Discovery Park is Seattle's largest park and offers a 534 acre natural area operated by the City of Seattle, Department of Parks and Recreation. The park occupies most of the former Fort Lawton site. There is a little bit of everything located at Discovery including two miles of rarely seen beach.
Situated on Magnolia Bluff and overlooking Puget Sound, Discovery Park offers spectacular views of both the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. The secluded site includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets, and streams. Hiking trailswind throughout the area. The 2.8 mile Discovery Loop offers a walk through forests of oak and Douglas fir, a meadow alive with the song of savannah sparrows, and breathtaking vistas of the sloping land and Puget Sound.
The role of Discovery Park is to provide an open space of quiet and tranquility away from the stress and activity of the city, a sanctuary for wildlife, as well as an outdoor classroom for people to learn about the natural world. Maintained in its semi-natural condition, the park will continue to offer a biologically rich and diverse natural area for urban dwellers and an unmatched opportunity for environmental education. Discovery Park is also home to the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.
TheEnvironmental Learning Center(open Tue-Sun, 8:30am-5pm) is well worth a stop on your way through the park. It offers interactive nature displays for kids (including a stuffed coyote and fox); a charmingly decorated Discovery Room where kids can color, play, and put on a sea-themed puppet shows; and a good collection of hiking, botanizing, and birding guide books for kids and adults.
The parkoffers a monthly calendar full of classes for young naturalists of all ages and their families, as well as birding and botanizing walks, and conservation classes.
The park offers a nature day camp that brings a weeklong session that gives children the chance to explore the park and learn about its plants and animals. Sessions usually begin the second week of June, and run through the end of August. Each week is tailored toward different ages; check the park's website for details.
School vacationday camps are also scheduled to coincide with the Seattle School District's breaks, including mid-winter break at the end of February and spring break in April. Contact the park for registration information.
Park mapsare available at the learning center for $1. New visitors would do well to buy one; this park doesn't reveal itself easily to the casual observer and signs are limited. Do walk out the back doors into the small amphitheater-like garden out back. This charming spot, planted with native plants, is a sheltered place to sit, picnic, or bird. Walk along the path on the right and into the woods.
Not publicly advertised, there are eight beach parking passes available on a first come first served basis to cars carrying any child under the age of seven. It is best to call ahead to check the class schedules if planning to snag a pass. Passes are available at the Environmental Learning Center.