Discovery Park is a 2.16 km park on the banks of Puget Sound in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. It is the largest public park in the city and includes 19.01 km of hiking trails. The All Tribes Daybreak Star Cultural Center is located within the park boundaries. A lighthouse is at West Point, the westernmost point of the park and the entire city of Seattle, and there’s a sewage treatment plant on the south side of the North Beach Strip, but it’s almost completely hidden from the swamp, beach, and path. The Discovery Park Loop Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1975 and is 4.5 miles.5 km) through the park, connected to other hiking trails.
It is easy to get to and explore the park without knowing anything about the site, but it just so happens that this park is also built on historical ground, i.e. on the site of old Fort Lawton. The site was first loaned to the US Army in 1898, and the 703-acre site was named Fort Lawton in 1900.
Since the park is also an area, another option is to look for the remaining history. The park, which existed before Fort Lawton, was owned by local tribes. An event and conference center that not only hosts larger events and powwows, but also preschool, family service programs, an art gallery, and more. The cultural center is free to visit (donations are welcome) and it is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
While Fort Lawton could accommodate thousands of soldiers, it was often not well populated or used … at least not until World War II. During World War II, Fort Lawton became a major shipping port with up to 20,000 soldiers stationed there and more as one. More than 1,100 German prisoners of war were held here, and around 5,000 Italian prisoners of war came to other locations on their way. The fort remained active during the Korean War, but afterward, the situation slowed again and many of the WWII buildings were demolished.
The park had been full of sturdy buildings for decades, and Fort Lawton was not officially closed until September 14, 2011. There was also a military cemetery in the park. Most visitors to Discovery Park come to hike without a specific program, and the park really is that better. The trails in the park are one of the highlights as they offer enough hiking to get some exercise (especially if you do the entire loop as you come across a few steps) or avoid the slopes if you prefer. The Loop Trail is approximately three miles there and back, with a total elevation gain of 140 feet, and you will find signs marking the way to the beaches, lighthouse, and other trails.
Many visitors want to see West Point Lighthouse, which is across the park. The lighthouse is not huge or imposing, but rather quaint, cute, and extremely picturesque with a backdrop of mountains and views of Puget Sound. In fact, the beaches are the most beautiful places in this beautiful park in general. On clear days, you’ll find world-class views of Mount Rainier and the Olympics, and on clear nights, the beaches are some of the best places in town to watch a sunset.
Since Discovery Park is also one of Seattle’s most natural spots, wildlife still abounds. Seals and cranes love to spend time on the beaches (although not expecting too many on busy days). You can spot an owl or raccoon on wooded paths.