Crossing Kirkland on a Ribbon of Nature

by Kelli Curtis

The City of Kirkland is known for its great lake views, wonderful parks, and friendly people. What may not be as well-known is a hidden gem of a flat, crushed gravel trail known as the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC). Whether you are looking for a place to ride your bike (or teach your toddlers how), or train for a half marathon (or compete in a 5k), the CKC provides a place to do that while enjoying an immersive nature experience.

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What used to be a rail bed is now, thanks to some forward-thinking city officials, a nearly six-mile long ribbon of nature that strings together eight important Kirkland parks and eight Kirkland neighborhoods. The trail as it winds through Kirkland provides beautiful views of Seattle, Lake Washington, and the Olympics. It also borders secondary wetlands, and crosses five natural drainage basins, where runoff streams directly into Lake Washington. And, it serves as a riparian habitat supporting resident wildlife such as deer, coyotes, eagles, ducks, and the occasional Great Blue Heron.

Photo by Kelli Curtis.

Photo by Kelli Curtis.

You may access the trail from numerous points along the way, but to give you an overview, we’ll start at the southern end down by Metro’s South Kirkland Park and Ride. Some day, you’ll be able to take an elevator from the park and ride to the trailhead, but for now you may access mile 0 (there are markers every quarter of a mile) off of 108th in Kirkland. Strolling through this wooded section of the trail, you’ll have interesting views on both sides of the trail, featuring steep slopes where you’ll see a few streams, cross paths with Watershed Park (acres of undeveloped woods with a network of informal trails), and some postcard views of Lake Washington.

Take your time along the trail here, because at mile 1, you’ll soon reach another heavily wooded area that features Carillon Woods. This used to be the water district for Yarrow Point, so pause and listen to the thunderous stream making its way to Lake Washington. These woods are home to bald eagles, pileated woodpeckers, and deer. You’ll also be treated to some of the most spectacular westward views along the CKC.

Further along, you’ll pass Terrace Park at about mile 1.5, then you’ll reach the business center of the Houghton/Everest neighborhood. Drop off the trail for a quick bite at Metropolitan Market, or continue on and enjoy the fun park at the Kirkland Google campus. This urban park, called Feriton Spur after a former rail line, features a zip line for kids, a sand volleyball court, a few places to sit down and rest, and a full-size basketball court, all open to the public.

Photo by Kelli Curtis.

Photo by Kelli Curtis.

Traveling through the Everest neighborhood, you’ll continue to feel an urban vibe while passing some warehouse areas and local businesses. It could be time to stop at Chainline Brewing Company, a local favorite. Keep an eye out for the many neighborhood stairways that help the locals access their favorite trail. You’ll notice that most of these stairs include a bike runnel.

If quiet nature is your thing, then keep going to mile marker 3.25 and enjoy the next two miles. You’ll be immersed in lush vegetation and the stillness of an extensive forest canopy. Thanks to the restoration efforts of the city’s Green Kirkland Partnership program and dedicated volunteers, the invasives in this area are slowly being replaced with native plants. If you take one of the paths to the east, you’ll enter the quiet wooded trails of Cotton Hill Park, while a little further to the west is Crestwoods Park, which features athletic fields and a playground. Moving northward through this area, you’ll soon glimpse pocket views of Juanita Bay Park and the rural Forbes Creek valley with access to Forbes Creek Park.

Photo by Kelli Curtis.

Photo by Kelli Curtis.

Sadly, this quiet nature will end and you’ll pass through the backside stretch of several industrial businesses. Don’t give up here, because soon you’ll be treated to the end of your trip: Totem Lake. Even now, while construction booms in the Totem Lake business district, you can enjoy bird-watching on the Totem Lake Park boardwalks on the north side of the lake. The city has ambitious plans for the lake area and will one day complete a beautiful overpass to skip the many busy road crossings, and develop a new family park that will include boardwalks and access around the lake.

The Cross Kirkland Corridor has been a wonderful addition to the City of Kirkland and serves as a gathering spot for citizens while physically connecting almost every one of its neighborhoods. This connection draws families out of their homes and into nature, providing a safe, quiet place for people to walk, bike, exercise, commute, experience the outdoors, and get to know each other. This connectivity, to both each other and nature, fosters relationships among neighbors and builds a stronger, connected city. Come visit and enjoy all the CKC has to offer.