This is the third post in my central Seattle Lake Washington parks series. For full info and a list of the parks see the introduction here.
Leschi Commercial District
View of Leschi Marina, Cascade Mountains, Bellevue, and Mt. Rainer
Lakeside Avenue and Yesler
The Leschi neighborhood is named for Chief Leschi of the Nisqually tribe. The area was a seasonal encampment for the Duwamish people and Chief Leschi was known to visit here as well. Leschi was hanged in 1858 for a murder he didn’t commit and wasn’t officially exonerated until 2004 by a unanimous vote in the state Historical Court of Inquiry.
Native Americans had established a major trail over the hills through thick forests from Leschi to Elliott Bay and the first downtown Seattle area settlement of Europeans was built near its end at the bay. As logging operations increased and European settlers expanded outwards the trail was developed into a very rough wagon road.
In 1884 the Seattle Railroad company made plans for a cable car line to use part of the road’s route to attract land buyers, and by the late 1880s the cable car was in operation. The trestles over ravines were a bit shaky and the cars rattled noisily, but people flocked aboard anyway.
Leschi became one of Seattle’s premier holiday and recreation centers. The waterfront area included docks, cargo shipping, ferry terminal, casino, bandstands, tennis courts, formal gardens, boat rentals, hotel and restaurant, and Seattle’s first zoo. The hotel was known as a place to meet for romantic trysts.
The Seattle Railway Company hired Jacob Umlauff as Leschi’s chief gardener and many of his plantings, including sequoia trees (redwoods), remain in Leschi Park today. Umlauff went on to become Seattle Parks Superintendent.
Leschi Park is the smallest of the parks in this series in respect to the waterfront portion. It’s just a large strip of lawn with three benches facing the marina and lake. But if you’re looking for a nice spot to gaze at boats and watch ducks, this is a pretty good one.
The parking lot is on the east side of Lakeside Avenue at the south end of the Leschi commercial district. There are two rows of angle parking, but only the row next to the street is public parking. The lakeside row is for those with marina permits. Because of the angle of the parking spaces it’s best to enter the lot at the north end.
The park here is a good-sized rectangle of lawn leading down to the water right in front of the marina docks. In the south half there are three benches stretched out along a sidewalk.
From here you get a view of Bellevue and the Cascade Mountains directly across the lake through boat masts. The view is best on a clear day in winter and early spring when there is snow on the mountains. Looking to the southeast you get a nice view of Mt. Rainier.
I stopped by here on a beautiful Tuesday in March, and even with the traffic on Lakeside it was peaceful. The sun was shining, Canada geese, buffleheads, and lesser scaup were swimming around or grazing, and a slight breeze created a musical backdrop from halyards clinking against boat masts.
The larger part of the park on the west side of Lakeside Avenue is quite lovely. Unlike many of the Lake Washington parks, much of the west section here is only on a relatively mild slope, rather than a steep hillside.
The sloping lawn-covered hill is planted with exotic trees and rosebeds. Since the slope isn’t steep for some distance into the park, the paved walking paths are accessible even for many with mobility issues. From online pictures I know of one bench near a rosebed towards the left side of the park when facing the hill. (I didn’t take the time to walk up there myself to get photos.)
Halfway to the top is a swingset and a tennis court. It looks like parking might be available next to the tennis court. There are supposedly bathrooms near the top also, but I can’t tell where they are from the aerial photo.
Above the tennis court area is a steeper section with woods and trails.
There’s another part of the park that I didn’t notice on the day I was there. From looking at the aerial view later on, it appears that public parking is also available in a lot that juts out over the water at the north end of the park next to a restaurant. From the lot a ramp leads down to a dock. I never went back to verify that this is all public access, but it appears to be.
There are three restaurants in the neighborhood, and the Leschi Market and a Starbucks are across the street.
Leschi isn’t a park to go out of your way to visit for most people, unless the view calls to your camera. But it is a very pleasant and peaceful park, worthy of a stop if you find yourself driving by.
Things to Know
4 am to 11:30 pm
Parking lot hours are 6 am to midnight.
Three benches by the marina.
At least one bench on the hill section.
No picnic tables.
Somewhere in the upper portion of the park. I’m not sure where, but I’m guessing near the swings and tennis court.
There’s a Starbucks across the street from the marina.
Leschi Park is used almost exclusively by locals, but people dining at the nearby restaurants or out for a drive along Lake Washington Boulevard also stop by.
I was here for about half an hour on a sunny weekday in March and a handful of other people wandered through and paused to enjoy the view and watch the birds. In warmer months the lawns and plantings on the slope attract a few people who sprawl out on a blanket to catch some rays or read a book under a shade tree, but even then it’s never crowded.
Parking lot with space for approximately 20 cars on the public parking side. Limit of two hours.
Street parking on both sides of Lakeside Avenue in front of the park.
Possibly a public parking lot at the north end out by the water with space for approx 40 cars.
Unless a special event is going on in the area you should have no trouble finding a parking space on most days.
Other central Seattle parks on Lake Washington, Leschi restaurants.