in port.

(The middle Waterfront section follows the shoreline in a park setting for a few miles, with an interesting side trip to the double helix pedestrian bridge, and ending at the Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Garden. The southern Downtown section, with several street crossings, travels under the Alaska Way viaduct (while it still stands) and opposite the commercial piers of downtown Seattle, all the way to the sports stadia. Seattle's newest feature, the giant 200 foot high ferris wheel, is on pier 54.)


The best place to start the Elliott Bay Trail is Smith Cove Park. It offers free parking, a water fountain, and a restroom across the street. There is also a large marina building next door.

However, finding the trail from the park is challenging. There are no signs.

To reach the trail from the park, ride down the parking lot and under the bridge. Straight ahead is a large yard full of equipment. Going through the middle of it is a street, though it doesn't look like one. At the far end, the chain link fences converge, and there is your opening to the Elliott Bay Trail.

To establish your perspective, remember that you must make a large U around this storage yard, north of the Magnolia Bridge.

We eventually gave up, repacked the car, and drove over the bridge to Elliott Avenue and found a dubious parking at another entry point.

Riding back from there, we discovered the trailhead described above. No wonder we missed it.


"Honest, I thought the yellow lines meant this is a place to park."

"This isn't what I was expecting. Where is the bay?"

"Oh, 'TO Elliott Bay Trail.'"

Keep to the left, or you will enter the auto repair shop.

Five ramps take you up to the flyway,

which connects to an S-shaped vehicle bridge, complete with separated bike path,

Amtrak speeds under the bike trail to downtown King Street Station.

and a spiral down on the other side of the tracks.

Metal sculpture continues the theme of this trail section constructed of pipes.

Decision time.

Left, to the trail through linear waterfront parks, with views across the water to the Olympic Mountains, past the double helix bridge, ending at the Seattle Art Museum Outdoor Sculpture Park, or

Right, to the scenic north and Smith Cove Park.

You soon find yourself caged in by barbed wire topped chain link fence. One of the rare signs in the north gives an understated warning.

Another ramp appears,

evidently designed by a different artist.

At least it is wider here where me meet oncoming traffic.

Narrower still. There is not much room to spare between the rail yard and the warehouses.

We finally reach Smith Cove, take a break, and turn around.

Here is the trailhead we missed before.

There actually is a sign at this intersection (the red arrow on the pavement). I missed this one, too.

These are working railroad tracks. It is best to take them at a right angle. You don't want your wheels to go where the trains' do.

Back to new trail and the flyway,

and down the ramp.

Oh, good. The car is still there.

Doreen prepares to disembark.