The best thing about biking the Skagit Valley: It's flat. And it's also scenic, with fall produce, bird life and plenty of quiet back roads.
The best thing about biking in the Skagit Valley?
You can do 40 or 50 miles in a day and feel like you did 25. In the meantime, you’ve covered a lot of ground, seeing a variety of sights and — in the fall — sampling delicious harvest produce all the way.
Recently, two friends and I picked out a loop route from La Conner north to Edison and back, with a short detour to Samish Island tacked on at the north end. The Indian-summer air was balmy; traffic was light; and the autumn colors were just beginning to ripen.
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So many flat farm roads crisscross the Skagit, you could accomplish this loop in many ways. Here’s how we did it:
Mile 0: Head due east out of La Conner on Chilberg Road, a lovely flat sea of green and brown.
2.8: Turn left to head north on Best Road. Keep an eye out for produce stands selling seasonal fruits and vegetables — a great place to stock up on snacks for the ride.
6.5: Best Road crosses Highway 20, and continues north as the descriptively named Farm to Market Road. Traffic drops off considerably and the road rises gradually.
7.9: Turn left (west) on Bayview Road.
8.7: Padilla Bay comes into view, with Anacortes in the distance. Turn right (north) onto Bayview Edison Road. The route begins to hug the bay.
9.5: Optional: Park the bikes and take a short walk along the 2.25-mile Padilla Bay Shore Trail, which is actually an old dike built on mud flats and salt marshes visited by heron, eagles, falcons and other birds.
9.5: Back on the bike, the road begins to climb into gently rolling hills … one of few parts of the route that aren’t Iowa flat.
10.6: Bay View State Park has 1,285 feet of saltwater shoreline with a view of the Olympic Mountains. It’s open year-round for camping and day use. Just past the park, in the waning days of September, we foraged blackberries on the side of the road.
10.7: Stop in at the free public interpretive center for Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, managed by NOAA and the Washington State Department of Ecology. The center has natural-history exhibits and fish tanks (www.padillabay.gov).
14.7: Optional side trip to Samish Island. Turn left (west) onto Samish Island Road for a 7-mile loop around the “island” — really a peninsula dotted with oyster farms, modest residences and more opulent vacation homes.
16.7: Edison. You’re about halfway, so this is a perfect stop for lunch — a picturesque turn in the road, dotted with restaurants serving fresh-from-the-farm food; bakeries peddling homemade goods; roadside taverns; and a few small shops.
17.3: On a small bridge, cross the Samish River; in the fall, look for jumping salmon, stealthy heron and hopeful anglers in the water. Just ahead, at Bow (17.8 miles), turn right onto Chuckanut Drive. This is a heavily traveled highway with narrow shoulders. As an alternative, you can turn right onto Thomas Road, a much quieter, though somewhat rougher, road heading south. When that road peters out at Berson Road, turn left to hook up with…
22: Avon Allen Road. Turn right to head south. For the next 14 miles, the trip is easy but uneventful.
25: When you pass Peterson Road, you hit a beautiful stretch of recently paved road that winds through pastoral farmland.
29: Jog right onto McLean Road, a busy thoroughfare with wide shoulders, then turn left onto Kamb Road. Continue south.
30.7: Turn right onto Calhoun Road, which becomes Higby.
33.4: Jog left through lovely pastureland onto Chilberg Road.
36.5: Return to La Conner for a well-earned meal in one of at least a dozen tempting restaurants.
Lynn Jacobson: 206-464-2714 or firstname.lastname@example.org