If April showers bring May flowers, March sunshine brings slushy snow and iffy conditions in the mountains. Luckily, there remain tons of nearby parks that have trails year-round, including this beautiful state park northeast of Seattle. Located between Kenmore and Kirkland, Saint Edward State Park (I had a full Berenstain moment, having lived my whole life thinking it was Saint Edwards State Park) was originally purchased by the Seattle Catholic Archdiocese to be a seminary. The seminary was completed in 1931, but in 1977 the land was sold to Washington to become a state park. The seminary is now on the National Historic Register, and is a beautiful building (see header) even with a remodel occurring.
The 316-acre park now has a few miles of trails of varying steepness in addition to a massive playground and many picnic tables. We planned a route that WTA said was three miles, the longest loop possible. The route circled most of the perimeter of the park, taking you from second-growth forest down to the shore of Lake Washington and back again. If you want to replicate this route, once you are in the park head to the right and park there (flushing bathrooms are closer to the playground).
A sign at the trailhead warned us that an aggressive owl had been swooping in the area. While we saw no owls as we wound through the trails, we heard tons of birds and saw evidence of winter storms by the many remnants of blow downs. The trail was in impeccable condition, minus the rose petals some (insert adjective here) were spreading around. Even if an item is biodegradable doesn’t mean it belongs on a trail! This part is the North Trail, which after just under a mile has you walking along side the lake shore, with peek-a-boo views across the lake. Mama Boots pointed out that winter and early spring might actually be the best time to be on this part of the trail, as there were no leaves obstructing our view through the trees.
A small open area along the water greets you at a spur. This area even had some picnic tables for those wanting to spend some time with the view. While there is no official boat launch here, the website for the state park does say its okay with paddlers coming ashore for a break here, although the rocks along the shore might prove difficult. From here, you have a choice between continuing along the perimeter on the South Ridge Trail, or heading back quicker along the forested South Canopy Trail or the Grotto trail–the steepest in the park. I felt the South Ridge Trail was steep enough–we gained over 400 feet!
As we finished our climb, we heard a woodpecker drilling away. This park seemed like a birdwatcher’s dream with the different calls and birds we saw, not counting the swooping owl. As we finished our loop, I saw we only had gone about 2.5 miles, so we decided to keep exploring the park. After the beach, the most picturesque area is probably the Grotto, a river rock structure popular for small weddings. We looped around the building and playground to bring our total mileage over three miles, with many trails still being unexplored in the park. With the proximity to Seattle and the promise of being snow-free nearly always, this park is great for all-ages to play in nature and hit the trails!
Distance: Choose your own adventure, longest loop was 2.5 miles.
Elevation: Varied depending on trail
Parking: Discover Pass (kiosk for purchase of a day pass or annual Discover Pass is at the park)
Bathrooms: Flushing toilets near the playground
Best Beer Bet: Kenmore has three breweries close together a few miles north of the park–but I have yet to try them myself!