Hike easy forest trails connecting two adjoining urban parks. Appreciate the tall deciduous trees and some large conifers, plus ferns and small creeks. In season, look for forest wildflowers. Try to identify some of the wild birds, and enjoy the antics of the squirrels that always are present.
These trails offer one of several short forest hikes available in the Bellevue-Redmond urban area. Beginning in Bellevue's Tam O'Shanter Park, you will continue north on a trail that crosses the city boundary into Redmond's adjoining Viewpoint Open Space Park (Not to be confused with Redmond's similarly-named Viewpoint Neighborhood Park farther east, or with Bellevue's Viewpoint Park farther west, overlooking I-520. All three of these "Viewpoint" parks have NE 24th St as one of their boundaries!)
From the parking area along 173rd Ave NE, next to Tam O'Shanter Park, hike past the southern edge of the small playground and continue on past the manicured lawn area. At the first large, square trail post turn right and head gently downhill, passing large deciduous trees and a few conifers. This trail, like all trails in both parks, is surfaced with bark and wood chips, offering a soft footing for hikers and joggers.
At the next square trail post, turn left (the right fork leads out of the park to a trailhead at the end of NE 16th St.) Continue north, back uphill, regaining part of the elevation you lost minutes earlier. In the spring, a lot of buttercups bloom along sunny areas of the trail here, and you will see more in other spots farther along. Horsetail also is common here. You will notice a few invasive plants along your route too, particularly ivy and Himalayan blackberry. In summer, you might eat a few of the ripe blackberries to prevent them from seeding more of their ilk in the park.
The next trail post is at a four-way trail junction. Turn right there. Going straight ahead would lead you out of the park to a trailhead on NE 17th Pl, while turning left would lead you back toward your trailhead -- you might elect to go that way on your return.
Your ongoing trail heads north another half mile, with gentle ups and downs. Along the way it crosses over into Redmond's Viewpoint Open Space Park (there is no obvious viewpoint, and it is open only in the sense of being forest rather than housing.) In season, you might note a few more wildflowers such as fringe cup, mimulus, avens and salmonberry. You are likely to see squirrels, and sometimes a bunny might appear for you. You often will hear woodpeckers, crows, robins and other birds.
The route continues on north, crossing three small creeks on sturdy wooden bridges. In summer these streams might only be trickles, or might even be dry. All too soon the trail reaches its northern end at NE 24th St, about 0.65 miles from your trailhead. (As with nearby Ardmore Park, some online references get the trail distance totally wrong, suggesting incorrectly that it is as much as five miles!) Even if you explore some of the side trails in Tam O'Shanter Park, your total round trip distance will be less than a mile and a half. And it's a very pleasant forest walk.
Note: While Tam O'Shanter is a small park, you might find it helpful to download a park trail map from www.bellevuewa.gov/oshanter_trail.htm. This takes two steps: On the right of the illustration, click the link for "Tam O'Shanter Park trails page," and click the link there for "Detailed map of Tam O'Shanter Park Trails," NOT the link for "Map / Directions." Navigations is easier at Viewpoint Open Space Park, as it has only a single long trail.