Here’s your dilemma: The stunning view from downtown Bellevue of two snow-capped mountain ranges has you itching for a hike, but you don’t have enough time to commit to a full-fledged trek. Rest easy, gentle hiker, we’ve got you covered.
There are numerous nearby trails, unpaved and otherwise, where you can enjoy all the benefits of a soul-soothing or cardio-boosting ramble without the tedious travel—or the expensive gear. All you need are comfortable shoes, your phone for maps and photos, and a water bottle.
By far, our favorite places to roam are the parks that offer the best of both worlds: land and water. Meydenbauer Beach Park, just a quarter mile from the Old Main neighborhood, has a handful of forested trails and challenging staircases that are sure to raise your heart rate. To bring it down, simply descend to the beach and the pretty view of Lake Washington.
Tucked into the Moorland neighborhood, about a mile southwest of downtown, is Chism Beach Park, another hidden gem with both trails and beach access. Both Meydenbauer Beach Park and Chism Beach Park face west and offer lovely views of the Seattle skyline—and the sunset, if you’re hiking late in the day. (Both parks also close their restrooms until April 30, so plan accordingly!)
Another big bonus of the two parks is their proximity to fabulous eating and drinking establishments. We recommend Gilbert’s on Main for a hearty pre-hike breakfast, and Local Burger or the 520 Bar & Grill for beer and burgers afterwards.
For a flat track and great people watching, visit Bellevue Downtown Park, the city’s 21-acre outdoor social hub, which features a charming pond (complete with adorable ducklings in the spring), a half-mile circular path, and lots of open green space for stretching.
There’s so much space, in fact, that this is a great destination for meeting up with friends or colleagues for a long walk and a little gossip, followed by cocktails and fresh seasonal fare at 99 Park, just across the street.
Mercer Slough Nature Park and Bellevue Botanical Garden offer two of the most diverse urban hiking experiences on the Eastside. With a combined 373 acres between them, you’ll not only find a trail that tickles your fancy, you’ll see darn near every plant, flower, fish and fowl that calls this region home. Both venues are free to the public, and offer guided tours.
For years, walkers and joggers have been able to cross the I-90 floating bridge via the paved, 20-mile I-90 Trail that stretches from Renton to Seattle along Lake Washington, but the 520 floating bridge, which links Bellevue to Seattle, was off-limits to pedestrians. That all changes when the new 520 floating bridge (which will be the longest in the world) opens in April.
A family-friendly grand-opening celebration takes place April 2-3 and includes a community fun run and walk (5K or 10K) across the bridge, followed by a 20-mile bike ride the next day. The new bridge will feature a 14-foot-wide shared-use path along the north side of the highway, complete with scenic viewpoints and rest areas.
For descriptions and reviews of other local trails, including the 6-mile Coal Creek Trail and 3.2-mile Phantom Lake Loop, as well as trails that are farther afield, visit the Washington Trails Association website, and our Hiking Trails & Climbing page.
Oh, and if you find yourself in Bellevue without your comfortable shoes—or your water bottle—we’ve got you covered there, too. Escape Outdoors, The North Face and Title Nine, all located in downtown Bellevue, can supply everything you need for a great day on the trail.
(Photo Credits, Top to Bottom: Stocksnap.io via Jon Ottosson, Meydenbauer Beach Park courtesy of Merrill Photography, Local Burger, Bellevue Downtown Park courtesy of Walmsley Photography, Arial view of the I-90 Bridge courtesy of Visit Bellevue Washington, Coal Creek Trail courtesy of Visit Bellevue Washington)