Puget Sound Beach
Fitness Hill Climb
Seasonal Offleash Dog Beach
Intersection of 20th Avenue NW and NW 190th Street.
The City of Shoreline has done a beautiful job renovating Richmond Beach Saltwater Park in recent years, and is continuing its work on restoring native vegetation. They paid special attention to making the park as wheelchair friendly as possible, especially when taking into consideration the park’s unfriendly topography. The park sits in a steep bowl that was a gravel quarry in its previous life.
Speaking of restoration, the hillside used to be riddled with random dirt paths going every which way that were created by park users tramping through the bushes. Restoring native plants is important for healthy wildlife habitat, stabilizing the hillside, and reducing erosion and runoff. There are paved paths and stairs to get you anywhere you want to go now, so please stay on them at all times.
The upper and middle sections of the park are accessible for most everyone, with parking right next to two of the viewpoints. The tricky part is that the beach itself is inaccessible for many of those with mobility issues who are on foot. The path from the lower parking lot that winds down to the beach is wide and paved, but it’s moderately steep.
I don’t have any photos of the beach because of this. On my first visit in 2015, as I was preparing to start this blog, the footbridge was being completely rebuilt so the beach path was closed. On my second visit a year later I was too worried my hip would give me trouble hiking up the hill after walking around on the beach. I haven’t made it back to the park since then, and don’t want to keep putting off posting this preview any longer. The aerial views from King County iMap will have to substitute.
I’ll start our park tour at the tippy top of the hill where the neighborhood street enters the park.
Usually a closing time sign is posted at the entrance gate. If you’re arriving late in the day look to see if it’s there, because the official hours of Shoreline parks are “dawn to dusk,” which is open to interpretation. Knowing a specific closing time is very helpful here since the gate gets locked at night.
To the left of the park gate is the start of a long, relatively level, walking path that travels around the entire upper rim of the park. Bicycles are not allowed on the path, but there is a convenient rack at the beginning.
I haven’t actually walked this path yet, but I do intend to get around to it eventually. I expect that the views are spectacular. Benches are set at intervals along the way if you need a rest stop, or if you just want to sit a spell to enjoy the view.
For those who want to walk the path, but have difficulty with hills, the easiest thing to do is use the street parking just outside the park entrance on the west side of 20th. Otherwise, you have to use a parking lot lower down and hike back up the hill to get to the start of the path.
On your right just inside the park gate is a small viewpoint with benches and the top of the hillside stair climb. There is no parking available here. The hill climb is the most direct route down to the beach for those arriving at the park on foot.
The hill climb is also a popular physical workout feature at the park. Several sets of steep stairs climb down the hill, and along the way are two stations with exercise equipment. There is a board next to the top of the stairs where you can flip numbers to keep track of how many times you have gone down and back up.
Follow the park road down the hill a short distance and you come to the first parking lot on your right, with another viewpoint and benches. You can enjoy the view from the comfort of your car if you wish, which is really nice if the reason you’re here is to do a bit of storm watching.
Facing the view, to your right are a few steps down to the benches and to your left is a short, smooth path for wheelchairs. For those unable to venture far from their car, this is the most accessible spot in the park.
Continue further down the hill on the park road, past a couple of buildings, and you come to the second parking lot on your left, with another viewpoint. This viewpoint is quite a bit larger.
Two benches and a picnic table are across a lawn from the parking lot, set near the hillside edge above the park road. At the south end of the parking lot is the entrance to the park’s first picnic terrace. Several picnic tables are to your left and a wood pergola is to your right. This is a popular wedding and party rental venue with the tables, pergola, and view.
If you walk down the length of the pergola you’ll come to a break in the bushes and see two more view benches just beyond. Aside from the views along the rimwalk and on the beach, this is the widest view in the park because you’re high up in the middle of the bowl.
This picnic terrace is the last of the upper park areas. Continue driving down the hill and you will wind around to the lower level (third) parking lot. The lot is quite large, with two sections, and is the one most people use when heading down to the beach.
In the middle of the lower parking lot on the east side is the building with the main park bathrooms.
There is a middle section of the park on the hillside between the upper viewpoints and lower parking lot. The mid-section contains the children’s playground and a second picnic terrace. It’s easier to access the mid-section from the lower parking lot than it is from above.
Stairs go directly up to the mid-section from the parking lot next to the bathrooms. For those in wheelchairs or people who have difficulty with stairs, a long ramp leads from the north end of the lower parking lot up to the mid-section.
The picnic terrace in the mid-section is larger than the first and is really nice. The spacious area is fully paved and includes a viewpoint, large pergola, shelter, and picnic tables. It’s a popular wedding and party rental venue also.
To the left of the ramp at the north end of the parking lot is the start of a dirt path that leads back into the trees and bushes. I haven’t explored it yet, but Joe Sweeny, a Seattle birder, posts a lot of bird photos he’s taken back in there on his blog. So it’s a part of the park I intend to check out eventually also.
At the south end of the lower parking lot is the start of the paved path down to the beach. Near the start are a couple of picnic tables, then the path curves around down the hill, crosses up over the train tracks on a footbridge, and then curves down as a long ramp to the beach.
At the end of the ramp are the beach bathrooms, and a bit further is the beach picnic area. The picnic area has a shelter, some uncovered tables, and a fire ring. These are all connected by a paved pathway, so those in wheelchairs can be part of family beach activities, assuming the chair can make it back up the hill.
Two or three benches are scattered around the open sandy area near the picnic shelter. There’s also a statue here, its design inspired by the traditional Coast Salish woodcarving style. The Coast Salish people used these beaches for fishing and collecting shellfish.
The beach closer to the water is sand and gravel, heavy on the gravel. Some sections are all rock. This means that, unless you plan to sit on the plentiful driftwood, you might want to consider toting a beach chair along with you because just a towel or blanket on the ground could be painfully lumpy.
Getting out to the water often involves some clambering over the driftwood barrier. Sometimes you can find a path winding through and sometimes you have no choice but to go over. It just depends on how storms have arranged the logs.
Beach fires are prohibited in the park, but the fire ring located by the picnic shelter is available on a first come basis if a group hasn’t rented the shelter. (If the picnic area is occupied by a group that rented it, the fire ring is reserved for them.) Bring your own firewood because collecting wood in the park, including driftwood, is not allowed.
The tracks are very close to the picnic area, so you have to not mind the noise of passing trains. Kids enjoy watching them pass underneath from the footbridge, and the engineers will often toot the horn for spectators.
From November 1st through March 15th one section of the beach is an offleash dog area. Signs are posted at the beach indicating where the area is. (I think the dog section is south of the bathrooms.) The offleash area isn’t fenced, so you need good voice control to let your pooch offleash here. The rest of the year your dog must be leashed at all times in all areas of the park.
Richmond Beach Saltwater Park is a wonderful park at any time of year. It’s a great place to soak up some sun, have a picnic, workout on the hill climb, look for interesting birds, play on the beach, read a book on a view bench, watch storms over Puget Sound, or enjoy a colorful sunset.
While the location isn’t very convenient for those living outside the local area, and the beach isn’t accessible for everyone, anyone who loves a great view can still get immense enjoyment from visiting this park. If it was only 10-15 minutes away, instead of the over half an hour it takes me to get here, Richmond Beach would most definitely be one of my regular parks.
Things to Know
Dawn to Dusk
Though, take note of the closing time posted at entrance gate. On my two February visits the posted closing time was 7pm, which is well past full dark at that time of year.
Benches along the rimwalk.
Benches at all viewpoints.
Picnic tables at three separate picnic areas.
Two picnic tables near the start of the beach path.
Benches near the picnic area at the beach.
Driftwood on the beach.
One bathroom at the lower parking lot.
One bathroom at the beach.
Street parking on the west side of 20th just outside the park gate.
Three parking lots within the park. The first is the smallest and the lowest lot is quite large.
All parking lots have handicapped spaces. In the lower lot handicapped spaces are located near the path to the beach, in the middle near the bathrooms, and at the north end near the ramp up to the picnic terrace and playground.
Most of the time finding parking ranges from very easy to a little searching for the best available remaining spots. But on sunny summer weekends it is difficult to predict what you will find. Sometimes there are plenty of spaces available and sometimes every spot is taken.
Richmond Beach Saltwater Park is primarily used by people living in Shoreline and Edmonds, but people from other suburbs and Seattle find their way here as well. The park’s inconvenient location and somewhat steep beach path helps keep it on the downlow compared to the waterfront in Edmonds and Golden Gardens in Seattle.
Both of my visits for this preview were in February, one year apart. The first time, in 2015, the footbridge to the beach was closed and it was partly cloudy, so the only people in the park were a handful at the upper viewpoints. The second time, in 2016, was on an unusually warm and sunny day for February. Quite a lot of people were scattered all over the park, but it was far from crowded.
Richmond Beach is heavily used, but it’s large enough, with enough distinct areas, that for much of the year everyone spreads out and it doesn’t feel congested. Expect heavier crowds in warmer weather, especially if one or more of the picnic areas are rented out, and on some summer weekends the park is packed to the brim. Though, even when the park is at its busiest, it doesn’t get nearly as crazy as Golden Gardens.
If you want some quiet space (mostly) to yourself, you can usually find it at one of the upper viewpoints or along the rimwalk, even on days when the park is busy. The beach is the biggest draw for the majority of park goers.
At the intersection of Aurora and 185th in Shoreline, turn west onto 185th.
185th winds down the hill and becomes Richmond Beach Road.
Follow the road for about two miles.
At a stop sign, turn left onto 20th. (It’s either the second or third stop sign you come to. It’s been two years since I’ve been there so I don’t recall for sure.)
Follow 20th for a few blocks south through a neighborhood and you’ll see the park entrance straight ahead at the end of the street.
Olympic Mountains, sunsets, interesting trees, trains, driftwood, birds.
Best light: morning, sunset.
Amateur sandcastle building and sand sculpture contest every August.