How's this for a diverse urban hike? Begin in the eastern section of this Bellevue park and hike a series of trails for a satisfying loop through dark second-growth forest. Then, follow a connecting trail over to the western section of the park for a loop though the Bellevue Botanical Garden - both the formal gardens and some additional longer forest trails. Along the way brave a high, narrow trail bridge that crosses a deep ravine. Not enough? Multiple spur trails throughout the park invite further exploration.
The park is named for the logging town of Wilburton that thrived here around 1900. Nothing remains of that town today, and the area has become a park where healthy second-growth forest can be appreciated.
For your hike, it will be helpful to download a map of park trails from
Click on "Detailed Map of Wilburton Hill Park Trails" (Not on Map/Directions)
If you prefer, you can set out with the map in hand and explore on your own. Or, here is a suggested route that gets to the most interesting parts of the park, and offers some ideas for hike extensions.
Begin at the northeast corner of the parking lot. For your first loop (about 1.5 miles,) head east on the obvious wide trail past the restrooms. At the trail sign, turn left on the trail that climbs a few feet before circling part way around the baseball field. Soon, your route plunges into darker forest, and you will be surrounded by tall deciduous trees mixed with a number of tall second-growth Douglas firs.
Frequent signed spur trails lead out to neighborhood side streets - you can pass them by or can explore them, as you like. On the main trail you will come to an unsigned Y. The better option here is to stay left. As you continue on the main trail you will pass additional optional side trails. Eventually, looming up ahead, you will see an odd, red geometric structure. It's part of a playground located near the southern end of the parking lot, and you will complete your first loop there.
From the parking area, an optional side trail heads 0.3 miles south, initially following a power line. Explore it if you like, although you'll have to come back the same way. The trail drops a bit, bridges a small creek (often, just a trickle) and ends at a T-junction. The arms of the T lead out (east) to a school or (west) to Lake Hills Connector, a busy city street. The route is forested all the way, and can be a pleasant addition to your hike if you have the time and inclination.
Back at the parking area, head west on the gravel trail that passes around the southern edge of the soccer field. (The field itself offers a striking visual contrast. It's all artificial, of course, both the bright green "turf" and the bordering red jogging path.) A few feet beyond the soccer field a small pond is visible off the trail on the right, and you might see some ducks there. The trail continues on about 0.4 miles and soon reaches the parking area for the Bellevue Botanical Garden.
Turn left on the wide concrete sidewalk that heads directly toward the Visitor Center and main garden entrance. Admission is free, but note that if you're traveling with a dog, you'll have to save this for another day -- pups are not allowed in the botanic garden.
A detailed map of the formal part of the Botanical Garden is available at the Visitor Center, and copies often can be picked up on an outdoor table near the southern edge of the center.
Near the Visitor Center, you will begin the second loop (about a mile) of your hike. Head south on the pathway bordered by white railings. Turn right at the first opportunity and meander past a large bronze toad christened "Goldiwarts," who quietly solicits (optional) donations via a slot in a sculpted log. Smile, and continue on through the Rock Garden (an exhibit of plants that do well in rocky habitats) and the Waterwise Garden (an exhibit of plants that do well with little watering.)
Then, pass the Short House (donated by the Short family, who resided and farmed here in the 1950s.) Head southwest down the stairs and come to a wide trail that heads southeast. At a Y, take a hard right turn where the sign indicates "Ravine Experience - Lost Meadow Trail." The Lost Meadow turns out to be a rather small grassy area. Continue on and pass a signed service road and, a few feet beyond that, turn right on the unsigned but obvious trail heading downhill. This leads, surprisingly, to a high cable bridge that carries the trail across a deep ravine. As you walk across, the bridge responds with slight bounces that enhance the already-airy feeling. Appreciate this high perspective on the forest and land forms.
Once across the bridge, turn right. Farther along, next to a Stellers Jay sign, turn left. Along the way, be alert for any gnomes as this short loop leads you back to the bridge.
Cross back over the bridge, turn right and then, at the gravel trail, turn right again. Soon, the Native Plant Garden appears on your left and, shortly after that, the Yao Garden on your right. Both are well worth a leisurely walk-through or a short contemplative rest on a bench. Then, the trail continues on past the Rhododendron Garden, in the spring offering an exuberant flourish of diverse colors. And, beyond that, you return to the Visitor Center, completing your second loop. From there, you can return to the parking area via the connecting trail.
While you are in the formal part of the garden, you will note many plants are numbered, and there are frequent pads you can tap or scan with a smartphone for more information. Additionally, along the forest trails be alert in early spring for trilliums, and later in the spring for buttercups, fringe cup, avens, wild berries and salal. It's likely you will hear many bird calls, and see a few squirrels. Also, it is not unusual to see a few small rabbits here, although they may not be native to the park.