A “how to” guide and five inspiring walks to elevate your nature connection to enjoy Seattle Autumn.
This isn’t a typical list of parks in Seattle that everyone writes about. If you’re seeking a wide array of ideas, check out my other article about all the outdoor things to do in Fall in Seattle. This post is designed for Seattle locals yearning for a new way to see nature in the Emerald City or visitors hoping for an authentic connection to our greener parts. Either way, follow along for your guide to reimagining a Seattle Autumn.
As a resident and a mystic, I spend so much of my time in nature that it is second nature to me to wander the different neighborhoods of Seattle. The city bursts with lush parks and gardens, salt and fresh water, and fantastic skyline views. All this abundance takes on a brilliant form during Autumn in Seattle.
If you live in Seattle, you probably already know about these places, but hear me out. When open to it, our stunning nature can inspire your ability to foster an elevated state of connection — with yourself, nature, and the world. While these locations are not secret, the actual secret is how to enjoy them on a deeper plane.
Let me help you find transformation this Seattle Autumn.
How to engage with nature in a Seattle autumn
Yes, the changing leaves and exquisite textures feel like a cashmere sweater around your heart this time of year. That’s all part of enjoying the outdoors in Seattle.
But how about pushing further to new, more enlightening experiences in the organic world? No matter if you’re happy or sad, Mother Nature wants to help. Try these six steps guaranteed to elevate your nature connection.
These fundamentals were developed over my lifetime, guiding myself and others through nature. For more details on this, jump over to another article, Six steps to elevate your nature connection.
Whether walking down your street or venturing into one of the locations on this list, take a few moments to engage with your purpose in nature. What outcome would you like?
Reach out to the land
Nature will hold you tighter when offering a thoughtful gesture of respect. Ask for permission to enter as if knocking on a neighbor’s door. You could say, “I come with an open heart,” or something similar.
Yes, that means putting your phone away! It’s okay if your mind isn’t clear, but try to set yourself up for success. Technology will be waiting when you return, but give yourself the gift of space from the frantic world.
The first 15 minutes are crucial in setting the pace of your nature experience. Make a conscious effort to do everything slowly — maybe as you’d imagine slow motion. Try to stay as quiet as possible.
You’re walking in a world with millions of little miracles — smell the leaves and look up at the trees.
Allow your experience to integrate into your life. On the way home, review your favorite nuggets of gold. One could be the maple trees swaying in the wind — colorful leaves detaching and drifting to the freshly cut green grass. Go a step further and write down notes.
Autumn in Seattle — go slow.
I’ll reiterate number four on my list above — go slowly. These walks should not be about distance. I’ve curated this list based on the concise natural beauty that helps you focus on deeper connections because large distances of hiking aren’t required.
Make these experiences about the quality of time… and take your time. The magic with elevated existence in nature is how linear time morphs into something else. I spend over three hours wandering through the Washington Park Arboretum in what can seem like 15 minutes.
Aside from attempting the six steps mentioned above, allow yourself grace to do what feels right. Sit down, stand up, close your eyes, or open your mouth to taste the rain — this is your connection to Mother Earth.
Understand that everyone’s experience is unique to them — it’s okay not to feel monumental changes when new to this approach to nature. Be patient and keep on practicing.
The first time I visited Volunteer Park, in my early 20’s, I was in love. We sat on the grassy lawn under the fleeting Seattle sun and shared laughter, surrounded by the rich variety of trees and plants.
Years later, I’d settle only a few blocks away from this iconic park — designed by a famous landscape architect family. The firm’s patriarch, Frank Law Olmstead, was the founder of American landscape architecture and the movement to provide every citizen with equal access to the properties of nature. This park follows through on that mission, especially during Autumn in Seattle.
The giant arbor of trees is mixed with evergreens and deciduous wonders that offer an array of colorful changes throughout the season. I suggest making a complete round of the park to get started — counter-clockwise feels best. After the first lap, delve into the gems of botany exhibited in the Dahlia garden, just across the lawn from the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Spend twenty minutes carefully roaming the flowers.
Wander up to the duck pond near the iconic Black Sun sculpture. Spend another spell of time focused on the water — the plants, ducks, and the flow of the trees above. Continue to the circular brick monument to early water in the Emerald City. The Volunteer Park Water Tower has 107 steps to the top, revealing a 360-degree view of Seattle. Look out the grated windows to the canopy of trees that weave the park together. See if you can look out the windows for twenty minutes.
Added experiences: For a complete outline of all the features and options of my favorite park in Seattle, check out my article Volunteer Park.
Schmitz Preserve Park
West Seattle’s Alki Beach area is a magical gem. Although the city skyline is fully displayed, this neighborhood provides a ‘beach town’ vibe that can feel like a different world. Just a few blocks off busy Alki Ave SW exists a soulful greenspace waiting for your arrival. Since the land was donated to the city in the early 1900s, many original old giants were allowed to live on to provide rich inspiration to future generations.
Start at the entrance near 59th and Stevens, where an uphill roadway eases you into this experience. This is your time to get quiet and slow down — before entering a cathedral of towering trees that seem to float around the dramatic curves of the Schmitz Park Bridge. This is a lesson about scale and perspective. Spend some time at the bridge looking up into the canopy, which seems to tell the story of interdependence — the colorful maple leaves dancing between proud douglas fir and whispering age-old cedar.
Next, explore the thickets of brush crowding Schmitz Creek and locate a spot to stay for a while, watching the water flow through pebbles and sticks. Allow your connection to the babbling water to elevate the senses — drowning out the sounds of other visitors wandering the trails. From this point, there is no wrong way to meander through this lush wilderness.
Kubota Garden — a Seattle Autumn gem
Japanese-inspired gardens seem to do their job quickly, bringing a wandering visitor into another realm of balance with nature. The elements of rock, water, trees, and human touch come together in a display of elegant interdependence. Seattle has many beautiful options to experience the art of a Japanese garden, and I write about them in another article, Seattle Japanese Gardens.
Kubota Garden, in South Seattle, has a rich feeling of spirit and enough space to allow a soulful experience. Use this map to follow along. At the garden gate (#3 on the map), take a few moments to inspect the flowing architecture of the fence and wall. Notice the materials used to build the gate and the shapes that flow into the landscape. This is your time to slow down and start a more profound experience when crossing the threshold and entering the garden.
Stroll, taking a right-hand turn by the ceremonial bell (#4), and continue around the perimeter in a counter-clockwise direction. You’ll be behind the water features but amongst an array of colors changing for the Autumn in Seattle. Spend time getting acquainted with the plants — working your way to the Fera Fera forest (#14). Have a seat on the bench here and gaze at the trees for 20 minutes if possible.
Continue over the Heart Bridge (#15) and to the Y, where you’ll find an almost hidden pathway in lush vegetation that heads up the mountain to the Mountainside Fountain (#16). Imagine going even deeper into your nature experience and reflecting from the bench that looks toward the peaceful waterfall created by the Kubota Family for the 1962 World’s Fair.
Now, you’re ready to wander the remaining grounds freely.
This 216-acre park in NW Seattle is one of those green spaces that can be overwhelming when arriving. There are day camps for students, a bridge crossing an active railroad to a soulful beach along the Salish Sea, playgrounds, and hiking trails that go seemingly in every direction possible. But with a little pause and reflection on the gift this land offers the community — you’ll be ready to submerge into a magical version of Carkeek Park.
Work your way down the hill from the Playfield area (restrooms are located here, too) to the Wetland Trail. The first stop is a boardwalk over a marshy lake. I love this area for its dramatic pace shift from what is often a frenetic parking area. Take 10 minutes or so to see the secrets in this swampy setting. Follow the tree trunks from the changing leaves above down to the roots — bubbling into mysteriously black water. This is the best place in the park to let the stress of everyday life drain away.
It’s not far to a paved road and a little jog up to Brick Road Trail, which flows into Hillside Trail (at signpost #4 on the map) and, eventually to South Ridge Trail (#3 to #6, #7, and #8). This part of the park is a cathedral of effervescent colors that come alive with the wind. Red alder and maple sway, hues changing with each day of Autumn in Seattle. This stretch of hiking feels like a departure to a heavenly realm. Stop and glance up, look sideways, and pay attention to the forest floor — there is an abundance of life waiting for you to notice.
I go here on purpose when it’s raining — especially to feel droplets cascading down from a tight-knit canopy of technicolor goodness in a Seattle autumn. Rain or shine, Ravenna Park provides a soulful way to dive deeper into your relationship with nature. The location is well placed just north of University Village and east of Green Lake.
A creek drifts through the middle of a dramatic ravine, filled in by mature trees that include cedar, redwood, douglas fir, and bright maples in Autumn in Seattle. This loop on AllTrails is a good recommendation, with 1.7 miles and varying topography, but I have nuances to ensure you can focus on a deeper dive into nature.
Begin by walking to the middle of 20th Ave NE Pedestrian Bridge — from the south end of the park. You might notice I like to start nature walks with bridges or gates. This is because these types of formations help the mind, body, and soul all engage with a transformation — into another realm. The symbolism is important, especially when you’re beginning to explore entering nature, and your own nature, in new ways.
Once in the middle of the bridge, gaze out at the extraordinary canopy of trees — all in the middle of fast-paced Seattle. Try to spend 15 minutes with this view of the park. Then continue north and east to the end of NE 61st Street to a series of steps leading down to a footbridge spanning another spectacular canyon. Wind down into the depths of the ravine, noticing the trees from a different perspective.
Find Ravenna Park Sulfur Springs and sit on a log, if possible, next to the water and take in the scene — maybe for 20 minutes. From here, follow the remainder of the loop, basking in the flow of interdependent trees, water, rocks, and human.
Autumn near Seattle
If you’re seeking other options around Seattle, consider reading another article Gardens in Seattle, that offers 18 soul-nourishing parks & gardens in the entire region. For a short list of my favorites that combine deep spirit and stunning fall foliage, consider these suggestions:
- Federal Way: West Hylebos Wetlands Park
- Bellevue: Ravine experience at Bellevue Botanical Garden
- Tacoma: Point Defiance Park
- Bainbridge Island: Bloedel Reserve
- Everett: Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary
- Olympia: Billy Frank Jr Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
- Bellingham: Sehome Hill Arboretum
Do you want to take your relationship with nature to the next level?
Let me show you how paying attention to nature opens the door to seeing yourself — and the world — differently. Transformation is closer than you think.
I offer Mystic Nature Experiences, 90-minute in-person guided journeys in select parks and gardens in Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland.