The city motto for Bellevue is “City in a park,” and it isn’t hard to see why. With over 50 parks, no matter where you are, there is sure to be a park nearby. One of those parks, Ardmore in east Bellevue, is a hidden gem among the 2400 acres of parkland in the city. With walking trails that take you deep within a forest setting, you can easily get away from it all, right in the middle of the city.
Located near Microsoft on the Bellevue-Redmond border, the main area of Ardmore Park can be reached from two different directions. A playground and grassy field border NE 30th St between 168th Ave NE and 172nd Ave NE. Plenty of on-street parking is available here, giving you good access to the park. An alternative access point from NE 28th St at 168th Pl NE offers a wooded trail to the play area. Parking is also available on-street from this side.
As you cross through the park, there are route markers with light blue signs indicating walking paths. Following these markers will take you deep into a forest that seems impossible in the middle of a city. Giant Douglas Firs and Hemlock trees, huge Licorice ferns, babbling streams, and dappled light through the tree canopy make this forest feel almost prehistoric. It is easy to imagine giant animals wandering through, munching on the plants.
The paths are packed dirt and mulch, making them accessible to strollers, wagons, and other wheelchairs. However, the paths do get hilly and occasionally lean a bit. This can make it a little harder to push through them. There are two main trails, one that is .1 miles long, and one that is 5 miles long and opens onto NE 24th St. The shorter path is much less vigorous, and makes a fairly easy stroll, even with a stroller or babypack. The longer path is has some dramatic hills (in my moderately fit opinion), so be prepared- this will leave you winded if you try to go too fast.
The long path has some hidden surprises that can make it worth the trek. After about 20 minutes of walking, you will come upon a downsloping hill that ends at a lovely bridge with a stream that goes underneath. You can climb down to the stream and even splash in some of the small pools if you like. Unfortunately, that hill you just came down is all the steeper going back up, making the hike back a bit rough if you are carrying or pulling kids. There are some benches at various points along the trail that allow for resting, but younger kids may get tired out easily on this path, so you may want to do it with older kids. My 4 year old made the trek but got quiet tired.
Fortunately, going on an adventure in the forest at Ardmore does not require the full hike to be exciting for kids. There are large tree stumps to explore all along the path, along with birds to listen to and the occasional bunny hopping through. It is worth going in for even a few minutes just to get away to another world.
Address: 16833 NE 30th Street, Bellevue, WA
Trail Details: http://www.myparksandrecreation.com/ParksTrails/Details.aspx?pid=462
Some things to remember about Ardmore Park:
Currently there are no bathrooms.
There is one picnic table and a bench in the playground area available for sitting. The playground is not shaded, although there are plenty of spots with trees around the play area with shade.
Bring water and snacks along for the hiking trails- you will get thirsty!