Kirkland's Crown Jewels: Trail Guide Released on Finn Hill's Denny Park

The first ever hiking guide to the forested gem on the shore of Lake Washington is a collaboration of the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance and Finn Hill Park District.


The parklands on Finn Hill that protect one of the last slivers of virgin forest in Kirkland -- or anywhere in the Seattle area -- are the focus of a long-awaited new trail guide.

What most think of as O.O. Denny Park is actually three separate parks across 46 acres of Lake Washington shoreline and adjacent uplands on Finn Hill. And the new “OO Denny Park Trail Map” covers all two miles of path there, which weave from the lake uphill along Denny Creek, past stands of towering western red Cedar and Douglas fir and through deep-green forests strewn with sword and licorice ferns, salal and Oregon grape.

The guide is a collaboration of the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance and the Finn Hill Park District, which now maintains and manages the park. Although long a favorite of avid hikers in the neighborhood, the park is not widely known outside the immediate area.

With annexation drawing Finn Hill and two other northern neighborhoods into the City of Kirkland fold last year, local parks activists felt the time was ripe for a trail guide.

“From meeting people in the (lakeshore portion of the) park and even in the neighborhood, we found that a lot of people don’t even know the trails exist,” said Kristen Lloyd, a Finn Hill resident who helped create the guide. “I thought it would be a really cool thing for the neighborhood. With annexation, it became even more of an inspiration.”

Denny Park is as close to wilderness as a suburban park can get. Deer and coyotes are occasionally seen there. Bald eagles and barred owls are more common. Pileated, downy and hairy woodpeckers are fairly regular sights. But it’s the big trees that bend necks and drop jaws.

“You just walk and look at those and are just in awe,” says Lloyd.

One of them is a monstrous, 600-year-old Douglas fir, “Sylvia,” that was the largest of its kind in King County until a storm broke off its top several years ago. Patches of old-growth also remain in Bridle Trails State Park, which is bordered by Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond. But beyond Denny and Bridle Trails, only two other virgin forests remain in the greater Seattle area, at Seward Park across Lake Washington and and Schmitz Park Preserve in West Seattle.

The guide, which is available primarily as a PDF file (3.3 mb) attached here, notes 10 points of interest, and maps trails in O.O. Denny proper, the separate Sue McDonald Memorial Preserve and a western extension of Big Finn Hill Park. Other local parks activist who helped create it include Ellen Haas and Francesca Lyman.

The trail guide is topical also right now because of Proposition 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot, a property tax levy for improved maintenance and renovations at Kirkland parks. If it passes, plans call for the Kirkland Parks and Community Services Department to take over management and maintenance of OO Denny from the Finn Hill Park District, which would be dissolved.

Hard copies of the guide will be available at Finn Hill community meetings, and likely at some point in the future at park kiosks.

For a previous Kirkland Patch story on .


Have you hiked the trails at O.O. Denny Park? What did you like about them - or dislike? Please tell us in the comments box below!

Ellen Haas October 02, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Most especially, kudos are due to Scott Maco, who coordinated the development and volunteered design and photos for the O.O. Denny Trail Map.
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Thanks Ellen - and Scott!
Art Valla October 02, 2012 at 05:27 PM
The storm that broke "Sylvia" was the 1993 Inauguration day storm (Jan 20, 1993) when Bill Clinton became president. It had winds of 94 mph and took 6 lives in the Puget Sound region. The tree was huge, although most of the downed portion has been covered in underbrush now.
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Thanks for the details Art. I love that tree, and there are a couple other impressive fallen monsters nearby. Here's a pic of "Sylvia," for those who have never seen it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/77416574@N00/6048206948/in/photostream
Michelle Sailor October 03, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Greg, I didn't see it here but did you hear how you can connect from Denny to Big Finn to St. Edwards Parks? I am told there is a trail that connects them. I am not sure if it is an authorized connection or not but would be great to know if it was.
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Hey Michelle! OO Denny is connected with Big Finn Hill by the trail up along Denny Creek, but that trail ends at a street not far off Juanita Drive. It is physically possible to bushwhack up along the creek to another part of Big Finn Hill Park and then make one short road crossing to reach Saint Ed's. But there is no direct connection between the three by trail that I know about -- and I'm sure I've hiked them all. That is a vision for the future though, it would be a very cool connection!
Michelle Sailor October 03, 2012 at 01:42 AM
We should get a group to hike or bike it.
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Or both! OO Denny trails are not open to biking, but most at Big Finn are and some at Saint Ed's as well. One thing I should have added in the story is that this guide is hopefully just the first chapter of what could be a great overall guide to all the trails on Finn Hill -- it's really needed!
Shelley Kloba October 03, 2012 at 02:55 AM
We are so fortunate to have such an oasis in suburbia. Thanks for this article, lots of it was news to me.
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 04:16 AM
I agree Shelley, OO Denny is a treasure, and you're most welcome!
Jon Pascal October 03, 2012 at 07:07 PM
King County Parks has formed a trail advisory group to begin planning the trails through Big Finn Hill park. They have been meeting over the last few months and are working on issues such as better connecting each of the various sections of the park. However, there are some difficult obstacles in connecting the south part to the north part because Denny Creek is in a deep ravine. Other topics they plan to address are improved trail mapping, trail signage, and identification of trail maintenance needs. Find out more here: http://finnhillalliance.org/2012/09/big-finn-hill-trails-advisory-committee-formed/
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Thanks Jon, that's great information!
Francesca Lyman October 03, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Another shout out for Scott Maco for his deft use of GIS to create that great map! And to Jeff Hoerth for producing the brochure! This trail guide was something like THREE years in the making, after many months of meetings and discussions and walks in the woods---best Committee I've ever 'sat' on. I call it the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Committee. To Map Those Trails, we went bushwacking through blackberries, and spelunking up rocky hillsides, through the deep forest, on a 45-minute thrill ride....no Temple of Doom, no snakepits or rolling boulders....though we did find all sorts of interesting creatures, like a large, unidentified turtle and various songbirds and salamanders...(No humans were harmed in the creation of this episode!) Hear, hear...I'm for having a 'Part II", as Greg Johnston's suggests, to more Guides to the Trails on Finn Hill.
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Thanks Francesca, and Jeff too. The park is indeed a place of mystery and adventure if you take the time!
Greg Johnston (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 09:14 PM
For some reason today (Thursday) readers are reporting problems opening the PDF file attached to this story, computers jamming and such. We are too! We're working on it, but in the meantime please go here to open/download the trail guide: http://finnhillalliance.org/2012/10/o-o-denny-park-trail-guide-released/
James Banks April 02, 2013 at 12:50 AM
O.O. Denny has been a favorite hike of mine since we moved to the neighborhood in 1985, a quiet refuge where I've been able to experience solitude in the forest, away from the ever-present people in an urban area. Now that the park is being advertised I guess I'll have to drive for hours to have such an experience. I knew this day would come eventually. Sad.
Greg Johnston (Editor) April 02, 2013 at 02:27 AM
James, people have been writing about this park for more than 30 years, and it gets regular publicity ever since those of us who live nearby voted to take on its management from King County in 2002. It's never been a secret. I live nearby and hike it all the time, you'll be fine.
James Banks April 02, 2013 at 05:02 AM
I enjoy walks there and will continue to visit. On my last visit I discovered that the trail on the north side of Denny Creek had been blocked by a mammoth slide. The footing was slippery and muddy so I had to turn back. Has the trail been restored, or if not are there plans to do so?
James Banks April 02, 2013 at 05:03 AM
Link is not working.
Greg Johnston (Editor) April 02, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Looks as though the Alliance site removed that link, try this one: http://finnhillalliance.org/2013/01/o-o-denny-park-trail-guide-released/
Greg Johnston (Editor) April 02, 2013 at 01:33 PM
The whole valley of Denny Creek is geologically unstable James and sliding regularly. Interestingly, there is a sunken forest just north along the lake shore from a significant seismic event I believe around 1700 - an entire hillside slid down into the lake. You're probably talking about a slide that left of plume of sediments across the trail maybe two years ago. If so, yes, the route has stabilized, and Kirkland Parks has plans to do smooth out and place gravel along other muddy spots on the trail.


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