Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop is a six-mile, paved urban trail that connects 35 pocket parks and multi-use paths around Lake Union in Seattle. The highpoint for this trail are the wonderful views of the lake. If you don’t stop for a bite to eat in one of the neighborhoods along the way, Gasworks Park (on the north side of the loop) and Lake Union Park (on the south side) both make great picnic spots with gorgeous lake views. The trail is well marked and easy to follow. You can click map to guide you and to help find all of the hidden jewels along the way.
By connecting existing parks and improving access to the lake, this loop provides a continuous network of open spaces that are ideal for a range of active and passive recreation, from boating, bicycling and walking, to family picnics and quiet contemplation.
When you can’t get away from the city or you are trying to stay in shape this is a wonderful option; this would be considered a treasure in most other cities.
General Information…Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop
Hike Length: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 94 feet
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Best Known Time: 55 minutes
Map: Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop map
Parking and Trail Access…Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop
Parking can be found at Lake Union Park (860 Terry Ave N.) at the southern end of the lake, as well as at Gas Works Park (2101 N. Northlake Way) on the northern end.
Metro Trip Planner
You can use the Metro Trip Planner to reach your access to the trail.
Hike Notes…Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop
If you choose a counter-clockwise itinerary you might wish to begin at the streetcar stop on Valley, head right (or east). Take the time to visit the Center for Wooden Boats (it is free); a fascinating working museum where the art and craft of wooden boat building and repair is kept alive.
Your walking route will pass a row of highbrow and lowbrow waterside restaurants. You can walk on boardwalks next to the water in this area. Beyond the restaurant row, you must walk along busy Fairview, but only briefly. A section of floating boardwalk (the Fairview Walkway) takes you near the water for a bit.
After the boardwalk, Fairview turns north and becomes a quiet minor street. You pass a NOAA facility where large ships are docked, then enter a residential area. You will pass a flotilla of Seattle’s famous, houseboats that occupy much of the shore of the lake here. Take the time to breathe in the wonderful creativity that is this community.
At Roanoke, the walking route is forced away from the shore for a spell. The route weaves through various streets and alleys; fortunately signs direct you through this confusing stretch. Soon the waterfront walking resumes on another intact piece of Fairview Avenue.
The looming structure of the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge greets you as you approach the north end of Lake Union. The walking route passes underneath the bridge, and then crosses the lake on the University Bridge. At the north end of the bridge, walk down steps to the shoulder of 40th street. Cross the street and walk underneath the University Bridge, where you will reach the paved Burke-Gilman Trail, a popular bike and walking route (busy with people any sunny Seattle day).
Here, you have a choice of following the Burke-Gilman westward or walking down to the shore of Lake Union by Northlake Way. Walking along Northlake Way is problematic due to poor sidewalks and heavy traffic, but you get to visit another pocket park underneath the Ship Canal Bridge and Ivar’s Salmon House’s popular Fish Bar–a good place to get a snack (a personal favorite).
At Latona Street begins a continuous walkway on the right side of Northlake Way, although the path is poorly maintained and a bit scruffy. If you walked the Burke-Gilman Trail to this point, you can (if you want) descend to the lake at Latona. Both the scruffy walkway and the Burke-Gilman Trail eventually lead to Gas Works Park, the largest park on the loop. The rusty remains of the old gasworks forms a dramatic centerpiece in the park’s great expanse of lawn. Be sure to explore a bit here; the view of downtown Seattle is incredible from the waterfront trail and atop the Kite Hill. If you have not been here you are really missing a piece of the Seattle experience.
Continue walking along Northlake Way west of Gasworks Park, passing a number of working boatyards and nautical businesses on the lake shore. The route along Northlake passes under the steel arch of the Aurora Bridge, where it rejoins the Burke-Gilman Trail by an office park. Here, look for an attractive stairway that leads up to the intersection of Fremont and 34th Street in the heart of the trendy Fremont business district. This is a good place to find a bite to eat if you are hungry. There are interesting restaurants and a great PCC store for more organic fare.
Continue along the Burke-Gilman Trail until you reach the Fremont Bridge, and climb the steel stairway to the bridge deck.
Cross the Fremont Bridge to continue the hike. At the south end of the bridge, descend steps to a waterside driveway next to a row of funky homes. Soon the driveway smoothly transitions to a wide walkway that travels along a continuous strip of waterfront businesses and restaurants. Nearby Westlake Avenue is busy but it is well-separated from your path by parking lots and landscaping.
This well-groomed sidewalk, popular with joggers and walkers, takes you all the way to the south end of Lake Union. At Lake Union Park, you can cross Waterway 3 on a pedestrian bridge. Explore the expanse of Lake Union Park, and then continue on to the Center for Wooden Boats, where the loop hike ends.