Once upon a time, the Narrows Bridge was a single, traffic-clogged bridge closing the gap between Tacoma and Gig Harbor. The bridge was attractive enough, but did not offer pedestrian or bike access, which was a major drawback given the amazing views available on the bridge. In 2007, a second, parallel bridge opened to help relieve traffic—and it came with a bonus perk: a pedestrian and bike path!
With Tacoma's plethora of green spaces and forested parks, there are no shortage of places to get out and enjoy the city and its natural side. Walking the Narrows Bridges is just one of many urban hikes or walks you can take right in the city limits of Tacoma. If you prefer something more challenging, there are plenty of those too.
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How to Get onto the Bridge
If you’ve never walked the Narrows Bridge before, where to park and begin your walk may not be as intuitive as you expect. The bridge path starts on Jackson Avenue, but there’s no parking there as the street is pretty busy. You can park in any of the neighborhoods around the bridge, but the best place to start your walk is War Memorial Park, one of the biggest collections of memorials in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
You enter the park off of 6th Avenue and N. Skyline Drive, right next to the Swasey branch of the Tacoma Public Library and Pao’s Doughnuts. Parking is free there and you get to enjoy a stroll through the park on your way. On the far side of the park, you’ll see the bridge rising up in front of you before you reach the other side. Cross Jackson and the bridge path begins on the other side.
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On the Approach
Once you exit the park and cross Jackson Avenue, there’s a walking path leading up to the bridge. You’ll be walking alongside Highway 16, a freeway, with high-speed traffic beside you the entire way. There are barriers, but the walk is not exactly a quiet walk in the country.
The path on the bridge is wide enough for foot and bike traffic going both directions. There’s a thick cement barrier between car traffic and the pedestrian path.
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Views of the Mountains
Heading toward Gig Harbor, you’ll catch glimpses of the Olympic Mountains. Closer to the Gig Harbor side of the bridge (and especially if you're walking from Gig Harbor and toward Tacoma), you can spot great views of Mt. Rainier on clear days.
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Seals and Boats
Take a moment somewhere in the middle of the bridge to pause and look down over the edge. Plenty of boats pass under the bridge, often fighting the strong currents that flow below. You’ll also see some wildlife, most commonly seagulls and seals hanging out. They’re pretty small from your lofty viewpoint about 200 feet above the water, but visible and still fun to check for. Seals look like long ovals just under the surface of water.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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Views of the Puget Sound and Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
Along the way, you can see amazing views of the Puget Sound below you. Far off in the distance to the south is the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. You can’t really pinpoint Nisqually from the bridge, but from the Refuge on a clear day, you can spot the bridge.
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Bad Weather and Sun Exposure
It’s not uncommon for Northwestern natives to take a walk in the rain or bad weather, but be advised that heading across the Narrows Bridge during heavier rain, snow or wind is downright unpleasant. The bridge offers no shelter whatsoever and is known for getting strong side winds. If the day is windy and rainy, chances are rain will be coming at you sideways the entire time.
Likewise, on sunny days, there is no shade on the bridge. Wear sunscreen.
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Are There Bathrooms?No, there are no bathrooms on the entire walk, which measures somewhere between two and four miles round trip, depending on where you start and if you do the entire walk. There are also not restrooms at War Memorial Park or on the far side of the bridge. Prepare accordingly.