Views, views, views
This park is a long narrow strip on the Magnolia bluff that stretches for almost a mile alongside Magnolia Boulevard. The park is essentially one enormous viewpoint, displaying a slightly different scenic vista every hundred feet or so.
First let me admit I have no idea what the official name of the park is. Some maps don’t label it at all. Some maps call it Magnolia Park, but Magnolia Park is located a bit to the east. A sign at the parking lot just says viewpoints. The Seattle Parks website doesn’t even have a page for it. So I’m calling it Magnolia Boulevard Park.
The park begins where Magnolia Boulevard arrives at the bluff. You might not even realize it’s a park at first because your attention will be diverted by the views, and the park is just a wide strip of grass between the sidewalk and edge of the bluff. But then you’ll probably start noticing the park benches strung out along the way.
Many pacific madrona trees line the bluff, which are responsible for Magnolia’s name. Legend has it that in 1856 when Captain George Davidson of the U.S. Coastal Survey sailed by he mistook the plentiful native madrona trees for magnolias.
The parking lot is located slightly over a third of a mile from the southeastern start of the strip. The lot has a single row of spaces for around 18 cars, and can be accessed at either end.
Just to the southeast of the lot is a cement pad with seating, and a ways beyond it is a grouping of benches. You get a great view of Mt. Rainier, good view of the Olympics, and a partial view of the Space Needle and downtown Seattle sticking up behind the roofs of houses.
Even on summer weekends when sightseers are out in force, the small parking lot isn’t an issue. Street parking is allowed along the entire strip. So all you have to do is select a particular view you want to enjoy and stop there. Just make sure you park close to the curb so as not to impede traffic.
The drive alone is quite stunning on a clear day. You never even have to leave the car if you don’t feel like it. You can simply drive up and down the boulevard a couple times exclaiming, “Wow!” and, “It’s so beeyoootiful!”
You can also enjoy looking at the lovely homes lining the boulevard on the other side and fantasize about which one you’d buy.
If you’re in the mood for a long scenic stroll, you can leave your car at the parking lot and use the sidewalk that travels the length of the park. If you walk to the northwest end and back from the lot it’s one mile round-trip.
Park benches are located at intervals all along the strip. Most of them are near the sidewalk, so very close to the street parking and convenient for rest stops if you decide to go for a walk.
This is also a great place for watching sunsets. I’ve only been there at sunset in October, and based on that experience I suspect sunset viewing is best from fall through spring. I think that due to the southerly angle of the park the sun might be too far north closer to summer solstice.
Magnolia Boulevard Park doesn’t have uninterrupted sweeping panoramas due to buildings, trees, and bushes. But for sheer variety of splendid views from a single park it can’t be beat. It’s a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but the scenery is at its best on clear days in winter when snow is heaviest on the mountains.
Things to Know
Benches spread out all along the park strip.
No picnic tables.
One lot with room for about 18 cars. The parking lot is closed to vehicles from 10 pm to 6 am.
Street parking along Magnolia Boulevard.
The closest bathrooms are at nearby Magnolia Park, but you have to walk quite a ways down a slope to get to them.
There is a Bartells and an Albertsons not too far away on 32nd. Public bathrooms are at Discovery Park and Fishermen’s Terminal a bit farther away.
On average days it’s mostly locals at Magnolia Boulevard Park, out for a jog or walk. On nice days, especially in summer, probably at least 50% of the people using the park are tourists or have come from other parts of the Seattle area to enjoy the scenery.
Clear summer days can attract a lot of people. But due to the park’s layout, the only section that tends to feel a bit busy is near the parking lot. It’s very easy to find a spot where you can relax and get away from others.
Few people actually linger in the park, probably because of being right next to the road. It’s the type of place best suited to a stop and look while on your way to or from one of the other Magnolia parks that are more conducive to picnicking or reading on a park bench.
Space Needle and Seattle skyline over housetops, Elliott Bay ferries, Mt. Rainier, Olympic Mountains. Sunsets (maybe only fall through spring.)
Best light: morning for Olympics, late afternoon for Mt. Rainier and city, or sunset.
Nearby Magnolia Park is passed on the way to get to this one. It’s a beautiful traditional park with a playground, large lawns, lots of shady trees, picnic tables, benches, and a great view at the bluff.
However, I will not be previewing that one because it doesn’t meet my accessibility criteria. The parking lot is right up next to the road, so getting to the viewpoints requires walking the equivalent of approximately three city blocks down a slope. If that isn’t an obstacle for you then it’s worth checking out.
I strongly recommend having a physical Seattle street map with you when venturing to Magnolia because it’s one of the most confusing areas of the city to navigate. If you take a wrong turn or miss one you will probably need a map to get you back to where you’re supposed to be. This advice is coming from someone who normally doesn’t easily get lost!
Take the Garfield Street/Magnolia Bridge exit from 15th Ave W. and cross the bridge west to Magnolia. (There are 3 bridges that connect to Magnolia. This is the southernmost bridge, closest to downtown.)
Keep following the road as it curves around. You will soon see the parking lot for Magnolia Park on your left. Just past the lot is a stop sign at Howe Street.
Turn left at the stop sign onto Howe Street. You will cross a bridge.
On the other side of the bridge is another stop sign at a funky intersection with lots of streets.
Take the first left at the intersection onto Magnolia Boulevard.
The boulevard will arrive at the bluff and curve to the right. This is where the park starts.
Space Needle webcam (best way to see if the mountain is out)