This complete loop is 22.5 miles long. There are several substantial hills, including the ascent back up to Volunteer Park and the section around Discovery Park. Look for a bike path at the southern end of Lake Union that eventually takes you under the Fremont Bridge. There are also designated bike lanes around most of Magnolia. Be extremely careful when crossing by and over the Ballard Bridge.
In 1903, landscape architect John Charles Olmsted proposed a 20-mile-long series of parks and parkways that stretched across Seattle from Seward Park to modern day Discovery Park. This route map covers the section in Magnolia, the crown jewel of Seattle’s Parks, Volunteer, and a spur road, Interlaken Park, which Olmsted adapted from an old bike route. It also follows historic bike routes around Lake Union and in Magnolia.
Numbers Below Correspond to Numbers on Map
1. The city acquired the land that became Volunteer Park in 1876 from James Colman for $2000. It began as the city cemetery and was originally known as Lake View Park, then City Park. Name changed in 1901 to honor volunteers of the Spanish-American War. The 106-step-ascent of the Water Tower offers good city views and a beautiful multi-panel display of text and historic photographs on the Olmsted family and their impact on Seattle and the rest of the country.
2. A new design plan for South Lake Union will transform the former naval site to a fine waterfront green space. It is also home to the Maritime Heritage Center. Boat rentals are available here. A bike trail extends north through parking lots along the west side of Lake Union. Follow it under the Fremont Bridge almost to Ballard Bridge.
3. In 1900, the Army named this property after Maj. Gen. Henry Ware Lawton, best known for involvement in capture of Geronimo, Lawton died in the Spanish-American War in 1899. Olmsted made extensive designs for the Army base. He believed it should remain a base and not converted to a park but that “the public should be permitted to visit the grounds in a quiet and decorous manner.”
4. Olmsted planned this parkway to run along an historic bike path. Two problems plagued bikers on this route, soldiers and cattle. The path was abandoned in 1903. Like many other bluffs in Seattle, this one occasionally slides away, most recently in the winter of 1996-1997, when five houses slumped into Puget Sound.
5. See Northeast Quadrant map for additional details on Gasworks Park. On September 19, 1896, 200 cyclists assembled to ride the first Lake Union path, part of a network of approximately 35 miles of interconnected bike paths and wagon roads adapted for biking. In 1898, there were 3,000 registered cyclists in the city.
For more information on biking and Olmsted in Seattle:
Bicycle Alliance - 224-9252
Cascade Bicycle Club - 522-3222
Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks www.seattle.gov/friendsofolmstedparks/
Seattle City Parks - 684-4075