Meet the woman who’s explored nearly 500 Seattle parks

If you want a fun, new way to explore Seattle, here’s a pro tip: Go wander through its parks. There’s more than 485 of them across our city. Sound a little daunting? We caught up with Linnea Westerlind, a West Seattleite, who’s trekked them all. Yes, all 485.

After giving birth to her son in 2009, Linnea said she needed an excuse to be outside. She’d grown up hiking and camping, so she made an ambitious goal: visit all of Seattle’s parks in one year.

“I thought I’d seen a lot of the city, but there were so many neighborhoods I’d never set foot in, ” Linnea said.

The year-long project ended up taking four years — that’s still 100+ parks a year — with two more kids in tow. Lucky for us, Linnea kept track of what she learned about Seattle’s parks on her blog, A Year of Seattle Parks. The blog later turned into a book, “Discovering Seattle Parks,” which was published in 2017.

nNow Linnea’s working on visiting even more outdoor spaces around Puget Sound, including privately-owned public spaces like hidden courtyards and views from city skyscrapers.

We caught up with Linnea to get all her best recs and linked each park to Google Maps so you can easily check it out for yourself:

Which park surprised you most?

I was surprised by how alive Cal Anderson Park is. It’s in such an urban neighborhood and it sometimes has a bit of a bad reputation.

I love the parks that seemed to be always filled with people. They’re like the living room for the community.

What’s the best park for a picnic?

Gas Works Park. It’s classic views on the hill that’s just a special, unique park for Seattle.

Your favorite for a long walk?

Discovery Park because you can piece together as long of a hike as you’d like –  something short to something that lasts a couple hours. It has the best trails in the city.

For kids?

Montlake Playfield is probably one of my favorite playgrounds. It has cool climbing equipment and an obstacle course where parents and kids can challenge each other. Another great park for all ages is Jefferson Park in Beacon Hill. It has great walking paths and views for adults. For teenagers, there’s a great skatepark there.

Which one’s the most underrated?

Schmitz Preserve Park in West Seattle. It has some of only old growth forest in Seattle. I don’t think most Seattleites realize that. It has hiking trails that are good year-round and it sort of flies under the radar.

Your favorite park in North Seattle?

It’s hard to beat Magnuson Park for the sheer number of things to do. You need to go several times to try to tackle everything. It also houses nonprofits that are doing interesting work for the outdoors and for youth. It also has a lot cool history. (More on that here).

What about in South Seattle?

Seward Park. It was the first park I went to officially for this project. I think that it’s fantastic in every season. It brings people from all different backgrounds together year round. It has great views, swimming, and educational programs.

Okay, hard one: Which park has the best view?

One of my favorite views is from Jack Block Park in West Seattle. It has an incredible view of downtown and it’s like no one knows this park is here. It’s a great alternative to taking pictures in Alki.

Another park that’s great for views is the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington. From their trails, you get to look out to parts from the Arboretum. There’s great trails and birding.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned from this project?

What’s amazing about parks is that they’re free and they’re accessible to everybody. It’s a great way to see different corners of the city, explore new neighborhoods, and an excuse for people of all ages to get outside. It’s the easiest subject to talk about because everyone loves them.

We live in such an urban and fast-growing area and our parks are going to be more and more important to get fresh air and that clarity of mind you get when you’re outside.

Want to learn more about Linnea’s Seattle park adventures? Watch her talk about her project at Ignite Seattle here. Inspired to check out more of our parks yourself? Be sure to tag #theevergrey on Instagram and Twitter.