0712 Park City - Canyon Park
Image: Will Austin

The Canyon Park

Schmitz Preserve Park
5551 SW Admiral Way, Seattle

Walk a couple hundred feet into this West Seattle woodland, and a creek’s tinkle and a woodpecker’s rap begin to blot away the hiss of traffic. Descend the wooden stairs into the surprisingly deep ravine that furrows through the park, and the contest is over: City vanishes without a trace. No other park in Seattle offers so complete a refuge in such a compact package.

Ferdinand Schmitz, a German immigrant and banker, donated 30 acres of this undeveloped and mostly untouched forest in 1907, and the city bought a complementary chunk to complete the preserve. Most of it is old-growth forest, and Schmitz stipulated that it be preserved forever as a reminder of the landscape that Seattle’s pioneers discovered upon landing at nearby Alki Beach in 1851.

The park covers only 53 acres, but its lacing of hiking trails totals 1.7 miles, and they’re steep enough for a workout. It’s hard to see how that early Alki Beach party ever imagined that a city could be imposed on such a landscape.