Chief Sealth Trail

Chief Sealth Trail

I saw comments in the paper saying that the Chief Sealth Trail was irrelevant to bike commuting in Seattle. In fact, the Chief Sealth Trail isn’t even really a trail – it’s a series of trail segments that  don’t connect with each other and that taken together don’t connect a beginning to an end.

The Chief Sealth Trail strikes me as a PR cover story for having allowed Sound Transit to dump a bunch of construction debris in a poor neighborhood. It not only goes goes from nowhere to nowhere, it doesn’t even do that very well. When a trail needs a couple of signs every block to allow you to figure out where it goes you know that it has a problem. (In an attempt to keep people from forgetting that the Chief Sealth Trail is there the city has posted signs pointing to it all over south Seattle. Interestingly, the Burke Gillman doesn’t need that kind of advertising…

I think that the problem is that they weren’t really committed to building a trail.  the giveaway is how they’ve designed it to avoid crossing streets in mid-block, even though it makes the trail really wierd.  It also seems that they could have dumped the dirt in the troughs and leveled out the peaks so that the grade was relatively level instead of artificially enhancing the ups and downs.

The City Of Seattle is really grasping when they try to claim credit for this trail as a bicycle amenity. If you live in New Holly and want to walk to your P-patch the Chief Sealth Trail might be attractive.  If you are biking between Renton and downtown Seattle there are much better routes.

Here is description by Thorness (as published in the Seattle Times):

Chief Sealth Trail

Location: Southeast Seattle
Distance: 9.2 miles

You don’t need to leave Seattle to get a great view of Mount Rainier from an off-street bike trail. Look no further than the new Chief Sealth Trail atop Beacon Hill in south Seattle. With its grand opening on May 12, 2007, it is a great route for spying the big mountain from a paved city trail. Plus, the trail gets you close to a couple of the city’s wonderful parks.

This 3.6 mile bike trail winds through scenic stretches of South Seattle and very close to a couple of the city’s best parks.

Lay your wheels on the pavement by Jefferson Park Golf Course on Beacon Avenue South, a mile and a half south of the I-90 and I-5 interchange at the edge of downtown Seattle. Ride the broad, tree-lined street for a half-mile to the trail’s start at South Dawson Street. It’s easy to find: Just look overhead for the massive electrical power lines.

Terrain: rolling hills
Surface: paved trail, city streets
Riding time: allow 1.5 hours
Best time to ride: any

The 3.6-mile trail is built on City Light right-of-way with fill from Sound Transit excavation, so you ride beneath and between two rows of massive girder structures nearly the entire route. Imagine your own 1950s sci-fi film as you pedal the curves and grassy hills beneath the behemoths. On clear days, Mount Rainier rises majestically beyond the towers and cables.

The two-mile north section of the trail is less hilly and more secluded. At South Othello Street, that section ends, and riders must jog a half-block east, then cross Othello into the New Holly housing development. (Continuing east on Othello, you would reach Seward Park Avenue South in one mile; go left there and follow the signs to Seward Park for one more mile. Reverse that route to return to the trail.)

To find the 1.6-mile south trail segment, cross Othello at the four-way stop at Holly Park Drive South and continue on Holly Park. Turn right at 39th Avenue South and rejoin the trail in 0.4 miles. It comes out briefly next to Martin Luther King Jr. Way South alongside the Thistle P-Patch. Turn left at South Henderson Street to cross MLK, then rejoin the trail on the south side of Henderson in a half-block.

Chief Sealth ends at 51st Avenue South and South Gazelle Street, tantalizingly close to the botanical wonderland called Kubota Garden Park, a verdant, Japanese-inspired, 4.3-acre public garden. It is an exercise in calmness to walk its graveled paths or sit on the large stones beside its streams or ponds.

To reach the garden from the end of the Chief Sealth Trail, turn right onto 51st and ride 0.5 miles to a left turn onto South Creston Street. Take Creston two blocks to 55th Avenue South, then turn left again and ride 0.3 miles downhill to the garden’s entrance. To return, rather than tackle the steep climb on 55th, exit the garden onto Renton Avenue South, turn left and ride north 0.5 miles to 51st Avenue South. Turn left onto 51st and climb the 0.4-mile medium-challenge grade back to Gazelle.

The trail ride and visit to Kubota comprise a 10-mile trip with many short hill climbs. Lengthen your tour with a side trip and a picnic: Shop the Asian markets at the intersection of Columbian Way and Beacon Avenue as you start your ride, or cycle an extra 0.6 miles south on Beacon to get a delectable barbecue sandwich from Willie’s Taste of Soul at Beacon and Graham. Extend the ride significantly with a side trip to Seward Park or a ride along Lake Washington Boulevard north from Seward. Any combination of routes will offer a pleasant visit to the neighborhoods of south Seattle.