Discovery Park is located in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, and is the largest park in the city. Entry is free, and official hours are daily 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Discovery Park Loop Trail is a designated National Recreation Trail, 2.8 miles long with an elevation change of just 140 feet. It passes through both forest and open meadows, offers extensive views, good prospects for bird watchers, and can be hiked or jogged year-round.
Before there was a park here, this area was Fort Lawton and it is thanks to the fort that this large park is available to Seattlites who wish to explore an urban trail.
Fort Lawton originally occupied much of the northwestern part of Magnolia Bluff. The bluff was named by Lt. George Davidson during a U.S. Coastal Survey in 1857, mistakenly identifying red-barked madrone trees as magnolias. The original high hopes that the post in Magnolia would become a major military installation by Seattle’s turn-of-the-century civic leaders were never realized. Fort Lawton was developed in the late 1890s, opened in the early 1900s, and had long periods of underuse after each world war. By the 1970s, much of the fort’s land was turned over to the City of Seattle to become Discovery Park.