Sand Point in NE Seattle
Walking paths and trails
View of Mt. Rainier
From Sand Point Way turn east onto NE 65th at the light.
This is the fifth post in my Magnuson Park series.
It could easily be said that Promontory Point is the least interesting section of Magnuson Park. But for some park goers that’s the draw. Unless a rowdy group has reserved the picnic shelter, or there’s a supermoon lunar eclipse, this part of the park tends to be very sedate because it attracts fewer people.
The area is still a work in progress, but much of it has already been restored to a much more natural habitat. (There used to be a large runway, a firing range, and a gravel pit here, among other things.)
A boat launch, picnic area, level walking loop, and a short hill with trails that is a great area for birding, comprise Promontory Point.
At the northeast corner of this section is Magnuson’s motorized boat launch. During most of the year it’s little used, and you can mosey out onto the docks without getting in anyone’s way. But if you’re wandering around here in summer, keep a sharp eye out for vehicles and don’t hinder launch activities.
On the north side of the boat launch are two porta potties and access to the park promenade heading north. The Magnuson Park promenade is a paved walking path that stretches the entire length of the park along Lake Washington.
On the south side of the launch is a bench. Then a bit further south along the promenade is a picnic area. The picnic area has a shelter that can be reserved by groups, and there are also uncovered tables and benches nearby. Access to the lake is easy by the picnic area.
While there are a couple handicap parking spaces closest to the picnic area, getting from the lot to the shelter does require a short walk on paved paths that pass through a grassy area and across the boat launch waiting lanes.
At the southeast corner of the parking lot is an open area with a couple picnic tables and a hand carry boat launch for kayaks and boards. There is a low, steep bank between the lawn and small gravel beach, but if you go to the north end of the little beach you’ll find a slightly easier way down.
South of the parking lot is a large open field of tall grasses. Old paved roads from Sand Point’s air station days serve as a walking path loop around the field. From the loop you can see Mt. Rainier on clear days. The views are not unobstructed, but any glimpse of The Mountain is a good thing.
The field of tall grasses is not a field for playing in. Besides being soggy for much of the year, this field is part of the nature restoration efforts at Magnuson Park. (The field used to be the south end of the largest paved air station runway.) So stay on the official paths in order to avoid trampling the vegetation.
This south loop is a great place to go for a walk when you don’t feel up to a long distance, but do want to stretch your legs a little without a lot of people around. The full loop is a bit over quarter of a mile in distance.
There are three benches along the loop for those who need rest stops. The first bench is a short distance from the parking lot on the lake side. The second bench, at the southeast bend in the loop, is a peaceful spot to soak up the sun and listen to wind in the trees while surrounded by cheerful yellow flowers.
The third is the “secret” bench at the very south end, hidden in some bushes and reached by a short trail. It’s a good spot for getting away from everyone, but the only view you’ll have here is of a wall of blackberry brambles.
Just to the west of the secret bench is the base of Straight Shot. Straight Shot is a series of black standing stones in a straight line that stretch for a kilometer through the park. (If you’ve already visited the Promontory Ponds you probably saw one there and wondered what it was.) It is both an art installation and a survey equipment calibration tool. A plaque here explains the details.
There are two choices for finishing the loop back to the parking lot. The first is a grass and dirt path along Straight Shot on the west side of the field. But don’t be tricked into walking it in the wrong season! This path can still be muddy and squishy well into June. (I’ve had wet shoes on more than one occasion that prove this.)
The other choice is to stay on the paved path until it hits another old road just a bit further on, on the other side of a line of trees. You can then follow the paved road north to an intersection where there is a large porta potty and link to the parking lot at its southwest corner. Much dryer feet this way.
There aren’t any benches on the west side of the loop on either route.
A very short distance north of the porta potty you’ll see the Promontory Point sign. Just beyond the sign to the west is the Education Pavilion, which is an open-air shelter with bleachers that is used for environmental learning classes.
To the left of the pavilion is a sign with a trail map for the low hill west of the road. I’ve never actually ventured into that area, but if you want an extended walk/hike through a more natural setting I imagine it’s worth the trip.
According to a park official I spoke to, there may be one or two benches up the hill, but if you’re going on the trails don’t count on the availability of convenient rest stops.
There is supposed to be a bird blind up there somewhere. For people really into bird watching, the Promontory Point trails are the best area of the park for seeing a wide variety of bush and tree-dwelling birds, especially during spring and fall migrations.
The trails are the second area of the park (the first being the wetlands) for which you should consider renting one of the nature walk backpacks at the Community Center. See the Nature Programs section in the Introduction to Magnuson Park post for details.
You can gain access to the Promontory Point trails in three places. The first is from a trail near the pavilion, the second is just south of the porta potty, and the third is at the southwest bend of the paved walking path loop.
If you turn right at the pavilion you’ll find the butterfly garden close by. There is a sign depicting the various types of butterflies that supposedly visit, and a very low to the ground bench.
I’ve only been there in October and May and there wasn’t anything to see either time. There were few flowers and no butterflies. I wasn’t surprised by that in October, but I was in late May. So either the butterfly garden is neglected, or it’s only active during summer months.
Promontory Point at Magnuson Park can be a good place for a walk or hike any time of year, but it’s particularly pleasant on sunny fall days when the ground is dry and the weather is still warm.
Things to Know
Promontory Point is in the southeast corner of Magnuson Park.
Use the south park entrance at 65th and drive straight ahead for quite a ways until you get to an intersection.
Turn right at the stop sign into the parking lot.
4:00 am – 11:30 pm
Bleachers at the pavilion.
Three benches on the paved walking path loop.
Picnic tables and benches near the lake.
Porta potty near the pavilion, just west of the parking lot.
Two porta potties by the boat launch, north of the picnic area.
The parking lot is dominated by double long spaces for vehicles with boat trailers because of the boat launch. From April through September these slots are reserved for vehicles that are displaying a valid launch ticket.
From October through March single cars are permitted in the boat trailer spaces. Though if there’s a night event drawing big crowds, like the lunar eclipse, you can get away with using the trailer spots even outside of the listed months.
There is parallel parking available for single vehicles on the west, north, and east perimeter of the lot. There’s no parking allowed along the south perimeter.
On nice weekends the single car parking spaces do sometimes fill up, but most of the time finding parking isn’t a problem.
There are two or three handicap spots on the east side of the lot that are fairly near the path leading to the picnic shelter.
While I only discussed one parking lot in detail, there are actually two connected lots in this section. The one talked about here is the most convenient for the areas covered. The other lot is north of this one, and more convenient for the boat launch and access points to the east wetlands and other paths into the park.
Promontory Point is primarily used by boaters, picnickers, and locals out for a walk. Unless a family is going on a nature hike, other areas of the park are much more attractive to children.
This means the point tends to be more sparsely populated than the rest of Magnuson Park. So if you go to the park on a busy day and everything seems too crowded, check this section out before giving up completely.
Mount Rainier, flowers, butterflies, birds.
Best light: sunrise or afternoon/evening.
Map of Magnuson Park