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Climb Seattle's Volunteer Park Water Tower to the Observatory At The Top

Updated on March 15, 2014

You Won't See This View From The Car

Driving in on the Main Entrance, at the south side of Volunteer Park you might miss the observation tower that houses a city water tank, although you're heading right towards the highrise dark red brick structure.

Turning right onto the circular drive one may pass cars parked at the curb, only turning right at the far side of the tower, to find a parking space on the boulevard that runs north and south across the length of Volunteer Park.

Tower climbers can park in any vacant spot, but many leave their cars on the entrance circle line. That way they can get a ready start to the Tower climb.

I'd been there many times, before I even saw that the brick walled building was actually a high tower. No signs pointed it out to drivers, and once parked along the wide central lane my attention always turned to another of the park's main attractions.

This view is from the far edge of the lawn on the opposite side of the tower from the main entrance. It is the only clear view of the building and one that isn't available in any other way than walking across the large grassy area that sits across the exit lanes. It's no wonder I hadn't seen the tower because the day I took the picture was the only time I walked in that area of the park.

LENSMASTERS --- Earn Points on Quizzes at the Bottom

ALL Photographs © 2013 by Leslie Sinclair

Tower Originally Was Very Visible Feature

Tower Originally Was Very Visible Feature
Tower Originally Was Very Visible Feature

Volunteer Park Poster Trees

Get the Perspective On Seattle's Volunteer Park's Layout From 100-yr Old Drawing

North lies to the Right, East at bottom, South at Left, and West at top if drawing. One enters the park from the South by heading straight on towards the Water Tower, then circling right around to the North side and turning right into the main central drive.

To exit, one can reverse this drive and complete the loop, exiting back at the South Entrance, or leave at 9 o'clock on the loop outside the Conservatory.

The large slightly rounded shape bounded by multiple lines, on the upper left describes the open water reservoir.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory lies at the far right side in the middle, as one drives to the small turn-around loop at the end. image credit for red arrow on layout map Clker

Photos Below Taken During a Tower Climb

both inside

and outside

Start of Path to Tower

Plants are lush with Spring blooms, secluding this opening to the curving inclined path to the Tower entrance.

Trees and Bushes Screen Tower

On the path from the circular drive, these trees block the view from the Tower hill into the main body of the park, and prevent a hiker from being seen.

Main Tower Entrance With Massive Trim

Two doorways open up into two stairways that curve up the sides of the tower. This is the main formal portal, opposite the one I climbed.

First Sight of Stairs

I've lightened this photo some so the reader can get a feel for the structure of the graceful stairway, but it's actually quite a bit darker in there, as shown in some of the other shots.

ALL Photographs © 2013 by Leslie Sinclair

Stairs Continue From Landing to Landing

On my first climb I only did these two sections, not knowing how many more sets of stairs awaited me.

Returning Down the Last Flight of Stairs - on my first climb

Elevators play havoc with leg muscles when we let them raise us from floor to floor. The Observation Tower lacks an elevator and since I wanted to resume a former hiking habit I determined to return soon to climb to the top. This trip, the bottom couldn't come any too soon.

Fiercly Guarded Window Scene on Stairway

Climbers are tightly confined in the stairway by these interesting old forged iron fences. Puget Sound is visible in the distance.

Experience The Building

Situated as it is

behind lush vines

and grand evergreens

The Tower

bears within

a feeling

of expansiveness

more splendid


the view outside

A Graceful Glimpse of The Observation Floor

Everything about the climb inside this building puts the focus on the movement upwards to the expansive yet sedate loft above the water tank.

A Look Back at the Above Stairway Entrance to the Top

At the top room one has a feeling of expansiveness and peace. I shared the observation perch with a few other people but the only sounds were from the birds outside. It was a refreshing opportunity for contemplation.

West Northwest Part of Observation Space

Northwest Part of Observation Space

The stairs are to the immediate left.

North Part of Observation Space

East Part of Observation Space - Water Tank Caged in Like A Bird

Space Needle Captured in Western Window

View Through The Window Bars

This view is to the West, slightly South, showing downtown Seattle more clearly.

One of Several Informative Posters at Tower's Top

Another View From Above Where The Tower Was Built

Get a real feel for the foundation of the whole park from this view looking towards the entrance. The Observation Tower was built on the large dark circle in the middle of the traffic circle.

That's the city water reservoir to the left, the walk to the future art museum on the right, and the boulevard leads from the entrance circle back to the turnaround loop in front of the Conservatory.

Maybe You're Craving a Spiral Staircase Masterpiece?

Spiral Staircase
Spiral Staircase

This spiral staircase is a masterpiece made by craftsmen with wood.

Takes you up a beautiful 16' spiral in comfort and safety. One floor, or two floors - that is your choice.


Quizzes Follow

Earn Some Points


Fun & Easy Quiz Questions

Earn Some Points By Taking These Quizzes

Above the caged water tank one's gaze is lifted to the airy looking geometric roof support structure.

What Do You Think About This Idea of Climbing Towers? - Do you have a favorite type?

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    • toronto-wedding profile image

      toronto-wedding 4 years ago

      Thanks for remind me my past memories with that place.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      It looks like a grand experience.

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      This looks like a great place to visit. The photos you have shared - especially the plants around this tower are simply gorgeous! I will have to put this on my list of things to do if I ever get to that area. Neat lens - enjoyed this very much!

    • profile image

      cmadden 4 years ago

      A nice trip down memory lane - I lived on Capitol Hill many years ago. Thanks for this!

    • profile image

      sybil watson 4 years ago

      What a fascinating hike - I love exploring old buildings and the flowers and view are so beautiful.

    • profile image

      mina009 4 years ago

      They can produce some really nice pictures ;)

    • Raymond Eagar profile image

      Raymond Eagar 4 years ago

      Good exercise

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      I've learned they are good exercise, and once you're up there you still have to climb down :)

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 4 years ago from Havre de Grace

      Love this, hope to visit some day!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I've been to this water tank. Loved it and was so happy to come across your great photos and tour of it here!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      I'm back because the like button is now showing up.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Your images are wonderful! I would give you a like, but I don't see the like button on this lens. :-(