5 fall walks on Mercer Island

Updated on September 26, 2020 | by Erin Sirianni

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Mercer Island looks particularly spectacular in the season of fall, when the deciduous trees show off in gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, and red. Now that fall is officially here, and the leaves have begun to turn, here are our favorite walks to enjoy the beautiful autumn days ahead.

Mercerdale – Town Center – Greta Hackett Outdoor Sculpture Gallery Loop

Here’s a great walk from one end of Mercer Island’s Town Center to the other and is perfect for anyone who may want to stop along the way to shop or for a bite to eat. This route begins in Mercerdale Park, where you’ll easily find parking, but another good starting point would be Sunset Highway located adjacent to the Greta Hackett Outdoor Sculpture Gallery.

This moderate walk will take you past favorite local shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants. Look for Island Books, Convivial Cafe, Mercer Island Florist, the MIVAL Gallery, Island Treats, Clarke + Clarke Art & Artifacts, and Freshy’s Seafood Shack – just a few suggested detours of many possible stops that you might add to your walk.

The path leading through the Greta Hacket Outdoor Sculpture Gallery is smooth, flat, and nicely removed from the activity of Mercer Island’s Town Center. Look for a variety of interesting sculptures, including Rippling Water, Counterpoint, Asteroid Sling #3, and the colorful, spiraling Primavera II.

Length: 1.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Walk surfaces: Asphalt trail & sidewalks

Aubrey Davis Park – East Seattle Loop

On this walk, you’ll experience the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway I-90 trail. This 7.5-mile smooth, well-maintained paved trail extends from Seattle’s Sturgis Park to Mercer Slough Nature Park in Bellevue. On Mercer Island, it follows along I-90 and passes through Aubrey Davis Park, where you can enjoy a section of it as part of this fall walk.

Aubrey Davis Park, also known as “Park on the Lid,” is an expansive park built on top of I-90 to protect the nearby neighborhoods from freeway disturbances. Park features include playgrounds, ball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, and green open spaces, as well as beautiful lake and mountain views. Look for several bronze sculptures along the way – Stepping Forward and Playful Pup, located together, and The Yearling, a fawn slightly hidden from view in the woods.

The loop around the East Seattle neighborhood will take you along 60th Ave SE, past beautiful waterfront mansions and historic homes, some built in the early 1900s, as well as several waterfront landings and parks. Look for the Old Boys & Girls Club and Secret Park and admire the new mural on West Mercer Way across from the I-90 on-and-off ramps, as you circle back.

Length: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Surfaces: Asphalt trail, streets & sidewalks

Luther Burbank Park

Luther Burbank Park is a delightful park to enjoy the fall colors, scenic views, and historical sites along Lake Washington. This 1.5-mile loop will take you along the waterfront and past meadows, wetlands, and forested areas. Notable landmarks  along the way include a large brick building, built in 1929, that formerly served as a dormitory for the Boys Parental School, which helped “delinquent youth become responsible citizens” (according to a nearby informational sign). Other historical sites include an inoperative brick steam plant at the waterfront plaza, dairy barn ruins, and Calkins Point, named after C.C. Calkins, who in the late 1880s purchased 21,000 acres on Mercer Island, and built a lavish hotel near the site of the point as well as a brick mansion (approximately at the site of the current Mercer Island Community & Events Center) – both of which were destroyed by fires.

Recreational features of the park include two children’s play areas, an off-leash dog park, an amphitheater, docks, a fishing pier, a swimming beach, a playfield, tennis courts, and a community pea patch (located on a hillside above the Mercer Island Community & Events Center).

Keep your eye out for public art throughout the park, including “The Source” earth sculpture, “Handsome Bollards” sculptural railing at the waterfront plaza, a bronze dog sculpture “P + B” near the dog park, a whimsical bird sculpture, called “Call of the Wild” next to the brick building; beautiful mosaics located in the playground area, and a colorful nature-themed mural painting at the tennis courts.

Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, dirt, woodchips, boardwalk, and crushed stone

Bicentennial Park Stair Climb to First Hill and back through Mercerdale neighborhood Loop

If you are looking for a more ambitious route while you enjoy the autumnal colors, this 2-mile loop that climbs from Mercerdale Park to First Hill might be just the workout for you. Begin by finding the trailhead in Bicentennial Park (located at the northwest corner of Mercerdale Park) and climb many, many stairs as far as you can go, and you’ll find yourself in the First Hill neighborhood (the elevation gain is approximately 300 feet). At the top of the hill, you’ll find a charming Little Free Library and bench, where you can sit for a moment and catch your breath. Follow SE 32nd Street to First Hill park, which includes a treehouse-themed playground and a large slide built into the hillside. If you enjoy public art, look for the uplifting “Now We are One” bronze sculpture in the park as well.  

From First Hill park, enjoy a loop through the First Hill neighborhood before you return to the stairs that take you back down to Bicentennial and Mercerdale parks. For an additional neighborhood loop, you can go right at one of the forks that you’ll find on the stairway trail. These side trails will take you to the Mercerdale neighborhood. Turning north on any of the streets in this neighborhood will take you back to Mercerdale park.

Length: 2 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Walk surfaces: Asphalt and crushed stone

Pioneer Park – The Lakes Loop

This easily customizable 2.78-mile route starts at Starbucks in the south end shopping center. Grab your favorite drink and then step into Pioneer Park and breathe deeply beneath the towering Douglas Firs. This route will take you around the perimeter of the northwest quadrant (though feel free to add the other quadrants if you’d like). From there you’ll head south down 84th Ave.  A wide, paved path will take you past Islander Middle School, before you head west (between South Mercer Playfields and Lakeridge Elementary) into the Lakes neighborhood.

The Lakes is a fun place to walk during the fall season, not only for the beautiful trees and fall colors, but once October arrives, residents will begin decorating their homes for Halloween, as the Lakes is the most popular trick-or-treating neighborhood on the island.

Public art to look for along this route includes World Trade Center artifacts at the Mercer Island Fire Station #92 (adjacent to the South End Shopping Center); Mythical Bird, a wood sculpture in Pioneer Park; and a Butterfly sculpture at Lakeridge Elementary.
Length: 2.78 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Surfaces: Dirt trails, sidewalks & streets

What is your favorite to walk and enjoy the fall colors on Mercer Island? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!