The day I realized we were on a first-name basis with practically every duck and goose along our local recreation path, I knew my toddler and I needed a new running route. Longer spring days were still a ways off, but cabin fever was building, so we set off in search of new paths, vistas and playgrounds.
Our trail wish list
My trail wish list includes convenient (and preferably free) parking and restrooms — two must-haves for any parent out and about with a young one. My 2-year-old son demands play space, whether a fully equipped playground or simply a wide open field for chasing a ball or playing tag with Mommy.
Here are a few of the trails we found that we liked — and read to the end for some tips and tricks on running with babies and tots, plus some stroller specifics. We hope to see you out on the trail!
In the South Sound area? Check out our list of favorite stroller-friendly paths and trails for South Sound families.
Favorite stroller-friendly running paths around Seattle
Seward Park: Here, a gorgeous 2.8-mile paved, level loop stretches around this peninsula of a park. There are also countless hiking trails in the interior of the park, best for sturdy jogging strollers. Bonuses include rocky beaches, a swimming area, picnic tables, a fantastic eco-themed playground, restrooms and parking. Don't miss the Seward Park Environmental and Audubon Center, too, where you can check out an "explore pack" for birdwatching and hiking.
Alki Beach in West Seattle: Run or walk as far as you want along the paved, level Alki bike path, which hugs the West Seattle coastline. Make a play stop at the Whale Tail playground at 59th Ave. S.W. and S.W. Lander St., with its digger-stocked sandbox and life-size boat for climbing. The beach provides ample opportunity for frolicking in the sand as well.
Ballard Locks/Golden Gardens: A paved, level and relatively uncrowded section of the Burke-Gilman Trail extends from the Ballard Locks to Golden Gardens. Play at the beach or at the Locks, and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy as you watch the trains and boats go by. This section of the trail offers a unique alternative to a traditional playground outing and has become one of our favorites.
Green Lake: This is an area favorite for its 2.8-mile paved, level loop around the lake, huge playground, community center with restrooms and pool, proximity to the Green Lake Library and plenty of duck, goose and turtle sightings.
Favorite stroller-friendly running paths around the Eastside and North Sound
Marymoor Park: This park is popular for its accessibility to both the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails, as well as proximity to family-friendly Redmond Town Center. The park's 560 acres offer ample parking, a leash-free dog zone, a playground with equipment for older kids and younger toddlers and plenty of clean restrooms.
Kelsey Creek Farm Park: We adore Kelsey Creek as much for its onsite working farm as for its network of hiking trails and gravel loop trail. A cute little play area sits next to a sheltered picnic site, in full view of the picturesque white barn. Go for a run, then visit the farm animals until 3 p.m. daily.
Kirkland: With a combination of sidewalks and dedicated recreation paths available for running or walking, the Kirkland waterfront offers green space, beach areas, playgrounds, boutiques, coffee shops and restrooms. Start at the waterfront promenade on Kirkland Way or at handy Houghton Beach Park (there’s a playground right at the park).
Blyth Park, Bothell: This charming park is at the meeting point of the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails. Run as far as you wish in either direction, then return for playtime on the toddler-friendly equipment and “tire mountain” climbing structure, and partake of a snack among the pines. Lots of parking, picnic tables and restrooms.
Langus Riverfront Park, Everett: A 3-mile riverfront paved trail heads south from the park, which has parking, picnic tables and restrooms available. Although there’s no playground, there are plenty of grassy areas where active toddlers can run around and watch waterfowl and shorebirds. Combine with a trip to the excellent Imagine Children’s Museum in downtown Everett.
My tips and tricks for running with babies and tots
- Vary the timing of your play stop: On some days, hit the playground first; on others, visit after your run, or — if your route permits — take a breather in the middle to allow your child to stretch their legs, too.
- Encourage toddlers to point out the sights: Have them call out objects and colors they see, anything from ducks to dogs, blue strollers to red cars.
- Do some interval training: Go faster or slower between points on the trail: Sprint to the next telephone pole, then take it down a notch to the next one, for example.
- Keep it varied: Walk some days, run some, take short runs, long runs, make a day of hill walking. Stop and do some sit-ups and lunges with your baby on a blanket beside you. Think of it as a custom workout — and you’re your own trainer.
- Keep a selection of running stroller-only toys: Stash select toys in your car and pull them out for your exercise sessions.
- Be ready for action: Keep the jogger and a pair of running shoes in the trunk of your car. You never know when you might pass a beautiful park or trail, just as your child is in need of a stroller nap or a change of scenery.
An around-town stroller probably won't cut it when it comes to running some real miles. Enter the larger, sturdier jogging stroller. There are countless options on the market these days, ranging from basic to über-deluxe. For me, the most important must-haves are a swiveling front wheel that also locks (the swivel enables one-handed pushing and steering), a generously sized basket under the seat for carrying toys and snacks, a water bottle holder and an ample sun/rain visor. I also invested in a universal rain shield for those less-than-pleasant Seattle days; my son just thinks he’s riding in a “space bubble” — whatever works, right?
Editor's note: This article has been updated several times, most recently in December 2018.