Edmonds Kind of Play: Fun family hikes that allow for distancing

The treehouse at Southwest County Park. (Photo by Jennifer Marx)

A popular subject amongst the group text we have going for our hockey friends is where to hike/walk with the kids. (We also talk a bit about how the kids talk to each other mid-video game as it seems to be its own language.) At our house, we’re looking for a mix of trying to get the kids exercise/get them tired enough to go to bed, enough activity to feel better about all the screen time, and to try to make summer feel more like a summer-y.

Most recently, we have talked about Southwest County Park in Edmonds, Boeing Creek Park in Shoreline, and Discovery Park in Seattle. I would have said Yost Park, but I’m always talking about Yost Park as it is an integral part of my currently-paused Mom walk. While we’re at it, Yost Park is so great for so many reasons — it has easy parking in the lot or on Main Street, trails for different levels, all kinds of birds, shell creek, and my favorite part — the different noises the pathway makes depending on the season. On a Sunday morning in summer we are able to walk through with very little interaction with others; I am sure it is busier mid-day.

When we first added Yost to our weekly Mom walk we couldn’t believe we had gone so long without utilizing the park. My son had been to many a ranger camp day exploring the area that has salmon, owls, warblers (per a photographer we met,) and something that made such a scary noise, not a howl but also not a bark, one morning we turned around! When we finally went deeper into Southwest County Park in Edmonds, we had the same reaction: Why haven’t we spent more time here?!? I always thought that the park was just the trails south of the trailhead on Olympic View Drive with the main loop being about a mile long, but I was really wrong. After talking about it with friends and them taking a deep dive into the park, it turns out it is much, much more.

To make sure I got all of my info straight, I reached out to Snohomish County Parks and Recreation Communications Specialist Rose Smith. Smith told me that the 120 acre Park is the “largest single parcel of open space within the Edmonds city limits” and that the park is both the sections above and below Olympic View Drive. Once our friends started exploring it, they found a rope swing, a bike track, a “treehouse” and have seen pictures of a tire swing and a swing with a wooden seat. I asked Smith if she had the location of those items and she let me know that anything built in the park, aside from the plant identification signs done as part of an Eagle Scout project, was done by users therefore the items’ locations aren’t marked and that they are definitely “use at your own risk.”

Rappelling down the hill.

As my family’s resident risk assessor, I was comfortable with the rope swing, which you can find easily by taking the trails across the street from the trailhead, because it was just a bit over the creek. What happened next on that hike involved what only I consider rappelling down a hill and led me to refer to the north side of the park as the Wild West. After seeing my kids about as happy as I’d seen them in quarantine (the risk of injury always seems to do the trick), we decided to hike further in. If  you head up from the rope swing, you will need to utilize the ropes tied to the top tree to climb up to the top and reach the next rope, which you will need to get down (see rappelling comment) and then repeat to find yourself at the area that is used as bike trails, those of us from the ’80s might toss in the word BMX to that sentence, but I have a feeling that is not what the kids are saying. Look, I did it and it was very fun, but in my head it counts as a qualifying event for one of the strength competition shows we follow like Ultimate Beastmaster on Netflix. There are also ways around the “more challenging, steeper and rougher terrain” that we used, but the trail off Olympic View Drive down to the rope swing is still pretty steep, though no rope is required.

Climbing in South County Park.

This bike area is more easily accessed by trails off of 76th Avenue West, in a turnout just north of 180th Street Southwest and south of 178th Place. If you enter near the fire hydrant and go left, you can find the bike trails, if you enter and head to the right, you can find the “treehouse.” I use the quotes because it is more of a platform with stairs to it and some rusty metal, but you get to enter through a trap door-style hatch, which was a clear bonus for my kids. It was definitely worth the trip and easy to get to  on the trails, some of which Smith says are “old logging roads” but also worth remembering it wasn’t built by the parks department. We haven’t been there in about a week, but have gone on a weekend and midweek and the portion north of Olympic View Drive wasn’t too packed. AllTrails.com has some great pictures of the park, and for more information and a list of the many Snohomish County Parks you can visit SnohomishCountyWA.gov.

Boeing Creek Park on 17229 3rd Ave. N.W. in Shoreline is a new hike for us and we have been twice in the last week. We really enjoyed it both times and we were able to have two different experiences. The first was probably around 90 minutes including lunch and per my Fitbit it wasn’t too strenuous and then the second time was over an hour and 20 minutes of activity and we were there for probably two-and-a-half to three hours between lunch, duck watchings, and me having to stop on the uphill right after eating. The main loop is 1.5 miles and the area offers access to Shoreview Park, a dog park and adjacent bike trail area, and a lookout with a view of the sound.

Boeing Creek Park (Photos courtesy AllTrails.com)

Each time we’ve gone, on the observed 4th of July holiday and around lunch on a “regular” weekday, there have been day campers in the clearing where we sat to eat, but we were able to have a comfortable amount of space from other hikers on most of the trails. We decided to veer off the main loop and head to Hidden Lake, and this trail is definitely not for everyone. While I was able to do it OK, there was some root clutching needed to climb around the creek on the way to the lake on the north side. The part of the main loop trail that we used was kid-friendly and the children we saw from local day camps were on the younger side of elementary aged. The Hidden Lake trail was a bit tricker (see “root clutching”) but we saw a pair of young kids, who I would guess were 8 or 9, blow right past us. There is a lot of shade on the trails, which make for these amazing circles of leaf-filtered sunlight, and also enough cover that the rain we heard above wasn’t really getting us wet – again AllTrails.com has some great shots. While on the hike we saw some great birds — including (what we are pretty sure are) a Western Tanager, a Red-Tailed Hawk, and a cute bunch of ducks in the lake. For more information on the Boeing Creek Park, you can visit ShorelineWa.Gov.

Boeing Creek Park

I really love Discovery Park, 3801 Discovery Park Blvd., in Seattle, but we haven’t been in ages as it is an investment with the drive time and hike length. We made the miscalculation to head down there on a Sunday without checking ahead that the parking lots were closed. We decided we would head into the park and if it was crowded we would turn around. For a lot of the hike, including our time by the water, we had plenty of space, however, well into the hike, there were a few pinch points climbing back up from the beach where it was hard to stay socially distanced and while a lot of people were wearing masks, it wasn’t everyone. We have friends that have been going mid-week and they said it was less crowded than on the weekend we went. We also found that when we were on the trails that weren’t directly going down to or up from the beach, there was much more space.

The views from the trails leading to and from the water are hard to beat, with all of the sailboats in the water out past the lighthouse. While walking the path near the water, which is a wide path, we saw a few butterflies and a heron flew over and for lack of any better term, honked while flying by. For more information on Discovery Park you can visit Seattle.Gov.

— By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx, an Edmonds mom of two boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time.


  1. Awesome article – thanks for the insights into Southwest County Park. I lead a group who is working on ridding the park of ivy and other invasive plants. We hope to add more organized trail maintenance to the menu this winter. If anyone is interested in participating, please reach out to EdmondsIvyLeague@gmail.com

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