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Chief Sealth Trail

Updated: November 29, 2007

Chief Sealth Trail Grand opening!

On May 12, 2007 , the City of Seattle celebrated the grand opening of the Chief Sealth Trail. The dedication ceremony was held in the NewHolly neighborhood. The NewHolly Neighborhood Campus joined Mayor Nickels, City officials, community members, businesses and project staff in celebrating the opening of the trail for public use.

The grand opening event included speeches from representatives of the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle City Light, Seattle Parks and recreation, local bicycle clubs, Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony students from the Beacon Hill Elementary Unicycle Club performed and four children’s bicycles - complete with helmets - were raffled off. Healthy snacks for all topped off the effort to promote healthy living and exercise.








Information About Chief Sealth Trail

The Chief Sealth Trail is a new multi-purpose trail in Southeast Seattle. It is the city’s newest addition to the regional trail system. The Chief Sealth Trail provides new connections to the future Mountains-to-Sound Greenway trail extension on Beacon Hill and Sound Transit light rail stations along Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The new trail is one of five regional trails that cross the city, connecting to schools, businesses, and residents while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. Future trail extensions (not yet funded) include a connection to downtown Seattle and to the City limits in the south.



Chief Sealth Trail is the newest addition to the Regional Trail System

For years, SDOT has heard requests for this trail from southeast Seattle neighborhoods as part of the planning for the City's non-motorized transportation and neighborhood plans, and light rail on MLK. In early 2004, RCI/Herzog offered to build the trail as a method of recycling excavated soils and concrete from the Link Light Rail project along MLK. The City welcomed this innovative construction approach as it resulted in a major savings of taxpayer dollars and it provides the City with a new trail within a reduced timeframe—at least two years earlier than was originally envisioned. Over the summer of 2004, SDOT worked hard to design and acquire all required permits for the trail and with Sound Transit, completed the environmental analysis. In May 2007, RCI/Herzog and SDOT completed the trail along the Seattle City Light right of way.



Chief Sealth Trail Earns Three Awards

The public-private collaboration received awards for implementing sustainable principles and regional visions.

  • Puget Sound Regional Council’s 2006 Vision 2020 Award. One of ten projects recognized that successfully helped to implement Vision 2020, the region’s comprehensive growth, economic, and transportation strategy.

  • American Planning Association and Planning Association of Washington’s 2006 Joint Award for Sustainability. Recognition of a project that applies sustainability principles by weaving together goals, policies, efficient use/reuse of resources, implementing smart growth initiatives and economic and environmental stewardship.

  • Puget Sound Regional Council’s Destination 2030 Award. Recognition of projects that meet the Destination 2030 Metropolitan Transportation Plan goals to create more travel choices, including bicycle and pedestrian travel, while preserving environmental quality and open space.


    Using the Chief Sealth Trail Safely

    The Chief Sealth Trail is a non-motorized multi-use trail for walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, and joggers. To ensure the safety of all trail users please keep the following rules in mind:

    All users of trails

    • Show courtesy to other trail users at all times.
    • Use the right side of the trail except when otherwise designated.
    • Always pass on the left.
    • Respect the rights of adjacent property owners.
    • Keep dogs on leash (maximum length 8 feet) and remove pet feces.


    • Municipal Code 11.44.120, County Code and State Code. You are responsible for the safe operation of your bicycle under City, County, and State Codes.
    • Yield to pedestrians.
    • Give audible warning when passing pedestrians or other bicyclists.
    • Ride at a safe speed. Slow down and form a single file in congested areas, when visibility is reduced, and other hazardous conditions.


    • Stay to the right side of the trail except when otherwise designated.
    • Watch for other trail users.
    • Be especially alert when running.
    • Listen for audible signals and allow faster trail users (runners and bicyclists) to pass safely.
    • See selected provisions of the Seattle traffic code for more information.

    For more information about the Seattle Bicycle & Pedestrian Program, call (206) 684-7583 or visit

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What makes the Chief Sealth Trail unique?

    • It was built almost entirely from recycled materials, such as recycled soil and crushed concrete from the Link Light Rail Project in Rainier Valley.
    • Runs along the City Light utilities corridor in Southeast Seattle, rather than an abandoned railroad bed.
    • Connects Beacon Hill with Rainier Valley.
    • Future extensions (not currently funded) will include trail connections north to Downtown Seattle, and south to the city limits.

    What’s new with Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan?

    In June 2006, SDOT’s Bicycle Program kicked off the planning process for the recently released Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan. The plan’s primary objectives are to increase bicycle use and to enhance bicycle safety. The planning process included analyzing opportunities to improve on-road bicycling conditions, expanding the urban trails network, developing a wayfinding system, establishing facility design guidelines, and creating a trail maintenance and funding plan. For more information on Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan visit:

    How will the Chief Sealth Trail be maintained?

    The City of Seattle will mow the grass along the trail similar to how the city maintained the area before the trail construction. To minimize long-term maintenance, construction crews seeded the area along the trail to maintain stability and control erosion. Drainage swales (shallow ditches) were added that maintain the flow within the existing drainage patterns that connect to the city stormwater system.

    What about access to Seattle City Light’s utility corridor?

    The construction of the trail has increased access along the entire corridor for maintenance and operation of Seattle City Light's towers and transmission lines. Construction was designed to include placement of crushed rock pads at the base of the towers to allow access for City Light’s heavy maintenance vehicles. This is especially important in the event of a major power outage or other emergency.

    How does the trail look?

    Great! The appearance of the trail varies in different neighborhoods along the 3.6 mile right-of-way. In general, the pathway curves between gently sloped and seeded hills and mounds. The asphalt paved trail is 10 feet wide, with a two foot gravel shoulder on each side. The completed trail includes pedestrian and bicycle signage and markings to clarify the multi-use trail purpose. No motorized vehicles (except City maintenance ones) are permitted within the corridor.

    Since the trail is within the City Light corridor, there is limited flexibility in landscaping or other beautification options. Seattle City Light must maintain easy access to their power facilities for maintenance, repairs, and emergency access. This, combined with ease of landscape maintenance objectives, prevents planting large or medium sized vegetation. The new portions of the trail were seeded with low-growing grass and groundcover.

    The excavated soils that were recycled from the light rail construction site have been used to build the trail and to create landscaping mounds along the trail corridor. To build the trail itself, the contractor used clean soils from excavated street trenches and crushed concrete crushed from excavated city streets. This means that virtually the entire trail is built with recycled materials. The height of the mounds varies at different locations. In addition to the trail meandering around and in between these mounds, much of the corridor itself is located on the hillside of Beacon Hill. This affords the design of the trail to provide a variety of grades for various levels of interest and ability. Chief Sealth Trail winds through the right of way corridor offering good transitions between hills and at-street crossings.

    Stay in touch and learn more

    For further information about this or other Seattle trails, please contact the SDOT Walk and Bike team at (206) 684-7583 or


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