From Blueberries to Lighthouses - The Best Parks in Tacoma

Point Defiance Park Japanese Garden
••• Japanese Garden at Point Defiance Park. Kristin Kendle

There are parks located all around Tacoma and they range in size from small patches of land to very large green spaces with lots of things to do within their bounds. Most parks are managed by Metro Parks Tacoma. All parks open a half hour before sunrise and close a half hour after sunset. Below is by no means a complete list of parks (which you can find on the Metro Parks site), but is a list of the biggest, best and most unique parks in Tacoma.

Along with many green spaces, Metro Parks also manages places such as Northwest Trek and the Point Defiance Zoo. Many of the parks contain some of Tacoma’s best hikes.

Point Defiance Park

Point Defiance Park is Tacoma’s largest and most well-known park by far. This expansive space is located on a peninsula in the north of Tacoma. The park has miles of hiking trails, including a paved drive and trail called Five Mile Drive, but more than that, this is the location of some of Tacoma’s top attractions. Point Defiance Zoo, Fort Nisqually, a Rhododendron Garden and Owen Beach are all found here. Near the entrance of the park is a Japanese Garden that's much smaller than Seattle's Japanese Garden, but free to enter and a peaceful place to sit or stroll.

Point Defiance is also the location of some larger events, including the Taste of Tacoma in June.

Location: 5400 N Pearl Street

Charlotte’s Blueberry Park

One of Tacoma’s most unique parks, the Blueberry Park is just what it sounds like—a park full of blueberries. There are hundreds of blueberry bushes here and visitors are allowed to pick as many blueberries as they would like to. Blueberries are typically ready to pick between June and October. The park is maintained by volunteers so if you really enjoy the idea of free fresh produce, you can join in!

Location: 7402 East D Street

Brown’s Point Lighthouse Park

Located in Northeast Tacoma, Brown’s Point is special because it has a lighthouse right on its grounds. On any day, visitors can go up to the outside of the lighthouse and look around, but tours are also available. You can even stay in the lighthouse for a week and be its caretaker if you want to get to know this structure better. Also in the park are picnic and BBQ facilities and a beach that is a great place to walk and explore.

Location: 201 Tulalip Street NE

Swan Creek

Currently, 250 acres of undeveloped wooded wilderness await along the Swan Creek canyon in East Tacoma. This is one of Tacoma’s best hikes by far, but relatively few people make the trek through the entire park. Entrances to this park are located just off of 56th and Portland Avenue (there's not really any parking at this end, though) as well as along Pioneer Way E (there's a small parking lot available). There are some facilities located near the Pioneer Way entrance, but once you get onto the trails in the woods, there is only nature to greet you.

Location: 2820 Pioneer Way E

Stewart Heights Park

One of the best parks in East Tacoma has grown over the years to include not just a park and playground, but also a skate park and an 8,500-square-foot pool with lap lanes, play areas and a water slide. Facilities also include a bathhouse, community meeting space, and a Subway in the pool complex. For sheer number of facilities, this park can’t be beat.

Location: 402 E 56th Street

Tacoma Waterfront

The Waterfront along Ruston Way is more than a park—it is a two-mile-long walkway along the Puget Sound with fantastic views of the mountain, Northeast Tacoma, Vashon Island and the Port of Tacoma. Along the way, there are several parks, including Dickman Mill Park, Hamilton Park and Jack Hyde Park. None of the parks here are large, but provide places to sit and relax. During some of the festivals that take place here, including July’s Freedom Fair, these parks light up with events and live entertainment.

Location: All along Ruston Way, which is accessible via I-705 and from various neighborhood streets in North Tacoma

Titlow Beach

Another one of Tacoma’s waterfront parks, Titlow Beach is quieter than the more popular Waterfront and Owen Beach, but this is what makes it so appealing. There is a full park just off the water here with a duck pond, playground equipment, BBQ facilities, and a lodge that can be rented for events. Behind the park are a network of woodland trails. Along the water, there is a small walkway and a long stretch of beach that is accessible when the tide is out.

Location: 8425 6th Avenue

Wapato Park

Wapato Park surrounds Wapato Lake and is the best park located in South Tacoma. It has a good amount of walking trails around the lake, BBQ facilities and playground equipment. There are usually ducks and geese hanging out in the lake, but take note that it's now a ticketable offense to feed ducks at parks in Tacoma. The park is beautifully landscaped and is a treasure trove of natural surrounds.

Location: 6500 S Sheridan Avenue

Wright Park

Wright Park is one of Tacoma’s most historic places. Its W.W. Seymour Botanical Garden dates back to 1907 and the park itself is even older. There are sculptures located throughout the park, including the prominent white sculptures at the Division Street entrance, which date to the late 1800s. Within the park’s bounds is a duck pond, sports courts, a playground, the botanical garden, and lots of space to kick back with a picnic.

Location: 501 South I Street