Here’s something I don’t hear often on a bike trail: “Fore!” Unless, of course, I’m biking the edge of busy Riverbend Golf Complex on the Green River Trail. On a recent South King County outing, I cycled by duffers on four of its 18 holes and then skirted the driving range while enjoying the picturesque river. It’s just one of the unique experiences to appreciate on the region’s numerous bike trails.
For pleasant spring and summer outings and training for longer summer rides, try the Green River or these two other popular trails: the Burke-Gilman in Seattle and the Centennial in Snohomish County.
Burke-Gilman Trail (Fremont to Bothell)
This is the busiest trail in our regional network of multiuse trails, and it winds through some of the most populous parts of Seattle. So why recommend it for an outing? Well, there’s a reason it’s so popular: The Burke-Gilman Trail is uber-handy and leads to many excellent locations.
Take a chill pill when you pedal onto this trail from its many access points, because you will encounter traffic of all sorts. But consider: Nowhere else in Seattle can you find an off-street cycling trail this long. It runs 15 miles one way from Gas Works Park in Fremont to the Sammamish River Trail in Bothell, or nearly 20 miles if you start at Golden Gardens Park and pick your way through Ballard. With rest stops and exploration on a round-trip outing, that’s a good day’s effort.
High points include connections to many parks. Pedal the two-block protected bike lane to giant Magnuson Park, where you’ll find beaches, playfields, nature walks, the Mountaineers climbing center and a microbrewery right next door to Cascade Bicycle Club’s office. If you’re on the hunt for ale, hit venerable Fremont Brewing by Stone Way North (1050 N. 34th St., Seattle), the new Burke Gilman Brewing Company (3626 N.E. 45th St., Seattle) near the Seattle Children’s medical complex or a gaggle of breweries trailside in Kenmore near the 73rd Avenue Northeast crossing.
But the elongated park that is the Burke is a treat unto itself. The rail-trail has been moving cyclists since 1978 along the waterways from Elliott Bay to Lake Washington, with sparkling marine scenes all the way. At the University of Washington, the trail has recently been widened, the better to handle heavy student traffic. In View Ridge, the trail splits into shady one-way lanes for a mile or so. Toward Lake Forest Park, grading and vegetation control mean better views of glittering Lake Washington over lakefront homes.
To ensure the Burke’s usability in our increasingly dense city, practice your best trail etiquette on this urban gem.
Green River and Interurban trails (Tukwila to Auburn)
You probably won’t need to dodge a golf ball on the Green River Trail, but you will need to watch out for junior cyclists with training wheels on this suburban trail, which skirts growing housing developments. Still, trail traffic is lighter than in the city.
The 15-mile-long trail is a charming ribbon, in many places right above the river. In places, you’ll pedal on a levee that protects the homes from potentially flooding waters. But because the river flow is controlled by Howard Hanson Dam in the Cascade foothills, the water never approaches your wheels.
The Green River curves and winds and curves again, resulting in a delightful meandering ride. I like to begin at the Tukwila Community Center. There’s a wide sidewalk trail to Fort Dent Park, then you cross under Interstate 405 and skirt Southcenter mall. The trail runs behind warehouses before breaking out into farmland and then into Kent. There, the trail connects to the Interurban Trail, on which you can continue south into Auburn. To make a loop of it, bike through Auburn and pick up Green River Road, which takes you to an intermittent trail along the river and back to the junction.
When again meeting the Interurban at 29 miles on the odometer, I suggest returning via the Green River Trail to the start. The Interurban does continue north in ramrod rail-trail fashion and would get you back in 10 miles, but it is closed north of downtown Kent to allow for improvements to 228th Street. A 1.7-mile detour will be in place until late 2020.
Centennial Trail (Snohomish County)
If urban or suburban cycling seem too busy or easy, head north to Snohomish County and try the rural Centennial Trail. Another rail-trail, it provides a long, straight shot to the county’s northern border, just beyond Arlington. In between, you’ll find lots of farmland and few road crossings. Daydream while you pedal the smooth asphalt, with valley views of grassy meadows and foothills beyond a thin stand of trees at the trail’s edge.
Picnic at the Lake Cassidy rest stop, about 12 miles from Snohomish, detouring a few blocks into Lake Stevens for refreshments along the way. The trail continues another dozen miles to Arlington, which offers all the comforts needed by touring cyclists. Reach the trail’s end at a stunning red barn at 30 miles.
Access the Centennial from a half-dozen trailheads and just try a section, or conquer the whole thing in a healthy 60-mile out-and-back.
From urban to rural adventures, these are just three of the region’s many paved, off-street trails. There’s plenty of summer coming to expand your cycling horizons.