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Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Cycling Routes, King County, Urban Rides | 0 comments

Chief Sealth Trail: Beacon Hill Beckons

Chief Sealth Trail

Riding northwest on the trail, with “The Mountain,” aka Mt. Rainier, in the background.

You don’t need to leave Seattle to get a great view of Mount Rainier from a bike trail. Look no further than the Chief Sealth Trail atop Beacon Hill in Southeast Seattle. It’s a great route for spying the big mountain on a clear day, and the trail gets you close to a couple of the city’s wonderful parks.

Set your wheels on the pavement by Jefferson Park Golf Course on Beacon Ave. S., a mile and a half south of the I-90 and I-5 interchange at the edge of downtown Seattle. Ride the broad, tree-lined street for a half-mile to the trail’s start at S. Dawson St. It’s easy to find: just look overhead for the massive electrical power lines.

The 3.6 mile trail was built on City Light right-of-way with fill from the Sound Transit light-rail system excavation, so you ride beneath and between two rows of the massive girder structures nearly the entire route. Imagine your own 1950s sci-fi film (“The Steel Men Battle The Mountain!”) as you pedal the curves and grassy hills beneath the behemoths.

On clear days, Mount Rainier rises majestically beyond the towers and cables.

The two-mile north section of the trail is less hilly and more secluded. At S. Othello St., that section ends, and riders must jog a half-block east, then cross Othello into the New Holly housing development. (As a side-trip, if you continued east on Othello, you would reach Seward Park Ave. S. in one mile; go left there and follow the signs to Seward Park in one more mile. Reverse that route to return to the trail.)

To find the 1.6-mile south trail segment, cross Othello at the four-way stop at Holly Park Drive S., and continue on Holly Park. Turn right at 39th Ave. S. and rejoin the trail in 0.4 mile. It comes out briefly next to Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. alongside the Thistle P-Patch. Turn left at S. Henderson St. to cross MLK, then rejoin the trail on the south side of Henderson in one-half block.

Chief Sealth ends at 51st Ave. S. and S. Gazelle St., tantalizingly close to the botanical wonderland called Kubota Garden, a verdant, Japanese-inspired, 4.3-acre public garden. It is an exercise in calmness to walk its graveled paths or sit on the large stones beside its streams or ponds.

To reach the garden from the end of the Chief Sealth Trail, turn right onto 51st and ride 0.5 mile to a left turn onto S. Creston St. Take Creston two blocks to 55th Ave. S., then turn left again and ride 0.3 mile downhill to the garden’s entrance. To return, rather than tackle the steep climb on 55th, exit the garden onto Renton Ave. S., turn left and ride north 0.5 mile to 51st Ave. S. Turn left onto 51st and climb the medium-challenge grade back to Gazelle in 0.4 mile.

The trail ride and visit to Kubota Garden comprise a 10-mile trip with many short hill climbs — a couple of which are quite steep. Lengthen your tour with a side trip and a picnic; shop the Asian markets at the intersection of Columbian Way and Beacon Avenue as you start your ride. Extend the ride significantly with a side trip to Seward Park or a ride along Lake Washington Boulevard north from Seward. Any combination of routes will offer a pleasant visit to the neighborhoods of South Seattle.

Directions :

  • Take I-5 to the Columbian Way exit, turn left at the first light on Spokane St., take second right on Beacon Avenue S. and travel one-quarter mile to parking.


  • Location: Southeast Seattle
  • Distance: 9.2 miles
  • Terrain: Rolling hills
  • Surface: Paved trail, city streets
  • Riding Time: Allow 1.5 hours
  • Best Time to Ride: When the Mountain is out!


Editor’s note: This article first appeared on

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