Monday, September 22, 2014

Trail Running for Beginners: Discovery Park Loop Trail

The Discovery Park Loop Trail (DPLT) is the first trail I ever ran on over two years ago and I highly recommend checking it out. It is a very beginner trail runner friendly trail in Discovery Park in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle.

I always park at the south parking lot off of West Emerson Street. The main (east) parking lot is by the visitor's center. Both lots are right next to the DPLT and are good options for parking.  There is also a north lot that I have never used so I cannot comment on it. You do not need a special parking pass to park in any of these lots.

The DPLT is 2.8 miles long (though I have to add that my Garmin always reads it just a teeny bit shorter than that) and I find that I can run it at a moderate effort in about 30 minutes, or just a little slower than I can run at the same effort on the road.

Discovery Park Map
Trail map from

The trail is very well marked, so as long as you read the signs at each intersection you will easily stay on the loop. There are not many other trails that come off of the main loop. The entire trail is very wide and is almost all dirt with some gravel. There are very few roots or large rocks in the trail, but enough that you need to pay attention.

Though the trail has some ups and downs, there are no major uphill climbs on the DPLT.

Elevation map of two loops, the first clockwise, the second counter-clockwise. And to clarify, I climbed up a section around mile 2.5 that was NOT an official part of the loop trail, instead of staying on the trail-- I did turn around and go back down on the trail, however.

These signs are everywhere to mark the trail.

The trail is almost entirely shaded except for a section to the west that runs along the bluff of the Puget Sound. I have run this trail in all kinds of weather and for the most part the trail is never that messy. Road running shoes do just fine on this trail, as well.

Some of my favorite sections of the trail.

A brief view of the Puget Sound. The ferry across the water is in front of West Seattle-- I wish there was a passenger ferry from West Seattle to Discovery Park! 

The open part of the trail.

I have found the trail to be fairly popular, you will likely pass several other walkers and runners on your way. As a female runner who often runs alone, I find the wide, well traveled trails feel very safe.

A couple things to note: there is a port-a-potty in the south parking lot year-round. In September I saw more porta-a-potties along the trail, though I have never used them and can't say for sure if those are also there year-round. The visitor's center will also have bathrooms available and there is one on the southwest corner of the park. Also, a major bonus of running the DPLT is that you don't really have to carry water or fuel, unless you like to have it more often than once per loop. I always stop at my car at the end of each loop to get water and a snack before I head out again! Beginners can run one loop, and you can keep challenging yourself to run more as your fitness level increases.

Have you ever run the Discovery Park Loop Trail? Any tips or thoughts to share? 

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