I’ve never been a fan of the area’s multi-use trails. My disdain is mainly the result of undesirable experiences on the Burke Gilman Trail between the University of Washington and Log Boom Park. But, the recent opening of a section of the Eastside Rail Corridor Trail between I-90 and Gene Coulon Park, along with the East Lake Sammamish Trail, and the new 520 bridge trail have changed my attitude. The reason? No cars!
Here are three suggested cycling routes that incorporate the trails and can be used as the foundations for building other rides. All of these start/finish at Sam Smith Park in Seattle’s Central District. There is plenty of parking on Martin Luther King Way and on the streets to the north and south of the park.
This ~34 mile counter-clockwise route starts with a lap around the south end of Mercer Island. Mercer is my go-to one-hour ride in Seattle: there is only one stop light, and the scenic rolling terrain never gets old. On clear days there is a great view of Mt. Rainier from the south end of the Island. After Mercer, turn north into one of the wealthiest zip codes in the world before connecting to the new 520 trail. Use caution on the 520; the expansion plates on the bridge’s joints deliver an unnerving jolt for the unprepared; use them to practice bike handling skills! From the west side of the 520 trail it might be time for coffee. Ventoux and Zoka are both popular with cyclists. Finish the ride with some sweeping curves down to Lake Washington Blvd, then back up to Sam Smith Park via Leschi and Frink Parks. There is a new paved trail in the Washington Park Arboretum, but it’s too crowded with pedestrians. Take the suggested alternative through the neighborhoods to the west.
62-Miler (100 km):
This 62-mile route starts out with a ~15 mile straight shot between Seattle and Issaquah. Tibbetts Park has a restroom that is open most of the time, or stop at Issaquah Coffee to get charged up for the northbound section along the east side of Lake Sammamish. During the summer months, expect a steady reliable wind from the northwest on most days, and stronger in the afternoon. Along the east side of Lake Sammamish there are two options–ride along the road which has a decent shoulder most of the way, or along the trail which is packed gravel for 5-10 miles. The gravel section is completely doable on a standard road bike with 23c tires, but you might be tempted to use the gravel as an excuse to use a bike with wider tires. Continue on the Marymoor Connector Trail to the Sammamish River Trail then to the Burke Gilman Trail. Some sections of each of these trails can be quite crowded and you might even need to slow to a near stop to pass pedestrians, dogs, and strollers.
If you are feeling parched by the time you get to Kenmore, check out one of the craft breweries along the Burke-Gilman Trail, or push on to Kirkland and stop at Ladro for a coffee.
From Kenmore, turn south to climb Juanita Hill, then split off the busy road to enjoy the scenic Holmes Point road. Continue through Kirkland to connect with the 520 trail and return to Seattle. Like the 34-miler, this route returns to Sam Smith Park via Leschi and Frink Parks.
This 100-miler cobbles together sections from the two shorter rides, with climbs up Tiger Mt, Squak Mt, and Juanita Hill. This route includes some unavoidable busy roadways with small or non-existent shoulders. The busiest section is Issaquah-Hobart Road between the north intersection with Tiger Mt. Road and downtown Issaquah. In addition to heavy traffic, watch out for parked cars, and occasional curbs that seem to pop out of nowhere. If you are riding with a group, I’d recommend not rotating your paceline in that section because it’s so busy. In Issaquah turn left on to Wildwood for a strenuous ~3 mile climb. From Issaquah, the rest of the route is the same as the metric century.