Mercer Island's Pioneer Park
Mercer Island’s Pioneer Park forms a woodsy getaway in the middle of this mostly suburbanized island. A head-spinning confusion of trails devoid of signs interlace the heavily forested park, which comprises three separate tracts broken by roads. It’s good for an hour of roaming. To extend your hike, walk quiet streets to Luther Burbank Park.
Forest trail, Pioneer Park
From downtown Seattle, catch Sound Transit 550 and ride to Mercer Island Park & Ride.
Transfer to Metro Bus 204 and ride to the Mercer Village Shopping Center, located on SE 68th St. Unfortunately, this bus runs only hourly and on weekdays. On weekends, you will have to walk to Pioneer Park both ways - see a possible route in the hike description below.
Once off the bus at Mercer Village, cross SE 68th Street, enter the forest, and wander away. When you get tired of one tract of parkland, cross a street and explore another. My favorite section of the park is the north east block, where trails skirt steeply- sided, deeply-wooded ravines.
Stronger hikers are hardly going to be satisfied by the limited trail system in Pioneer Park. For more hiking, it is worth walking north (either along Island Crest Way or better yet 84th Ave ) to nearby Island Crest Park which has its own small network of trails. Crossing one ravine is a wobbly suspension bridge that provides a few seconds of fun (update - the bridge is gone).
For even more exercise, walk the streets of Mercer Island all the way to Luther Burbank Park. I've worked out a good 3.5 mile route (see the Google map below) that stays on quiet side streets.
-From the NW corner of Pioneer Park, walk north on 84th Ave.
-You eventually come to the SW corner of Island Crest Park. Follow trails into the park's lush forested interior, then work your way north.
-Follow the trail that goes just west of the schoolyard to its end at SE 53rd Place. Turn right and follow that road to Island Crest Way.
-Cross busy Island Crest Way, then walk north on the sidewalk a short distance to the start of 90th Ave SE
-Follow 90th north for nearly a mile. It becomes a minor street that ends at a pretty park surrounding a pond.
-Cross through the park on a trail to the next street, the continuation of 90th Ave SE. Follow it north.
-Turn west on SE 45th Street. Cross 88th Ave. Look for a lawn and church to the right, just before 86th Street.
-Turn right (north) and walk across the lawn, following the fenceline. This turns into a driveway that leads to 44th Street. Cross.
-Follow 87th Ave north to SE 42nd Street. Ahead is a school complex. Turn left (west).
-Turn right onto 86th. Walk north to SE 40th. Cross the busy intersection at a stoplight. Continue north on 86th, which soon bends west and ends at 84th Ave.
-Turn right (north) and walk on 84th. Soon you will arrive at a greenbelt forest. Here, hike on the gravel trail that parallels 84th.
-The greenbelt ends. Follow 84th as it bends west and descends a hill overlooking the I-90 freeway. Nice views of Lake Washington here.
-At the bottom of the hill, just before you reach 82nd Ave, turn right onto a paved bike path that heads east onto an impressive landscaped "lid" covering I-90.
-Follow a bike trail descending from the north side of the lid. This trail soon joins another bike trail (the I-90 trail). Head west on the trail to SE 26th Street.
-Turn right on SE 26th and follow it down to Luther Burbank Park
Luther Burbank Park, attractively located on the shore of Lake Washington, has its own extensive network of trails to explore. When you are done there, it is just a short walk to the North Mercer Island transit center.
Maple Leaves, Pioneer Park
Return the way you came, via buses Metro 204 and Sound Transit 550. I recommend skipping Metro 204 and instead walking back to North Mercer Park and Ride, using the route described above.