‘We hope more people … run, walk, or hike these trails’: Local group creates new map of West Duwamish Greenbelt

(Newly finished West Duwamish Greenbelt trail. Photos by Matthew Clark unless otherwise credited)

By Judy Bentley
Special to West Seattle Blog

There’s a stretch of woods in West Seattle that is teeming with life, full of trails, and lots of room for hiking, walking and rolling. But, for years, a seemingly impenetrable façade of overgrowth and lack of knowledge of the trail system has kept many people out. A new map of the West Duwamish Greenbelt is promising to change all that.

The West Duwamish Greenbelt is Seattle’s largest remaining contiguous forest, covering 500 acres spanning more than four miles north to south. There’s a whole network of trails that one can traverse from the Duwamish Longhouse to Riverview Playfield and down to Highland Park Way, passing the South Seattle College campus, Puget Park, and Pigeon Point Park.

The new map reflects the growing trail network and connections with the community. After more than six months of work, hundreds of volunteer hours and the patient consultation and craft of a West Seattle cartographer, the map is ready to guide users through the greenbelt.

(Christine Clark leads a group of volunteers in Puget Park working on finishing up a new section of trail)

The West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails Group (WDGT), a collection of neighbors who guide creation, maintenance and promotion of walking and hiking trails in the greenbelt, has been working in partnership with the Duwamish Tribe to activate the park and draw people to the vast open space. In April, the group won a $5,000 volunteer match grant for the mapping project through the City of Seattle’s Small Sparks Fund.

Previous iterations mapped the trails, but this is the first time a geo-located map has defined the greenbelt with newly created trails and an overall revision of the legacy trails represented.

(A handmade sign directs hikers along a trail near South Seattle College in the West Duwamish Greenbelt)

Matt Dressler, Cartographer and GIS Analyst at Mountains To Sound GIS in West Seattle, crafted the map from several sources of data including city and state topo and lidar maps along with GPS tracks recorded by WDGT members. Dressler knew the greenbelt existed but didn’t know the many features hidden behind the lush curtain of forest. “I was surprised at the extent of the existing trail system in the Greenbelt. Another learning for me working on this map was the range of trail types in the Greenbelt — from easier & improved trails to more steep and challenging trails. The map identifies these trail types so visitors to the Greenbelt can choose those trails most suited to the experience they are looking for.”

Craig Rankin, WDGT group member and co-chair of the Highland Park Action Coalition, pointed out that the trails are fun and challenging, but conditions and quality of the various trails can really vary based on time of the year, moisture and terrain. “Use common sense when choosing your personal level of risk. Hike with a friend, start with the Parks built gravel trails and branch out only with knowledge of risks at hand. Slipping is a risk on all of the more adventurous trails.  Poles can help during wetter conditions, but logs and planks over creeks, and slippery mud need to be hiked with caution.”

Hikers and walkers can traverse the slopes of the greenbelt and find Lost Pond. Or, they can meander along streams in Puget Park. A set of granite steps from the Holly Street trailhead may challenge or delight hikers depending how fast you can climb them, but luckily a granite bench at the top gives the intrepid adventurer a place to rest and a view of the Duwamish valley, in season.

(Photo by Craig Rankin)

Throughout the map, users will find names of different areas in both English and Lushootseed, the language of the Coast Salish. WDGT worked with Ken Workman of the Duwamish Tribe to identify recognizable physical characteristics of distinct areas in the greenbelt and name them for easy identification. Seven Cedars — c̕úʔkʷs x̌payʔ — is a favorite spot long known by many Pathfinder students as a place where Fluffy and Sleepy, two Barred owls, reside.

(Photo by Buzz Shaw)

Craig Rankin sees the map project as a big step forward to making the space more inviting: “Healthy communities are connected, walkable, and cared for. After over a century of challenges within the West Duwamish Greenbelt including dispossession of the Duwamish Tribe, deforestation, mining, landslides, and toxic dumping, local stakeholders have made great progress in restoring the health of the largest remaining forest in Seattle.”

The greenbelt is making a comeback with life bristling in the canopy and on the forest floor. On any given day, or night, an array of animals from coyotes and fox to Barred owls and Redtail hawks to salamanders and frogs might be seen. Birders from around the region can be spotted in the greenbelt waiting for that unique photo opportunity with fledgling owls or raptors on the hunt.

Ongoing preservation and reforestation is happening thanks to work from the Duwamish Tribe, WDGT, Green Seattle Partnership, Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, Washington Trails Association volunteers and neighbors throughout Seattle.

“The biggest thing about having a truly useable map of the greenbelt is the ability to invite people in to explore this amazing place,” said Matthew Clark, WDGT group member. “We want to help build community, and this is one step to help do that here in West Seattle. We hope more people come out to walk, hike or run these trails.”

Matt Dressler feels the mobile friendly feature of the new map will entice new visitors. “I hope the map encourages people to visit and explore the Greenbelt by providing the information they need to plan, access and navigate the trail system.  For visitors comfortable using their mobile devices for navigation, the map has a QR code so it can be downloaded and will use the phone's GPS to show people their current location in the trail system as they move around.”

The map can be found on the West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails group website:

37 Replies to "'We hope more people ... run, walk, or hike these trails': Local group creates new map of West Duwamish Greenbelt"

  • RickB December 25, 2022 (4:13 pm)

    Looks amazing! Can’t wait to check it out!

  • WS resident December 25, 2022 (4:49 pm)

    Can’t wait to visit. Also, how does one get involved to volunteer with the folks doing this work?    

  • Zig December 25, 2022 (4:59 pm)

    Thanks so much for putting this together and letting us know. That area is beautiful. 

  • chris December 25, 2022 (5:20 pm)

    Amazing! Thanks for the hard work. I love running these trails. It’s wild to have this area so close to the city. 

  • Mj December 25, 2022 (5:26 pm)

    Very nice, looking forward to exploring this Spring.

  • Jethro Marx December 25, 2022 (5:32 pm)

    This is excellent. Thank you all!

  • Monica December 25, 2022 (6:13 pm)

    This greenspace has a new life, thanks to the trail builders. I am grateful that nature is close to home.

  • Kelsey December 25, 2022 (6:18 pm)

    We loved living by the trails and used them everyday until late 2020/ early 2021 when it got super sketchy. I really hope by cleaning up these trails it gets more folks back out there. 

    I miss the ducks and wildlife so much. So happy to see the area being taken care of again.

    • mjc December 26, 2022 (10:18 am)

      You’ll find in the north end of the greenbelt there are lots of trails and places to explore without the impact of camping. Keep an eye on the WDGT website for guided hikes and events that may give you new insight to the greenbelt. https://wdgtrails.wordpress.com/

  • Martha December 25, 2022 (7:57 pm)

    Can’t wait to take grandkids on new hiking trail. They love new adventures. Also we can walk dogs on the trails?

    • Patience December 26, 2022 (12:37 am)

      @Martha: yes, dogs are allowed but must be on leash.  Also, a reminder to all:  please stay on trails and please pack it out

  • Dm December 25, 2022 (8:19 pm)

    This is GREAT!  Thank you!

  • Gus December 25, 2022 (9:09 pm)

    I just love this forest! Usually see no one back there, great recharge, forest bath time. Would be great to see these trail lines on GoogleMaps! Please!?

    • Reed December 26, 2022 (7:34 am)

      Do you really need a device/app to navigate a tiny urban forest?

  • Landon December 26, 2022 (5:53 am)

    “lots of room for hiking, walking and rolling” – does that mean bikes are permitted on these trails ? 

    • mjc December 26, 2022 (9:13 pm)

      Proceed carefully, but yes you can. There are many short sightlines where you can’t see what’s coming. Also, many of these are short, so you won’t be getting lots of miles in. We are working on clearing and adding more. Check out Strava and Trailforks for more info on particular routes and lines.

    • PigeonRidge Ben December 26, 2022 (11:05 pm)

      As pasted from the municipal code:  POLICY5.1 Bicycles will be allowed in Seattle parks on roads and paths designed for shared use (60 inches or more inwidth), or where high use will not adversely impact sensitive environments.5.2 All bicycles are prohibited off roads and paths in environmentally sensitive or natural areas within Seattle parks such as wetlands, streams, meadows, newly forested sites or steep slopes where bicycle use could cause damage to plants, soils, streams or natural elements of the park land.5.3 Bicycle use is prohibited in Camp Long.5.4 Bicycles will be operated at a safe speed, especially when passing other users, and in a responsible manner as determined by Department staff. The code of behavior or conduct contained in this policy is required of all wheeled device operators using Seattle park lands. Travel at speeds in excess of 15 miles per hour, or any lower speed that may be posted, shall constitute in evidence a prima facie presumption that the person violated this section.  Please respect the regulation and its intent of preventing degradation to these sensitive areas and the secondary, minimally developed paths. 

      • Mary January 6, 2023 (5:27 pm)

          Are paths able to deal with my 380 pound wheelchair and then my weight and it’s not polite to ask,giggles.  Is ADA compliant.  Not every place can do this but it’s close to home and I am a photographer and would love to get some”fresh air with my camera” on a trail.

  • Oakley34 December 26, 2022 (6:20 am)

    Is there a way to actually use the map? The page links to an app that isn’t available in iOS in our region (unless I’m encountering an error) and I can’t find a pdf to the map or a way to see it without just pinch and zooming the image on the linked page.

    • mjc December 26, 2022 (10:24 am)

      Downloading the Avenza map in iOS works really well and has been stable. In testing on the trail, accuracy is really good as is the sampling rate to refresh fast enough even when running. This is all functioning fine via a normal connection here in Seattle. Are you running a VPN that has you located somewhere else?

  • Emerson December 26, 2022 (7:29 am)

    Wow, this is awesome!Looking at the map, I can’t really tell – is there a way to walk from the southern section of trails by Westcrest Park through the woods up to the northern section by Riverview Playfield? Every time I’ve tried this I have gotten stuck in trail dead ends where overgrowth is impassable.

    • mjc December 26, 2022 (10:28 am)

      There has been a trail in the past to go from Westcrest to Highland Park Drive. In researching and gaining data for this map, we determined that currently, that “trail” isn’t ready to share with folks. Between land ownership challenges (some of it crosses private property) and overgrowth that you’ve experienced, it is a tough one. Your best bet is to take the tail that runs North South from Westcrest, exit at Kenyon, before crossing private property, and walk around to Riverside and re-enter the trails on 12th and Webster.

    • PigeonRidge Ben December 26, 2022 (10:30 am)

      That area is impassable without a machete. It also includes some private property one must cross. As of now there is not a route through there however ongoing efforts include this connection as a future goal.

    • Craig December 26, 2022 (11:37 am)

      Maybe five years ago, there was a nice,  rigorous social trail between Westcrest and lower HP way where one could (and can) continue north on existing trails.   At  the time campers were active on the two private and Parks owned parcels adjacent to SW Kenyon.  The camp  and no trespassing signs at the camp and along neighboring private  parcels discouraged hikers and the line is now overgrown to the north of SW Kenyon.  Westcrest has a nice pocket of trails but the social trail heading north(can be viewed on open street map) effectively ends at Kenyon with a steep climb under the Kenyon powerlines.  The Duwamish Tribe’s recent “Ridge to River” feasibility study focused on evaluating trail possibilities in the greenbelt but was limited to exploring connections to the Longhouse on the Northern half of the WDG.   The current map highlights this area. There is potential for continuity of trails to the south and certainly a possible connection between WC Park and Southpark but given the number of general challenges such as, areas of contaminated soil,  a few privately owned parcels on both the N and S,  steep stopes, and  failed attempts to achieve traction in generating a master plan for the greenbelt we are left celebrating all that Seattle Parks Trails team has achieved and support from the Greens Seattle Partnership and Parks department as we work together with the Duwamish Tribe and other stakeholders on these challenges.  Formalization of the current social trails, if any, will likely take some time.   We’re hopeful that Parks continues to evaluate and support a Southpark trails connection, and and hope to advocate for a continuous N-S trail over time.  –  the long answer…

  • Judith A Croteau December 26, 2022 (8:28 am)

    Yes, for sure. So grateful for the folks that make this happen.   

  • Judy December 26, 2022 (10:56 am)

    Judy and friends, thanks for your dedication to polishing an urban gem that’s been in the rough for way too long!

  • Joe Z December 26, 2022 (1:01 pm)

    The improved connection between Pigeon Point and Puget Park is much appreciated. That area used to be rough to bushwhack. Especially if the owl decided that it was a good day to chase you away. 

  • James December 26, 2022 (1:15 pm)

    It looks magical! Is there cause for concern for the safety of vulnerable older adults either because of human interactions or difficult obstacles? 

    • proudpugetridger December 26, 2022 (2:45 pm)

      James–If you enter at the trailhead at 19th and Dawson you can walk nearly 1/2 mile on VERY easy crushed rock trail before hitting the “work-in-progress” portion that is yet graveled.  Including your return trip you can get almost 1 mile of nature’s beauty and serenity!  No known risk of unstable humans in this portion.  The surfaces past the graveled portion are not overly difficult, with a few exceptions (mud, fallen trees, etc.).  We are all so, so thankful for the few hard-working volunteers that have made such an incredible improvement to Puget Park!

      • Kathy, Puget Ridge January 4, 2023 (2:36 pm)

        Ditto the comment on the amazing volunteers. That trail is a gift!

  • Jeff December 26, 2022 (5:37 pm)

    Call some place paradise and kiss it goodbye….The wildness of that area (what little was left, anyway) has been demolished and/or irrevocably changed by the bushwhacking, trail-building and “restoring” especially the Puget Creek ravine section. Now we are inviting even more “access”.Rhetorical question: When can we just be satisfied with leaving things alone and “not improving” what little wildness remains in WS? 

    • WavyDavid December 27, 2022 (4:55 pm)

      I get your point, but unless you want what’s left of WestSea’s “wildness” to be transformed into encampments with their accompanying dumping grounds, and invasive ivy & blackberry thickets then I’m afraid access is very important to saving what remains. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ has never been a winning principle in major cities.

  • Fred Matthews December 29, 2022 (8:14 am)

    For older eyes, the PDF map is virtually useless because it is so small and the contrast is very poor.

    • mjc January 10, 2023 (7:28 pm)

      Good point Fred. Give it a shot in the Avenza app which works on both iOS and Android. You can scale or zoom in so the map is HUGE and you’ll be easily be able to see detail. You can also save it on your phone and zoom in really close. It is a big file, just keep that in mind. 

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