Grace Cole Nature Park, located a few miles north of Seattle in the community of Lake Forest Park, is a real gem. It occupies only 15 acres, but offers a close-up view of ponds and wetlands at the head of Brookside Creek, plus a half mile of trails that climb up 120 feet to loop over a forested hill. A separate section of the park to the southeast serves as a wildlife sanctuary, and currently has no trails.
Look for wildflowers here in the spring, and in October enjoy the fall colors. Often you will see waterfowl foraging in the wetlands. Squirrels are common on the forested slopes, and occasional sightings of larger fauna have been reported, even deer and coyotes. A variety of birds including woodpeckers and owls nest here.
From the small parking area, walk 200 feet north on the wide graveled shoulder of 30th Ave NE. The beginning of the boardwalk will be obvious on your left. You can read the informational signs and follow the boardwalk out across the wetlands for 400 feet or so to reach a viewing platform. Depending on the season, a few waterfowl may appear for you. Please don't offer them scraps of food. The wetlands already provide enough of their natural diet.
Brookside Creek, a former coho salmon stream, has its source here in the wetlands. The creek flows into other creeks that drain into Lake Washington, and signage indicates there are hopes the annual salmon run can be restored in the future.
When you are ready to explore the rest of the park, return to the parking area and head west on the graveled trail. Short side trails on the right offer views of Brookside Creek and nearby wetlands. About 500 feet from the parking area note a trail merging from the left. That will be your return route. A short way along, another tail branches off to the left. That trail provides a steep shortcut to the highest point of the hill. For a slightly longer, but more scenic route take the right branch instead.
Farther along, where the main trail switchbacks sharply to the left near a park bench, you will note a less-used trail that seems to continue on to the right. If you like, you can explore it for 100 yards or so. It once led out to NE 168th St, but erosion has cut a deep, steep-sided ravine across that trail, and the route now has warning signs posted on both sides of the ravine proclaiming "Keep Out Unstable Area," so it would be prudent to turn around and return to the main trail.
As you continue, your route is bordered by a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. At the highest point, a short side trail leads left to a sitting bench. (Note the steep, shortcut trail arriving at the high point from below.) Continue right on the main trail and begin your descent back to the trailhead. Be alert for more wildflowers on the way. In spring, you may be treated to the sight of a piece of blue eggshell on the trail, indicating a new generation of songbirds is being raised nearby. And it's likely you will hear a lot of birdsong during your visit here.
The park was created through efforts of the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation, and other concerned citizens, beginning in 1998. For a history of the preservation efforts, and some photos, explore the links on the Foundation's website at www.lfpsf.org. The park was dedicated in October 2006, and is named for the late Grace Cole, a former state legislator and community activist, also remembered as host of a TV cooking show and author of a newspaper column on food.
WTA Pro Tip: A convenient map of the park and its trails is offered by the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation. Check their website at: www.lfpsf.org/ColeNaturePark/
To find the map, note the links below the photo and click on Maps to display a small map. Click the small map to display a larger one or, better yet, click the link below the small map to download a large, print-quality version. Once you have the map, you can refer to it and chose your hiking route
Grace Cole Nature Park
- 0.5 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 120 feet
- Highest Point
- 360 feet
Hiking Grace Cole Nature Park
Grace Cole Nature Park
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 47.7492, -122.2964 Open in Google Maps