A Runner’s Guide to Mercer Island

Updated on February 7, 2020 | by Erin Sirianni

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If you enjoy running and walking for exercise, you probably already experience the joy of setting out on foot on Mercer Island. Our park space and trail system provide miles to explore; our trees provide plenty of canopy to keep us cool; and our neighborhoods offer dozens of different routes and vantage points to stop for a moment to take in a scenic view.

With the exception of the occasional swooping owl in Pioneer Park, it’s a pretty good place for a quick or leisurely jaunt.

We hope you enjoy this essential guide for runners (and walkers)! We’ve included some of our favorite walking and running routes, a round-up of local running events, a must-read book for finding neighborhood cut-throughs and hidden trails, and more!

Where to Run (and Walk) on Mercer Island


Mercer Island offers over 475 acres of park space and over 50 miles of maintained trails, making our island a trail runner and hiker’s delight. The largest local parks offering the most trail mileage are Luther Burbank Park, Aubrey Davis Park, and Pioneer Park, as described below. We’ve also created the following running maps for you to use to inspire your next walking, running, or hiking route.

Aubrey Davis Park

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. It features paved paths that are popular with runners, walkers, and bikers. Enjoy city and lake views and wide open spaces as you run through this park. The route below will also take you past Mercer Island’s Outdoor Sculpture Gallery located along the I-90 corridor on Sunset Highway between 77th Ave SE and 80th Ave SE.

Luther Burbank Park

Luther Burbank Park is located on the northeast shore of Mercer Island and runs three quarters of a mile along the waterfront. The route below will take you past wetlands, dairy barn ruins, a dog park, an earth sculpture called “The Source,” an amphitheater, as well as through the woods of upper Luther Burbank Park. As Mercer Island’s most popular park, you can expect to share the path with families, dog walkers, beach goers, and other runners and walkers along the way.

Pioneer Park

Pioneer Park, located at the south end of Mercer Island, has three different quadrants offering 6.6 miles of trails winding through 113 acres. The northeast quadrant is our favorite, and if you follow the Ravine Trail, you’ll eventually discover the bridge (pictured below) that crosses a natural stream through the park. As I mentioned earlier, runners should watch out for swooping owls, especially at dawn and dusk in the fall. The route below starts at Starbucks in the south end shopping center and will take you around the perimeter of all three quadrants.



South End Trails Loop

(Island Crest Park / Parkwood Open Space / Pioneer Park)

If you’d like to experience a variety of different trails and neighborhoods, we’ve included the following route, which begins and ends at Island Crest Park. This loop will take you down to East Mercer Way through Parkwood Open Space and back up to Island Crest Way via SE 53rd St Open Space, as well as behind Island Park Elementary School and through the quadrants of Pioneer Park before returning back up Island Crest Way to Island Crest Park.

Neighborhoods


If you don’t mind hills, almost every neighborhood on Mercer Island is runner and walker friendly. If you’d like to avoid hills for a flatter route, you might enjoy running in Mercer Island’s mid-island and south end neighborhoods. The Lakes neighborhood, for example, is flat, and offers an approximate one-mile easy-running and walking loop. If you’re looking for a five-mile neighborhood route, here’s one of our favorites through the neighborhoods of Parkwood, Island Point, and the Lakes.

Tracks

There are two tracks on Mercer Island – both popular with runners and walkers. One track is located at Islander Middle School and is easily accessible to anyone who wishes to use it almost any time of day. Parking is available after school hours at the middle school. The other track is located at the Mercer Island High School.  This is a beautiful, enclosed track, only accessible if you have a facilities key card. Members of the Mercer Island community are invited to use the track but must purchase a key card annually for $5 at the Mercer Island School District’s Maintenance and Operations building.

Must-Read Resource

When I was training for my first half-marathon, I was always looking for new running routes around Mercer Island as I began to tire of my usual loops. Walk! Mercer Island became my indispensable resource. I used it to figure out new routes and to find hidden trails that connected different neighborhoods that I wanted to loop through. The book contains a Trail Guide section, a Guided Walks section (i.e. East Seattle History Loop), and a From Here to There section (i.e. Mercer Island High School to Town Center walk).  In the introduction, the author Kris Kelsay states that “Walk! Mercer Island is intended to bring the island alive for people on foot.” This book does just that.

Walk! Mercer Island – The Insider’s Guide to Walking on Mercer Island

By Kris Kelsay

Book Description: Walk! Mercer Island is the comprehensive guide to walking the extensive and beautiful parks, open space, residential neighborhoods, and community trails available on the little island in the middle of Lake Washington. Author Kris Kelsay, an avid walker, hiker, and outdoor enthusiast, guides you along the little known and underutilized trail system, pointing out Mercer Island’s unique history, beautiful public art, and fascinating flora and fauna along the way. Residents and visitors alike will gain inside knowledge and access to this gem of an Island in Seattle’s backyard.

Purchase at Island Books >>

Running & Walking Groups

Bluebirds

Twice a week, the Bluebirds women’s running group gathers at local parks on Mercer Island, led by Desiree Berry, a former professional triathlete and runner (who also recently qualified for the US Olympic Trials with a 2:39:17 time at the Cal International Marathon!). The group meets on Mondays and Wednesdays, and workouts consist of either hills, circuit training, interval running, or a fartlek, followed by a cool-down of stretching and a bit of core work. All abilities are welcome, and each runner takes her own pace on nearby park trails and loops. Learn more on the Bluebirds website.

Solemates

A Mercer Island walking group for Seniors

Come join us every Wednesday for neighborhood walks in the Seattle and Eastside areas! Dress for the weather as we go rain or shine. Four miles of walk and talk, followed by a stop at a coffee shop. No sign-ups necessary. Solemates gathers at the Mercer Island Community & Event Center every Wednesday, September through May from 8:30 to 11:30 am. Cost is $3.

MI Parks & Recreation Guide (pg 33) >>

Trailmates

A Mercer Island hiking group for Seniors

Lace up your lightweight hiking boots! Moderate 5 to 7 mile hikes in the beautiful Northwest for seniors! Come along as we visit a variety of locations within an hour’s drive. Space is limited to 10 – 13 hikers per trip. Registration is required. Upcoming hikes will take place in the Issaquah Alps.

MI Parks & Recreation Guide (pg 33) >>

Mercer Island Women’s Club – City Walks

Explore interesting neighborhoods in the Seattle area. All levels welcome on our 3 to 5 mile walks with a stop for lunch. September – October and March – June. Days vary but we aim for two walks per month. Learn more on the Mercer Island Women’s Club website.

Mercer Island Women’s Club – Walks & Hikes

Starting in April, this group begins their hiking adventures, starting with easier hikes and building mileage and elevation gradually throughout the seasons. Members focus on gaining endurance for more challenging and beautiful hikes in the summer and fall months.  Learn more on the Mercer Island Women’s Club website.

Running Events

Mercer Island Rotary Half Marathon

Takes place in March on Mercer Island

The Puget Sound’s running season kicks off every March with the Mercer Island Rotary Half Marathon! The Mercer Island Rotary Half Marathon is an annual event which encourages runners and walkers to put their feet forward to help support Colon Cancer Awareness and Prevention and Rotary charities. The event offers something for everyone, including the Swedish Cancer Institute Half Marathon Run and Half Marathon Walk around Mercer Island, the BMW Seattle 10K Run (a Bloomsday 2nd seed qualification run), the Overlake Medical Center 5K Run/Walk, and the non-competitive Kids’ Dash (for children age 10 and under). The event is USATF sanctioned and all routes are USATF certified. This year’s event will take place Sunday, March 18, 2018, and races begin at the Mercer Island Community & Event Center.

Learn more >>

Photo Credit: Mercer Island Half Marathon

Do you have any running tips, resources, or favorite experiences you’d like to share?  We would love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below!

6 Comments

  1. Hi, could you please indicate the distance for each loop?

    Comment by Juliette Tanarro — September 19, 2017 @ 10:56 am

  2. Just added the mileage. Than you for the suggestion, Juliette! If you click on the title of the map, you should be able to get even more information about the route, including elevation gain.

    Comment by Erin Sirianni — September 19, 2017 @ 5:05 pm

  3. The trail on 80th Ave SE, south end of Mercer Island, might be disappearing because of construction of 6 new homes. We’ve heard the city will demolish the front yards of the 2 existing homes, pave the trail and make it a 26 ‘wide street.
    Please stop by and get a copy of the planned construction off the sign posted by the city.

    Comment by Tracey Dubofsky — September 19, 2017 @ 3:52 pm

  4. Thank you for the information, Tracey. I haven’t run this course for a little while, but I will soon and will be sure to stop to see the sign and details posted.

    Comment by Erin Sirianni — September 19, 2017 @ 5:07 pm

  5. Mercer Island Woman’s Club also has several walking / hiking groups. $30 to join the club but the organized walks and hikes are free. Some include dogs. http://www.mercerislandwomensclub.com/

    Comment by Anni Zilz — September 20, 2017 @ 8:13 am

  6. Thanks for the info, Anni! Good to know!

    Comment by Erin Sirianni — September 20, 2017 @ 8:17 am

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