By Monica Fischer
Catch a view of the Bellevue skyline while paddling down the Mercer Slough. Photo by Merrill Images.
When it comes to famous Pacific Northwest views, Bellevue doesn’t get a lot of press. The iconic Space Needle is on the other side of Lake Washington in Seattle, magnificent Mount Rainier is 100 miles to the south, and breathtaking Snoqualmie Falls shows off its waterworks in a small rural community to the east.
But Bellevue is no slouch when it comes to pretty panoramas. Local and not-too-far-away parks, trails and viewpoints—even a few bus stops—offer spectacular views of majestic mountains, peaceful streams, wild woods and dramatic sunsets. And on a clear spring day, you can even see a couple of those aforementioned icons—if you know where to look.
Whether you have 30 minutes between meetings, three hours before a flight or three days to explore the city, we’ve got something beautiful to show you.
The Bellevue skyline and points of interest
Bellevue Downtown Park
In the same way it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, it’s hard to see the city when you’re in the city. But there are a handful of places not too far from downtown Bellevue where you can appreciate its skyline.
Bellevue Downtown Park is just a stone’s throw to the south from the city’s high-rises. Take an invigorating walk around the half-mile loop trail, then snap a photo of the towering skyline.
Wilburton Hill Park sits just above the Bellevue Botanical Garden (more on that later) and offers a peek-a-boo view of downtown Bellevue. A short walk on the Lake to Lake Trail takes you to the historic and picturesque Wilburton Trestle, the longest wooden railway trestle in Washington.
Flora and fauna
The Ravine Bridge at Bellevue Botanical Garden. Photo Courtesy of Bellevue Parks & Community Services / Colin Walker
For views that are easy on the eyes—and the soul—head to the beautiful Bellevue Botanical Garden just a few blocks east of downtown Bellevue. The 53-acre sanctuary—a blend of gardens, woodlands and wetlands—bursts with blossoms and rushing streams in the spring. Be sure to walk the short nature trail to the Ravine Experience, where a dramatic, 150-foot suspension bridge is always ready for its close-up.
Panoramas and sunsets
Sunset view from The Golf Club at Newcastle.
To truly appreciate the stunning Puget Sound panorama, you have to get up high, and The Golf Club at Newcastle, about 8 miles southeast of downtown Bellevue, is the perfect lofty viewpoint.
If you don’t have time for 18 holes, grab an outdoor seat on the patio at Calcutta Grill. Bring your camera—and your appetite—and enjoy dinner or a cocktail as you watch the sun sink behind the Seattle skyline and Olympic Mountains.
Bellevue is home to a handful of charming neighborhood beaches, all of which offer immensely photographable panoramas. Perhaps the prettiest is the view from Chism Beach Park, especially when the sunset seems to light the Seattle skyline on fire.
If you’re exploring the region by bus or bicycle, be sure to stop at the Evergreen Point Park & Ride viewpoint, just before the Evergreen Point floating bridge on Highway 520. By far the prettiest bus stop in town, the new transit center offers spectacular views of Lake Washington, the 520 bridge and downtown Seattle.
Waterfalls, waterfowl and wildlife
Spot wildlife at Mercer Slough. Photo Courtesy of Bellevue Parks & Community Services.
If you prefer views that are a bit more, um, animated, then head to the largest park in downtown Bellevue, the sprawling, spectacular Mercer Slough Nature Park. The 320-acre park is Lake Washington’s largest remaining wetland, and home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife.
The Mercer Slough itself is an aquatic trail, best explored by kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board. Row or paddle through the peaceful waterway for photo opps of water lilies, turtles and herons.
If you forget for a moment that you’re still in the city, look up to see a glimpse of the downtown Bellevue skyline, or visit the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, which offers a bird’s-eye view of the city skyline from viewing platforms that extend into the tree canopy above the slough.
If you have a free afternoon, head about 12 miles southeast of downtown Bellevue to explore the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, situated in a forested area known as the “Issaquah Alps.”
In addition to some breathtaking views from peaks and viewpoints scattered throughout the park, you might catch a glimpse of the park’s resident birds, black bears and bobcats. For two distinctly different views, hike to Coal Creek Falls, which is particularly impressive when it’s swollen in the spring, or Anti-Aircraft Peak which rises 1,500 feet above the valley and offers stellar views of Lake Sammamish below, Mount Baker to the north and the Olympic Mountains to the west.
If Coal Creek Falls doesn’t quench your thirst, continue another 20 miles east to the region’s most famous waterworks, Snoqualmie Falls. Snap your selfies from the observation deck above, take a short hike to the boulders below or—our favorite method—enjoy the view from the dining room at the Salish Lodge.
Be sure to share any beautiful views you capture while out and about in Bellevue with us using #MyBelleVue on social media. Click here to discover more trails and parks offering captivating views in Bellevue.