Urban Hiking Adventure: Washington Park Arboretum

P1030992We can’t always drive to the mountains to hike so urban walks are our staple. Sometimes we just want to commune with some nature and smell the trees and dirt instead of walking the neighborhood sidewalks though. We are lucky here in Seattle because we have several large parks within the urban area so I thought I would tell you about some of them. Last time we told you about Ravenna and Cowen Parks (they’re connected).

Today we are sharing the Washington Park Arboretum. It’s a Botanic Garden jointly managed by UW and the City of Seattle. It’s 230 acres are populated with an assortment of plants found nowhere else. Most of the park is treed, hilly, and laced with hiking trails.


The portion of the park adjacent to the Lake Washington offers foot trails, great views, and water trails you can paddle with your dog (However, you will have to bring your own canoe or kayak. There is no rental facility at the site and the one across the lake doesn’t allow dogs to paddle with you).

I often forget about this park because it’s a little out of the way for us but we can still be there in 15 or 20 minutes. We went the other day with our Doxie walking buddies and hiked around for an hour and a half. We never walked the same trail twice and still didn’t see to half of the park.

Arboretum trail map

When we walk together we always try to take a group photo. Usually it never goes even close to what we imagined. Ever try to get 5 kids who can’t talk yet, and who love the shiny thing in the corner (aka. squirrels) to all look at the camera at the same time? Yeah. Not easy. Anyway, we managed to get one of the best shots we have gotten in a long time.


Probably one of the most interesting plants we saw there were these Rhododendrons.


They caught my attention because the Rhododenderon is the Washington State Flower. They grow natural in the woods and I have seen many plants in landscape arrangements (not native I am sure because they look prettier than the ones in the woods and come in different colors).

All of the Rhododendron bushes I have ever seen are shrub-like and not taller than 5 feet or so. The ones that we saw at the Arboretum were probably 15 feet tall. The cool thing is most of the non-native plants in the Botanical Garden are labeled. It turns out these were a special kind of Rhodenderon – wardii, a rhododendron species native to southwestern Sichuan, southeastern Xizang, and northwestern Yunnanin China.

I go to this park so seldom that I forget when it looks like in the spring when everything is in bloom but I am sure it is very pretty. Even in the winter it is very pretty and scratches the hiking itch a little. If you are ever in the Seattle area and can’t get out to the mountains, this is one of our top recommended parks to visit.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


    1. Yes, I am going to try and keep this park more on my radar. I’ve been there in the spring a few times but usually in a canoe or kayak. Since it is an Arboretum it’s mostly trees so I don’t expect to be “blown away” by flowers but I think there are some nice pockets there.

  1. Great group shot! Those are never easy!
    That park looks awesome – always love it when dogs are allowed in places like that. I assume on-leash only to protect the gardens, which is definitely the smartest.
    I also request you go back in the spring and share photos!

    1. Yes. All of the City parks, and almost 100% of the hiking trails, are leash-only zones. People don’t always follow the rules on the hiking trails but I have only seen one off-leash dog in this park. He as rooting through the bushes and pooping. His owner was oblivious. Very irritating….but I digress 🙂

  2. Love the shot of all five wieners!

    Rhodas are found in the hill country out east – North Carolina, Tennessee, etc. Beautiful shrubs. I love the unusual ones in your photo, too!

  3. Great group shot!! Rhododendrons are West Virginia’s state flower as well and in abundant among most of the trails we hike. Some are really tall like in your pictures. Sounds like a really neat hike!

  4. That is one of the BEST photos of your hiking groups yet! Too cute. The park sounds like a great place for a hike…especially since you didn’t see all of it. You should put it on “the list” for Spring, so you can see what everything looks like in bloom!
    Happy Monday,

  5. i love the idea of urban hikes. A big problem on the east cost is ticks, its terrible. Its not to the point that we cannot go into the woods at all. Last time which was over year ago the dogs where literally swarming with ticks as was my husband and my self. all our dogs are on preventative plus anti tick spray but still it took us two hours to remove them. Its really depressing

    retro rover

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