With more than 20,000 plants from around the world, miles of hiking trails, and access to Lake Washington, Washington Park Arboretum offers a unique experience in Seattle — for free! It’s often described as a “hidden gem,” but I encourage you to not let it be hidden anymore.

Washington Park Arboretum is maintained by the University of Washington and the City of Seattle. As described on the arboretum’s website, “its 230 acres are a dynamic assortment of plants found nowhere else.” A simple stroll through Washington Park Arboretum will lead you past Japanese maples, hybrid rhododendrons, viburnums, and much, much more.

Washington Park Arboretum
Washington Park Arboretum

NOTE: Washington Park Arboretum is actually split into two sections, although you’d never know the difference walking around. The southern section is the arboretum, while the northern section is the Center for Urban Horticulture (which features demonstration gardens and natural areas). Both provide “excellent opportunities for exercise and exploration,” according to the arboretum’s website.

There are numerous trails meandering through the arboretum, but the most popular is Azalea Way. It’s a .75-mile path that stretches from the Graham Visitor Center to the Japanese Garden (or vice versa). There are several intersecting paths along the way that will take you to different areas of the arboretum, which means new plants to check out. Click here for a Washington Park Arboretum trail map.

Washington Park Arboretum | Azalea Way

NOTE: One of my favorite strolls at the arboretum is the Arboretum Waterfront Trail. The .5-mile (one way) hike takes you through the largest remaining wetlands in Seattle, and it literally takes you over Lake Washington with a series of floating trails. You don’t want to miss this!

You can also experience Washington Park Arboretum by kayak and/or canoe. Bring your own boat and take off from one of several launch points throughout the park, or rent a canoe or kayak nearby. There are two different rental locations that I know of: Agua Verde Paddle Club & Cafe (kayaks) or the University of Washington Outdoor Activities Center (canoes and rowboats). There are several fun waterways that take you through the arboretum, into Duck Bay and Union Bay, and around Marsh Island and Foster Island. I highly recommend this to anyone and everyone on a nice day in Seattle.

Washington Park Arboretum Kayaking

Washington Park Arboretum is also great for viewing wildlife, especially if you’re into birds. I’ve seen several bald eagles, plenty of waterfowl, and I’ve even spotted a beaver dam and several turtles bathing in the sun at the arboretum. The list of potential creatures goes on and on. There are also a few spots to go fishing at the arboretum.

Washington Park Arboretum truly offers a unique experience in Seattle. You can find interesting plants, cool wildlife, and fun adventures all in one place. If you haven’t been there yet, you’re missing out. Here’s my advice: head to the arboretum on the next sunny day in Seattle. Bring a picnic, go for a hike, or paddle around the lake. It’s all at your fingertips.

Wood Duck

Have you ever visited Washington Park Arboretum? What was your favorite experience? We’d love to hear all about it! Leave a message below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more cool places to experience in the Emerald City.


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