Call it an urban hike, call it a walk in the park–either way, there’s tons of options available for you year-round in Seattle to see some nature and get some exercise. With winter coming, it’s great to have trails available if you lack the equipment or driving skills to hit the powder-covered trails up higher.
Located in South Seattle, Kubota Gardens is known for being an authentic Japanese-style garden and for offering beautiful fall color without needing to gas up the car and fight the crowds in the mountains. It also is an interesting piece of Seattle history. The gardens started in 1927 when Fujitaro Kubota purchased the land, then a logged-off swamp. The gardens were added on to until the land (20 acres) was sold to the City of Seattle in 1987.
My favorite part on a sunny fall weekend, besides the stunning color of the leaves turning at every angle, was all of the pools, ponds, and waterfalls around the park. The most impressive being at ‘Mountainside,’ this multi-tiered waterfall was built by the Kubota family for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Water gets pumped from the lowest pond to the top, to cascade back down. It was not surprising that the waterfalls were a popular site for many people being photographed by a professional, for engagement shots and family portraits alike. Those wanting elevation gain can even go to the top of the falls (but maybe not best for strollers or the elderly).
The pond near the official Japanese Garden section also offered some fauna to go with the flora in the form of many koi fish. Do ensure your dogs behave here, as one parkgoer had a bear of a time wrangling in their dog who clearly wanted a fishy snack! I used to dream of having a koi pond in my dream home, until I learned about how difficult it is to keep raccoons away (not to mention Seattle home prices!), but they appear to be thriving in the park here.
As we wound back towards the entrance, we passed by the large terrace. With its sweeping views and flat area perfect for accommodating chairs, it’s no surprise the terrace is home to many a wedding and large event in the summer. The pond near the terrace was home to more koi fish, lazily swimming to the patches of the pond the sun was hitting. Many photographers swarmed the area, and we tried to not get in anyone’s pictures as we made it back to the entrance.
While it might not offer the mileage of a hike outside the city (I doubt a loop of all trails would cover a mile), if craving a green escape from the city or trying to introduce young ones to the outdoors, it’s a worthwhile visit in Seattle, especially on a sunny fall day. Did you know Seattle has over 400 parks, varying in size from 0.1 acres (Westlake Park) to 534 acres (Discovery Park)?