Sand Point in NE Seattle
Views of Mt. Rainier
Offleash Dog Beach
Paved Walking Paths
From Sand Point Way turn east on NE 65th at light.
This is the sixth and final preview post in my Magnuson Park series.
Pt. 5: Promontory Point
The official name of the northeast portion of Magnuson Park is Sand Point Head, but if you call it that you might get blank looks. If you say you’re going to Kite Hill, everyone familiar with the park knows what you’re talking about, even though the hill is only one part of this section.
The Kite Hill area of Magnuson Park is the heart of the park. It was the first section fully developed by the City of Seattle for public use, primarily due to its lake access and the fact that this section of Sand Point was already a recreation area for Naval Air Station personnel.
To get there use the south park entrance at 65th. Drive quite a way into the park until you get to the three-way stop. At the stop sign angle left onto Lake Shore Drive.
Once you pass the wetland ponds on Lake Shore Drive you’ll reach the most traditionally parklike area of Magnuson Park, and thus one of the most popular areas.
A short distance past the ponds there is parking available alongside the park road all the way north to its end. The road ends for vehicle traffic next to the Kite Hill parking lot.
At the south end of this section, where the road parking begins, is the old lifeguard station with real bathrooms. It’s at the end of a paved path heading east from the road towards the park promenade and lake.
The stretch of park from here to Kite Hill, along the east side of the road, is a wide swath of lawn split by the paved park promenade closer to the lake. Picnic tables and park benches are located at intervals near the lake all through this section. Some of the tables can be reserved.
Kite Hill rises up from the north side of the parking lot at the end of Lake Shore Drive. The hill didn’t exist until the 1980s, when 40,000 tons of demolished runway debris was piled up, filled in, and sodded over. Kite fliers immediately saw the benefit of an elevated field that was clear of trees and perfectly situated to catch breezes off the lake.
Even if you’re not into kites, it can be a nice spot for a lawn picnic with views of Lake Washington, Cascade peaks, and Mt. Rainier. (Just keep to the margins in case some kite fliers come along.) There aren’t any tables or benches on the hill, but you can bring your own chair.
Every June the Father’s Day Kite Fly is held here, organized by the Washington Kitefliers Association. You can bring your own kites or watch others fly theirs. Kids can make and decorate kites, and there are food trucks available.
At the base of the hill, the road that was Lake Shore Drive is closed to vehicles and becomes the start of a paved walking path loop. The road heads north, then turns east at the park boundary and meets up with the north end of the park promenade (also called the Beach Walk) for your return route on the loop.
The full loop is a little over two-thirds of a mile in walking distance. There are park benches on both sides of the loop, so this is a wonderful walk even for those who need rest stops.
East of Kite Hill, in between the loop walking paths, is Fin Art. Or as it’s officially entitled: The Fin Project: From Swords Into Plowshares. It’s a public art project created out of submarine diving-plane fins, installed and arranged to look like the fins of an orca pod swimming together. If you’d like to read more about it you can visit the webpage here.
At the north end of the loop is the offleash dog beach. It is connected by a long path going west to the main dog park (covered in my Magnuson Intro post). The path and dog beach are part of the offleash area. But if you are bringing your dog in from Kite Hill it must be on a leash until you get to the dog beach.
This is the only beach in a City of Seattle park where dogs are officially allowed, either on or off a leash. You will see dogs at beaches in every park, but the owners risk getting a hefty ticket from animal control officers. No worry about that here though.
Along the lake south of the dog beach are a few more lake access points. Some are sometimes used as unofficial clothing-optional spots, and have been since the 1970s. There are lots of trees and bushes in the area which provide swimmers and sun bathers with privacy from gawkers, and prevent promenade walkers from getting an unexpected eyeful.
At the south ends of the walking loop is a paved path that connects the parking area to the beach area. The beach section includes: a picnic area with a shelter and uncovered tables, a small wading pool, the official swimming beach, and the bathhouse. The picnic shelter can be reserved.
The bathhouse started its life as the officers’ facility for lake recreation at the Naval Air Station. It has changing rooms for swimming and real bathrooms. I think there may also be a concession there in the summer.
For those who want to know what to expect if they decide to walk the entire park promenade along Lake Washington, the distance from the north park boundary to the end of Promontory Point in the south is just slightly under a mile. Park benches are located at intervals along most of its length.
I should probably also mention here that while the promenade generally follows the lake’s shoreline, it’s not actually next to the water in most places. So to get down to the water you need to walk a bit farther over grass, or in the north section, over rough (sometimes muddy) trails.
Like most of the park, the Kite Hill area is a great place to visit any time of year. But it can be especially wonderful on sunny autumn days in October and November when the leaves are changing color.
Magnuson Park has so many things to see and do all year long that you could visit the park every weekend and have a completely different experience each time. I hope this series encourages you to get out and explore one of Seattle’s greatest parks.
Things to Know
4:00 am – 11:30 pm
Benches along the paved walking paths.
Picnic tables in picnic area near swimming beach and south along the lake.
Old lifeguard station.
Swimming beach bathhouse.
The bathroom situation in the Kite Hill area can be somewhat unpredictable.
I’ve spent essentially no time in the section near the old lifeguard station bathrooms, so I have no idea how reliably they are open. Sometimes there are porta potties set outside the building when they are closed.
The bathhouse bathrooms, by any logical reasoning, should be open year-round. They usually are open, but that’s not always the case.
One thing to double-check is that the bathhouse bathrooms have two entrances. One on the lake side and one on the promenade side. Sometimes the gates are locked on the lake doors, but you can still enter from the promenade.
If bathrooms are closed you can drive to one of the porta potties that are close to parking in the Promontory Point or Central Wetland parking lots.
Along Lake Shore Drive.
Lot at base of Kite Hill.
The parking lot is good-sized, though not as large as might be expected. However, when combined with the parking along the road there is space for a lot of cars.
For most of the year parking in the area is very easy to somewhat easy to come by. During the busiest times in summer you might have to spend some time driving back and forth waiting for a space to open up. But even then the parking situation usually isn’t as dire as it is at parks like Golden Gardens and Carkeek.
A lot of locals treat Magnuson as their neighborhood park and go there for a daily jog or walk with the dog. But the park also attracts lots of visitors from all over the greater Seattle area throughout the year, along with the occasional tourist.
The Kite Hill area is popular all four seasons, and even on soggy days you will see some hardy souls making the most of the park in their rain gear.
Despite the area pretty much never being devoid of people, for most of the year it’s still a fairly peaceful place to go. The only times it gets rowdy is sometimes on summer afternoons/weekends or if there is a special event going on.
Mt. Rainier, Fin Art, kites, autumn leaves.
Best light: sunrise or afternoon/evening.
Map of Magnuson Park