The Burke-Gilman Trail. Photo by Joe Mabel

Day Trips and Overnights for the Seattle Cyclist

Where to take a zen-like coast through the countryside.

It is a simple fact that bicycling is better at fomenting rapture than drugs, sex, or religion. Neither sniffing powder nor humping flesh nor imagining Truth can hold a figurative candle to the raw, awesome power that is a velocipede between your thighs.

Urban bike commuters already know this—they experience daily the death-defying neural overload that comes with zipping in and out of heavy traffic. But Seattle is also the perfect setting for the Zen ecstasy of the kind of long, slow, steady ride that can, as Melville wrote in another context, lull us into “an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie.” Here are SW  ’s recommendations for where to go on your bike as you lose your self.

Lake Washington Loop This hella-hilly circumnavigation will eat up half your day or more, but the natural beauty along the way is worth it. Follow the Burke-Gilman Trail north and through the curve around the north end of Lake Washington, then go south past the Inglewood Golf Club before stopping for a picnic lunch at Saint Edward State Park or the adjacent Big Finn Hill Park. Head back to Seattle via the pedestrian and bicycle lane on the I-90 bridge. Or, if you want bragging rights for circling the entire lake, keep on truckin’ south, cross the Cedar River via Logan Avenue North, and then coast along the waterfront all the way home.

Seattle to Everett via Interurban Trail This 24-mile trail ride, which essentially stitches together a bunch of smaller, local bike trails, begins in north Seattle beside the Evergreen Washelli Cemetery. Start by heading north between Haller Lake and Bitter Lake. Stop at Martha Lake in Snohomish County to use the can and maybe take a quick dip (beware: no lifeguard). Celebrate completing your trip with a quad espresso at Everett’s hippy-dippy Cafe Zippy, then jitter your knee for an hour and a half as you ride the 512 bus south back to Seattle for $5.50.

Seattle to Port Townsend Loop This is an overnight route, 50-plus miles each way. Follow the directions for the Everett ride, but when you reach the Alderwood Mall by the I-5/I-405 interchange, go left onto Alderwood Mall Parkway. Make your way north past Boeing to Mukilteo Lighthouse Park and catch the ferry to Clinton on Whidbey Island. Then ride another 26 miles to Fort Casey Park, where you can camp for roughly $30 per night (reserve ahead of time at, or catch the ferry to Fort Townsend, which has Airbnb rooms for $50 to $100 per night. You can also camp at Fort Worden or Townsend State Parks. The next morning, ride south through Chimacum via Route 19 (make sure you’re super-visible—the shoulder gets pretty thin). Cross the Hood Canal Bridge and head south through Port Madison Reservation, across the bridge onto Bainbridge Island. From there, it’s just seven and a half miles to the ferry terminal, then a half-hour boat ride to downtown Seattle.

All the way to Anacortes! If you’re really ambitious, follow the directions for the Port Townsend Loop, but after spending the night at Fort Casey, go north until you reach Oak Harbor. Have breakfast at Island Cafe. Proceed north through Deception Pass State Park, pausing to take in the view from the bridge. Go northwest past Rosario Beach and keep going until you hit Anacortes, where you’ll have ample lunch options. Don’t forget to wave at, or give the finger to, the Tesoro and Shell oil refineries on March Point, just across Fidalgo Bay. If your wanderlust still isn’t sated, catch the ferry to the San Juan Islands—amid whose green boughs the words “lose yourself” will take on an even deeper meaning. Once you’re ready to return to civilization, bike southeast from Anacortes to Mt. Vernon, whence you should be able to catch an Amtrak for under $30.

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