Seattle Dog Parks: a Critical Guide

IN A CITY with more dogs than kids (seriously, 45 percent more, says USA Today), it’s no surprise that Seattle has 11 off-leash areas for those dogs to run amok. Here’s our rough assessment of them:

Magnuson: At more than 9 acres, this, dog people, is the Disneyland of dog parks. It's got two large playfields, a special "small and shy dog area," and a meandering trail to Lake Washington that ends at a doggy beach with a couple hundred feet of waterfront access. "Two paws up," votes our black lab, Chuck. (OK, we call him a lab. But he's built like a tank with a square head and yellow eyes.) This expansive dog paradise is worth the trip, especially if you've got some cute swimmer pooch, preferably a retriever of some sort who, unlike Chuck, likes to play nice. (Sand Point)

Genesee: For the rough-and-tumble, this very mutt-friendly park has a dusty 2.5 acres of open space that's perfect for chase. And the owners are friendly, too, happy to engage in "what's-your-mutt?" small talk. Chuck was right at home here. (Rainier Valley)

I-5 Colonnade: Not all Seattle dog parks are popular, or even busy. Some, like this one under the freeway, can be downright desolate, especially in the daytime. One owner has posted a sign with a picture of his German shepherd, Max, imploring neighbors to show up for 2 p.m. playtime on Saturdays. With its terraced, rocky terrain and dramatic views of the freeway supports, this is worth at least a look-see. (Eastlake)

Plymouth Pillars: Also in the urban category, this is a popular gathering spot for friendly apartment dwellers of all stripes. Located on a small stretch between Pike and Pine just east of I-5, this is a dog park for city people—more like a glorified dog run, really—but with a nice view of downtown. (Capitol Hill)

Jose Rizal: The "best view" award, paws down, goes to this off-leash area perched on the northwest slope of Beacon Hill. There's not much socializing going on, but there is a postcard-perfect picture of your fair city and its environs (and its stadiums). With an overgrown trail and rocky topography, this park will also make you feel like you've taken to the woods. (Beacon Hill)

Golden Gardens: Just up the hill from the fire-pit beach, this popular dog park is dripping with green and complete with a rustic, log-cabin-like structure for taking shelter from the rain. A haven for big dogs, and their smiling, polar-fleece-wearing owners. (Ballard)

Regrade: The city's smallest dog park, this is a slightly gussied-up version of what for years was known as Crack Park. It's 12,000 square feet of ramps, stairs, and bark chips and one sorry-looking kiddie pool. The addicts are still there, but mostly outside the fence. And the frou-frou shih tzus and their condo-lovin' masters don't seem to mind. (Belltown)

(For a full list of Seattle's off-leash parks, with maps, details and directions, go to:

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