What do I need to know about hosting experiences in parks and recreational areas of Seattle?
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*I want to host an experience at a park or on other public land in the Seattle area. Do I need a reservation or a permit?
You may need a reservation or a permit for certain types of experiences and for certain places where you’re hosting.
Follow these steps to figure out whether you’ll need to get a permit or make a reservation for your experience:
- Step 1: Choose your location. Start by figuring out which government agency manages the park, beach or facility you have in mind for your experience. Public lands in the Seattle area may be managed by the City of Seattle, King County, the State of Washington, the National Forest Service, or the National Park Service, among others. Each agency will have different procedures and requirements.
- Step 2: Figure out if your event requires a permit, and complete any needed application. Once you’ve found the perfect location, ask whether the type of experience you’re hosting requires a permit for that location.
- Some examples of where a permit may be needed:
- An experience that includes amplified sound in a City Park will require a Park Use Permit;
- A large event involving more than 50 guests may require a Special Event Permit;
- Experiences on State or Federal lands will generally require a Commercial Use Permit.
- Remember, if the experience you’re hosting requires a permit, you’ll need to complete the permit application process before hosting your experience.
- Step 3: Figure out if you need to reserve your location, and complete the reservation process.If you don’t need a permit, you may still need to reserve your park area or facility. Figure out whether your location accepts reservations, and if it does, complete the reservation process.
- Step 4: Consider the fitness requirements for your experience, and take steps needed to keep your guests safe. Try to anticipate any risks that might arise for your guests during your experience, and be prepared for different contingencies.
The City of Seattle offers a diverse array of public parks. These include large natural areas (such as Discovery Park, Magnuson Park, or Golden Gardens); bustling urban squares (Westlake Park, Hing Hay Park); specialized use areas (sports fields, tennis courts, swimming pools, and public golf courses); Lake Washington and Puget Sound beaches; the Burke Gilman Trail; playgrounds, community centers and meeting rooms; and many smaller parks and natural areas scattered throughout the City.
The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation website offers a complete list of parks, and a “Find a Park” page that can help you to identify parks suited to different types of activities.
In addition to the many unique parks in and managed by the City of Seattle, there are abundant outdoor opportunities within striking distance from the City.
- King County offers over 200 parks and 175 miles of trails, most within easy range of Seattle. Popular parks near Seattle include Marymoor Park, Cougar Mountain, and Tolt MacDonald Park. There are also many athletic facilities, event centers, and picnic areas. A complete list of County Park facilities is here.
- Washington State Parks offer hiking, camping, cabins and yurts, and many other recreational opportunities. Popular State Parks near Seattle include Lake Sammamish State Park, Bridle Trails State Park, Olallie (Twin Falls) State Park, and Iron Horse State Park. An interactive map of State Park lands can be found here.
- National Forest lands in the Puget Sound region, including Mt. Baker/ Snoqualmie National Forest and Olympic National Forest, offer campgrounds, trails, and many other recreational opportunities.
- National Parks near Seattle include Mt. Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and San Juan Islands National Park.
Below is a summary of permit requirements for some of the City, County, State, and Federal Lands in the Puget Sound Region. This summary is not comprehensive. If you plan to host an experience in one of these areas, we encourage you to reach out to the corresponding department or agency to see what permits may be necessary.
A. For parks managed by the City of Seattle:
Public parks within the City are managed by the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. The Parks Department requires a Park Use Permit for activities and events that impact normal public use of the park. Specifically, you will need a Park Use Permit if your experience:
- Includes use of amplified sound;
- Involves bringing equipment into a park;
- Is publicly advertised* or
- Will otherwise impact normal public use of the park.
*“Public advertising” in this context means announcing the event through newspaper, radio, social media, or other public postings.
To obtain a Park Use Permit, you will need to submit your application together with a $75 application fee. The application requires proof of insurance in the amount of at least $1 million, naming the City as additional insured. Additional fees may apply. Your application must be submitted at least 7 days in advance of the event, and preferably much earlier. Applications can be submitted in person or via email to:
- Seattle Parks and Recreation Event Scheduling Office
- 7201 E. Green Lake Dr. N. Seattle, WA 98115
- Telephone: 206-684-4080 Fax: 206-684-4853
- E-mail: email@example.com.
Additional information on Park Use Permits can be found here.
Besides a Park Use Permit, additional permits may be required:
- If you are planning a large event (more than 50 people on public property, or more than 500 on private property) that requires substantial public services (such as police or traffic control), you may need a “Special Event Permit” from the City. Additional information on Special Event Permits is here.
- If your Experience involves occupying a street or sidewalk (such as a block party, or setting up a cart on a sidewalk), you may need a Street Use Permit.
- If you are taking photographs on park property for commercial purposes, you may need a Photography Permit.
- A Boat Launch Permit is required for use of public launches on Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and the Ship Canal.
In most other circumstances, you will not need a permit to use City of Seattle park land. In planning your experience, however, we encourage you to be mindful and considerate of how your activities will impact other park users. If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact the Seattle Parks Department directly.
Note that the foregoing information is about parks in Seattle. There are other types of publicly-owned property, including Seattle Center, the University of Washington campus, Woodland Park Zoo, the Hiram Chittenden locks, and many others. If you are contemplating using of these areas for your experience, you will need to review the requirements of the responsible agency.
B. For King County Parks:
In general, you do not need a special permit for use of King County Parks. An exception to this is Marymoor Park, which requires permits for Parking, Professional Dog Walking, and use of a Metal Detector. See here for more information on Marymoor Park.
Many County facilities are only available by rental, and will require a rental application and reservation. More information can be found under Step 3, below.
C. For Washington State Parks:
In order to host an experience on State Park lands, you will need a State Commercial Use Permit. An application form and additional information can be found here. The application costs $50, and requires proof of insurance (General Liability insurance of at least $1 million).
Other permits may be required for specific uses, for example:
- If you are planning to park a vehicle at a State Park site, you will likely need to purchase and display a Discover Pass on the vehicle. A Discover Pass costs $10 for a single day, or $30 for an annual pass.
- If you are planning a large group event (more than 20 people), you may need a Special Activities Permit. Special Activities permits are appropriate for festivals, bicycle and foot races, ceremonies, and larger group picnics or camping outings. Conditions and fees for Special Activities Permits vary, so you should contact the Regional Park Office for details.
- Moorage Permits are required for docks, floats and buoys on State Park sites in Puget Sound.
- Sno-Park Permits are required for use of cleared parking areas in many Winter Recreation areas managed by Washington State Parks.
- A Filming and Photography Permit is required for commercial filming, professional still photography, and educational filming / photography on State Park lands.
D. For National Forests:
The Forest Service requires a “Special Use Permit” for organized activities where a participation fee is charged. Information on Special Use permits for Mt. Baker/ Snoqualmie National Forest is here. Information on Special Use permits for Olympic National Forest is here.
Many trailheads, picnic areas, boat launches and interpretive sites on National Forest land also require a recreation pass (a "Northwest Forest Pass,” or the equivalent). Additional information on passes for Mt. Baker/ Snoqualmie National Forest is here. Additional information for Olympic National Forest is here.
E. For National Parks:
In general, commercial users of National Parks (including persons leading tours for a fee) require a Commercial Use Authorization. Application requirements for commercial use vary from park to park, and may vary for different types of uses. You should check the website for the park you are considering, and determine what permits may be needed. See the following links for Commercial Use Authorization in Mt. Rainier, Olympic, North Cascades, and San Juan Islands National Parks.Step 3: Do I Need a Reservation?
In most cases, reserving a site on public land is something like reserving a table at a restaurant: It’s not necessarily required, but strongly advisable if you want to secure a spot, particularly if you’re considering a popular place at a popular time. In order to provide the best possible experience for your guests, you should consider whether the space you have in mind accepts reservations, and reserve space where possible.
A. City Parks.
The City Parks Department accepts reservations for sports fields, tennis courts, picnic shelters, community centers, public pools, golf courses, and several scenic park sites (areas commonly used for weddings and special events). If you plan to use one of these types of sites, you should inquire about reservations as soon as possible, and well in advance of your planned event. General information on reservations and fees for various sites is available here.
B. King County Parks.
King County rents out many park facilities, including ballfields, picnic shelters, community centers, the Tolt McDonald campground, and the Weyerhaeuser/ King County Aquatic Center. As a practical matter, most popular spaces will only be available through advance reservation and rental. See here for more information about rentals.
C. State Parks.
Washington State Parks accepts reservations for many campsites, yurts, cabins, rustic structures, vacation houses, group camps, and group day-use facilities. You can find additional information here.
D. National Forests and Parks.
Reservations are accepted for cabins and many campgrounds in the national forests. You can find information on reservations for Olympic National Forest here, and information on Mt. Baker/ Snoqualmie here.
National Parks also accept reservations for campgrounds and many backcountry sites. See the National Park website for more information. Note that National Parks often charge entrance fees, and additional fees for campground and backcountry use.
Step 4: Consider Fitness and Safety Requirements.
Your guest’s health and safety should always come first. Think about any risks that might arise for your guests during your experience, and be prepared for different contingencies.
How you handle your experience and listing is up to you, but we encourage you to:
- Spell out in your listing the minimum fitness level guests should have to participate in your experience;
- Explain what guests should expect from your fitness activity, including the duration and intensity of any cardiovascular activity and types of strength-training;
- Make sure that your guests participate in exercises that are appropriate for their level of fitness;
- Consider starting your fitness activity at a slower pace to evaluate your guest’s fitness level;
- Take appropriate precautions with equipment, facilities and environmental factors;
- If medical attention is needed, direct your guest to a hospital or reputable doctor. Do not attempt to provide physical therapy advice or attempt to make a medical diagnosis yourself unless you are qualified to do so; and
- Keep your guest’s health information confidential.
In general, you don’t need a state or city license or permit to provide fitness instruction to your guests.
If you want, you can get a training certification from a reputable accredited program through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. In all cases, you should ensure that you have adequate insurance to cover you in case a guest is injured or there’s any property damage. Also consider completing an adult CPR course, like the one offered by the American Red Cross, in case there’s an emergency.
Example 1: Bob, who has just completed his teacher training course at Yoga Tree, plans to lead an Ashtanga yoga class in Discovery Park 4 times a month. Bob identifies a peaceful and scenic area of the park to conduct his class. Bob’s listing makes clear that guests should be properly fit and conditioned to handle a 1-hour workout that picks up quickly with several fast-paced sequences of linked poses. Bob will take the right steps to keep his guests safe, by thoroughly scouting the area for hazards and bringing an emergency first aid kit. Because the park is so large, and his class will be early in the morning, Bob is confident that he’ll find enough space without a reservation, and that his class won’t interfere with other park users. So long as Bob’s class doesn’t interfere with the normal use of Discovery Park, Bob does not need a Parks Use Permit.
Example 2: Kai and his band plan to play a live performance for their guests in Volunteer Park. Since Kai is playing amplified music, he’ll need a Parks Use Permit from the City. To obtain a permit, he’ll need to get general liability insurance coverage of at least $1,000,000, naming the City as an additional insured. Once he has insurance, Kai can file his application and pay the $75 application fee. In reviewing the application with Parks staff, Kai confirms that his event will not demand substantial public services and will not require a Special Event Permit, or any other permit from the City.
Example 3: Lisa plans to take her guests mountain biking on the John Wayne Trail in Iron Horse State Park. Since Lisa will be using a State Park for a commercial purpose, she needs a Commercial Use Permit from the State. She’ll need to get general liability insurance coverage of at least $1,000,000, naming the Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission as an additional insured. Once she has insurance, Lisa can file her application and pay her $50 application fee. Her Commercial Use Permit is good for the year.
Example 4: Michael is a history buff who loves the story of the “Pig War,” the 1859 boundary dispute between the United States and Britain that played out in the San Juan Islands. Michael plans to take his guests on a ferry ride to Friday Harbor, and tour the American and British camps at the Park. Because Michael is conducting a commercial activity in a National Park, he needs a Commercial Use Authorization. Michael reviews the requirements for Commercial Use of San Juan Islands National Park, and determines that tours are limited to 12 people. The application requires proof of insurance in the amount of $500,000, a Basic Aid/ CPR certification, and a $100 application fee. Michael submits his application and supporting materials, and obtains a Commercial Use Authorization, which is good for the year. Michael is free to conduct as many tours as he likes, but must reapply for a new Authorization the following year.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).
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