This is the sixth park in my central Seattle Lake Washington parks series. For full info and a list of all the parks see the introduction here.
Lake Washington Boulevard
Mt. Baker Park came along a bit later than the other historical parks I’ve covered in this series. After the Duwamish people were removed from the area the land was owned by David Denny, one of the key figures in Seattle history.
In 1905 developer J.C. Hunter purchased 130 acres from Denny and named the neighborhood Mt. Baker because of the views of the distant mountain. Hunter hired the Olmstead Brothers to help him design Seattle’s first planned community with strict covenants regarding lot sizes and minimum value of the homes built on them.
In 1908 Hunter donated the land for the upper and lower portions of Mt. Baker Park to the city. The parkland was deemed an essential part of the neighborhood’s open space and boulevard system in the Olmsteads’ report.
Unlike Madison, Madrona, and Leschi, Mt. Baker Park wasn’t amusement oriented, fitting in with the more exclusive nature of the neighborhood. Only a boathouse and pier were built. Due to needed repairs, they were removed in 1946 and replaced with an on-shore boathouse and moorage for 32 boats.
In 1950 Mt. Baker Park became the first headquarters for the hydroplane races that evolved into Seafair. The races moved to their new (and current) home seven years later.
By 1961 the marina docks had become unsafe. They were removed and the existing fishing pier was installed instead and the boathouse was remodeled for use as a bathhouse. The park’s waterfront has been the sleepy place it is today since then, except for when children flock to the swimming beach in summer and Seafair is in progress.
From aerial views it looks like the upper portion of Mt. Baker Park is lovely, but I’m only previewing the waterfront sections of these parks and in that respect this one doesn’t have much going on. The waterfront consists of a swimming area and fishing pier, and that’s pretty much it.
With that said, Mt. Baker does have one of the better Lake Washington swimming beaches in Seattle, and the pier is nice and large.
An angled road leads down to the parking lot which holds around 34 vehicles. The lot is long and narrow, with no turn around, so maneuvering to leave and try a different park is tricky when the lot is full. Almost half of the spaces look out over the lake, but the view is better at Madrona, Colman, and Stan Sayres in my opinion.
A short distance to the right of the parking lot (when facing the lake) is a single picnic table near the water. Since it’s away from the main section of the park this is a nice little spot if you’re looking for a quiet place to eat lunch, watch ducks, or read.
The bathhouse is in the middle of the park, and in front of it a large Y-shaped pier juts out into the lake. From the pier you get a clear view of Colman Park across the small bay, the I-90 floating bridge, Bellevue skyline, and Cascade Mountains.
Beyond the bathhouse is the swimming beach. A short set of steps leads down to the beach from the paved walkway.
The swimming area has lifeguards and floating dock with a diving board in the summer. There is more actual beach here than most Lake Washington parks, with a large enough sandy section to sit out on a towel and for the kiddies to play in.
Above the beach is a tiered section with three benches, two picnic tables, and a kinda scraggly looking lawn.
The lawn isn’t very large, and not as inviting to sun bathers as other parks, so in summer Mt. Baker tends to attract families with children more than other demographics. If you’re looking for a very family friendly swimming beach you might want to give this one a try.
The largest portion of the park is up the hill across Lake Washington Boulevard. There are lots of trees, walking paths, and viewpoints where you can see Mt. Baker on clear days.
The main section of the upper park is a long strip that stretches for about five or six blocks in a north and south direction. At the south end of the upper park are tennis courts and a nicely renovated playground. (I haven’t been up there, so no photos.)
The feeling one gets from a park is subjective and for me, a solo middle-aged adult, the Mt. Baker Park waterfront doesn’t have much appeal, aside from the single shoreside picnic table.
However, if I lived in the area and had children or grandchildren looking for a fun place to play in and near the water on warm days it might be my park of choice. Another good use is to leave your car here if you want to walk, run, or bike on the long lakeside path to Seward Park.
Things to Know
6 am to 10 pm
One picnic table near the lake at the end of the parking lot.
Three benches at the swimming area.
Two picnic tables near the swimming area.
In the bathhouse in the middle of the park.
Long narrow lot with slots for about 34 cars. Almost half the spaces overlook the lake.
Two handicap spaces next to bathhouse.
In cooler months there is no trouble finding parking. In the summer it can be unpredictable on weekdays, but the lot often fills up on sunny and warm weekends. There is no nearby overflow parking. The lot is frequently used by people not visiting the park itself but who are going out on the Lake Washington path.
The lot is difficult to turn around in when full, especially if one or more other cars are doing the same thing.
Mt. Baker Park is primarily used by people living in the south central area of Seattle. For much of the year usage is regular, but light, with most people just passing through on walks or bike rides.
I was here on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in March and there were five other cars in the lot. But the people from all but one of the cars were out on the Lake Washington pedestrian and bike path, not spending time in the park itself.
Summer is mostly when the park attracts people who plan to come and stay for a while because of the very nice swimming beach. On summer weekends especially the park can get very busy.