Tucked along the Northeastern shore of Lake Washington sits a hidden gem, a 46 acre park that includes a little something for everyone: hiking trails, picnic spots, grassy knolls, tall trees, and a delightful beach. Meet your new summer playmate: O.O. Denny Park. About a 20-minute drive for those who live in the Northeast section of Seattle (no bridge toll required) and an easy destination for Eastside dwellers, O.O. Denny is the type of nature-filled playground you wish you’d known about sooner.
Originally the country estate of Seattle pioneer Orion Orvil Denny (son of Seattle founder Arthur Denny), the park was at one time an overnight campsite for Seattle kids in the 1930s. Nearly all of the original structures are now gone, including the Denny residence and two log cabins, but hikers can visit the sites and learn about Seattle history on the trail.
The hiking is easy and relatively short. Including stops to look at wildflowers, take pictures and explore an old salmon ladder, round trip with kids took us about 45 minutes. The path is mostly flat and there are four small stream crossings. Our kids (ages 4 and 9) had a fun time testing their balance and learning how to get across. Younger kids can handle it too, though you may want to bring water-appropriate footwear or an extra pair of shoes. Thankfully the water is neither fast nor deep.
And speaking of water, the lakefront at O.O. Denny is divine. The beach, though rocky (again, those sturdy water sandals come in handy here) is expansive and pristine. You won’t find any lifeguards, roped off swimming areas, docks or rafts here, so pack a few beach toys or floaties and keep an eye on your kids. There’s a steep drop off a few feet out so it’s best to keep non-swimmers at water’s edge or within arm’s reach.
Playground equipment is nonexistent, too, a welcome reprieve for those of us who are content to skip the swings and just enjoy the scenery. Bring a Frisbee, some picnic goodies—and your little dog, too: O.O. Denny is pet friendly as long as pooch is on a leash.
When to go: O.O. Denny is open year-round and closes at dusk. Go anytime but know that the parking lot (located on the south side of the park near the restrooms) tends to fill up fast on a nice day.
Where to hike: The trailhead is located across the street from the parking lot and is not well marked. Last time we visited there was a lot of construction; the trailhead is just north of the chain link fence marking the construction site.
O.O. Denny Park
12400 Holmes Point Drive Northeast
What are your favorite Seattle or Eastside hiking and outdoor swim destinations?
— Allison Ellis