For parents pulling a kid trailer or accompanying novice (and sometimes erratic) young cyclists, paved trails are safer than roads. But families trying to...
For parents pulling a kid trailer or accompanying novice (and sometimes erratic) young cyclists, paved trails are safer than roads. But families trying to negotiate the Burke-Gilman Trail or Green Lake’s loop may want to find less-congested places to bike. So we hit a few trails and asked Ellen Aagaard, Cascade Bicycle Club volunteer and mom of three, to share some local kid-friendly favorites where families can find keep-pedaling incentives (beaches, playgrounds) without worrying too much about a jersey-clad group running them over. Round-trip mileage is listed.
Seward Park/Lake Washington Boulevard
Length: 10 miles.
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Details: Parents who enjoy riding alongside their kids will appreciate the wider space of a whole road. For Bicycle Saturdays/Sundays, the city closes Lake Washington Boulevard to motorized traffic from Mount Baker Park (2521 Lake Park Dr. S.) to Seward Park (5902 Lake Washington Blvd. S.). The next event is 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday; subsequent rides include July 14 and 29, Aug. 11 and 19 and Sept. 8 and 16. A paved trail parallels the road (and the lake), so it’s possible to ride this route even when the boulevard is open. But the spacious road is nicer.
Families with very young children might be content with circling Seward Park, which features a 2-mile, closed-road-turned-trail and lots of places to stop and play in the water. Lifeguards staff the swimming beach from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through the summer. Seward’s playground is currently surrounded by construction fences, but the nearby slide and swings are still open; Mount Baker Park also offers a small play area.
Good to know : Beware construction on Martin Luther King Boulevard as you’re getting to Seward Park. Since the park is closed to cars, park on side streets. The city says the busiest times are 12:30-3 p.m., so come early or later to avoid the crowds.
Length : 28 miles.
Details : “The one-mile section between the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (3015 N.W. 54th St., Seattle) and Ray’s Boathouse (6049 Seaview Ave. N.W.) is especially good for new riders, since it’s very lightly used,” said Aagaard. “Park near Ray’s, ride the trail up to the Locks, walk your bicycle through the park at the Locks and check out the boats. Ice cream is available at a stand near the gate, then ride back to Ray’s. Total distance is 2 miles, perfect for budding cyclists. The 2-mile section between Northeast 65th Street and Matthews Beach Park (9300 51st Ave. N.E., Seattle) is also really nice. You can park at Magnuson Park (6500 Sand Point Way N.E.), ride the paved trails in the park, walk your bikes up to the Burke, ride down to Matthews Beach, play at the park, turn around and ride back to Magnuson.”
Good to know : According to Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Burke-Gilman Trail is approximately a quarter-mile west of Magnuson Park. The city suggests using the Northeast 65th Street crossing with its traffic signal and crosswalks. On the east side of Sand Point Way Northeast, bicyclists can continue east along Northeast 65th Street, or north along 62nd Avenue Northeast. Magnuson Park allows bicycles only on paved trails.
Soos Creek Trail
Length: 8 miles.
Details: Parents often look for flat trails, thinking these are easiest for young kids, but that robs kids of the accomplishment of climbing — and the thrill of going downhill. Soos Creek has enough ups and downs to give families a workout, especially if parents are toting a trailer or trail-a-bike. Kids on small bikes without gears might grumble, but nearly every up is rewarded with a satisfying, wind-in-the-hair woosh down. One steep hill might need to be walked. The beautiful, lesser-known trail feels tucked away from everything (except for a short jaunt under power lines) as it cuts through wetlands and forest. Since the trail is short and doesn’t really go anywhere, families are more likely to pass walkers/joggers than worry about hard-core bikers breezing by. (King County Parks expects a northern connection to the Cedar River Trail to be completed within five years.) Gary Grant Park (Southeast 208th Street and 137th Avenue Southeast, Kent) offers a bathroom and small playground as a starting or half-way point; at the other end is the Soos Creek South Trailhead (at 152nd Way Southeast).
Good to know: The trail features several road crossings, including a couple with traffic lights.
Green River Trail
Length: 12+ miles.
Details: “The trail gets nicer as you go farther south, especially once you hit rural Kent,” said Aagaard. “Getting on the trail at Fort Dent Park (6800 Fort Dent Way, Tukwila) and going south is a great idea. There are also lots of playgrounds at little parks along the trail, which makes it nice for younger kids who need to get out of the trailer or off the bike to play frequently. On a sunny day, it still remains somewhat cool thanks to the river. Access points are a little hard to find; the city of Tukwila facilities guide (www.ci.tukwila.wa.us/recreation/rectrail.htm) is very useful for figuring out how to get onto the trail and where to park. The wonderful views of Mount Rainier more than make up for any access issues.”
Length: 35 miles.
Details: This trail’s only downside — its lack of play stops — should change with a new playground slated for the Machias trailhead. Even without this new addition, the mostly flat trail is a family favorite for its smooth surface, beautiful scenery and lack of crowds (especially as you head north). It starts in Snohomish and runs through farmland and semirural areas. Farther north, it’s the closest to mountain biking you can get without a sore backside; with tall trees and wetlands, it’s like hiking on wheels. In fact, the northern stretch is remote enough that we saw cougar-sighting signs posted last summer. Watch for views of the Cascades as well. At Lake Cassidy, you can park your bikes and check out the shallow lake’s boardwalk for a peaceful rest stop.
Good to know : If you see a portable toilet, stop and use it, as facilities are pretty rare. There are some road crossings, but most driveways, etc., are signed to allow bikes to pass without stopping. We opt to start at the Machias trailhead for its restrooms and picnic tables.
Sammamish River Trail
Length : 20 miles.
Details : When it heads to the Eastside, the Burke-Gilman becomes the Sammamish River Trail. We like to start at Wilmot Gateway Park (17301 131st Ave. N.E., Woodinville), which boasts a nice playground. Look for parking across the street. Heading east from here, it’s a lovely ride along the river with mostly rural (but rapidly developing) scenery. We’ve spotted herons and eagles. While the trail is popular on sunny weekends, it’s not as busy as the more urban sections. Older kids might make it all the way to the trail’s end at Marymoor Park (6046 West Lake Sammamish Parkway N.E., Redmond), where they’ll find not one but two playgrounds. Bring a picnic lunch and eat it by the river or wait for the picnic tables at Marymoor. Or make a short detour to Redhook Ale Brewery (14300 N.E. 145th St., Woodinville); the pub offers an outdoor seating area and wait staff that doesn’t even blink when you walk up in bike shorts.
Good to know : There are a couple restrooms along the way and no road crossings (the trail cuts under a couple bridges).
Stephanie Dunnewind: 206-464-2091 or firstname.lastname@example.org