The Sweet Tooth Trail

Whoever coined the phrase “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” just didn’t try hard enough. With the right inducement it’s surprising what you can get a horse to do ;).

In this case the horse was my daughter and the water was my desire to have her join me on one of my exploratory transit trips and hikes. The inducement: sugar, albeit balanced by a healthy dose of exercise.

The Sweet Tooth Trail is actually a combo trip consisting of transit rides connected together with walking. Altogether the walking is around 4 miles. The map below shows the starting point at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle; with the end point being University Way at NE 45th Street in the University district. Caveat: unless you use Orca, each transit ride may require a separate cash fare.

Top Pot Doughnuts

My own starting point, being in Bellevue, is Top Pot Doughnuts on 106th Ave NE just north of 8th Street. This way we get a jump on the sugar then walk down to the transit center and take the Sound Transit Express 550 bus into Seattle, getting off at Westlake Center tunnel station. After leaving the bus, from the mezzanine level follow the signs to Nordstroms, then take the escalators up to Pine Street and 5th Avenue.

Top Pot Doughnuts

From outside Westlake Center at 5th and Pine follow the monorail along 5th Avenue to Top Pot Doughnuts and stop in for coffee and a doughnut. This location is ground zero for Top Pot – it’s where they started – and it is still our favorite location of theirs even though they now have one in Bellevue.

Lake Union Streetcar

After visiting Top Pot turn right onto Blanchard Street and walk four blocks to Westlake Avenue. Cross the street to the Bank of America – this is where we board the Lake Union streetcar. The walk from Westlake Center to Top Pot and then to the streetcar is around half a mile.

There is a joke in Seattle: instead of saying I took the streetcar today, some people say I rode the SLUT. As local lore would have it, during construction the original name for the streetcar line was South Lake Union Tram (or sometimes Trolley) at least until the City realized what it spelled. They realized too late. The unfortunate acronym has stuck.

Officially named the Seattle Streetcar – South Lake Union Line; or simply South Lake Union Streetcar; or as I prefer,  “the SLUT,” the ride is pretty short so enjoy it while it lasts (pun intended). Get off at Lake Union Park, or if you’re really having fun, stay on for the extra stop that will take you to the end of the line. And if the SLUT was too much excitement, and you need to go blow off some steam, there’s a Hooters Restaurant right there at the end of the line. SLUTs and Hooters at South Lake Union… Hmmm, I wonder who was there first.

After leaving the streetcar (or Hooters) we start walking again – west, back along the streetcar tracks. But when the streetcar reaches Westlake Ave and turns south to head back downtown, we turn north (keeping the lake on our right). We’ll be taking a bus from this area over the ship canal to Fremont. The #30 bus is closest, stopping a short distance ahead on Westlake Ave across from the Mariott Courtyard.

Other Fremont buses  are the #26 and #28 – but they run on Dexter Ave which is two blocks west of Westlake – walk along Aloha Street to Dexter. Either way, it’s about a half mile walk from the streetcar terminus to the Fremont bus stops on Westlake or Dexter. The avenues run parallel to each other along the west shore of Lake Union. They eventually merge just before reaching the Fremont bridge.

Whichever bus you use, they all stop on Fremont Avenue at North 34th Street, right after the bridge. Get off here then cross over 35th Street – in the next block find Flying Apron Bakery – this is our 2nd Sweet Tooth stop. Flying Apron is a vegan bakery, also gluten free. Trust me when I say it is well worth the visit.

Hysterical Marker

Fremont is one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods – if you’re not familiar with it, stay awhile and explore its quirkiness. Find one of the several “hysterical markers” located around Fremont and pick up a copy of the walking guide. It’ll help you find Lenin, the Rocket, the Troll, even the Center of the Universe.

When you’re ready to move on from Fremont head back towards the bridge and start walking across (doesn’t matter which side you’re on). Just before reaching the drawbridge section look for the stairs going down to the Burke-Gilman trail. We will now walk the trail (water to the right) all the way to the University district, passing Gas Works Park along the way – about 3 miles to University Way, the end of the Sweet Tooth Trail.

Click for larger view

Detour: Essential Bakery

If Top Pot and Flying Apron (and perhaps Hooters 😉 ) hasn’t provided enough sweetness, there’s more if you want it.  With only a very slight detour (see map at left) a pit stop can be made at the Essential Bakery cafe at 1604 North 34th Street.

Eventually the Burke-Gilman enters UW campus. For the purposes of this walk I stay on the trail until it reaches University Way, then I turn north and walk along the Aveto NE 45th Street. This passes all the eateries and other places of interest in the U-district. Use the following map to check out other waking routes across campus if needed. One off-Ave eatery of note is Portage Bay Cafe at 4130 Roosevelt Way. When done with the U-district, the main streets to catch buses leaving UW in all directions are Campus Pkwy; University Way; 15th Avenue; NE 45th Street.


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