Spectacular Places to Cycle in Washington State

RAMROD | © Brent Soderberg / Flickr
RAMROD | © Brent Soderberg / Flickr
With the stunning surrounding nature and tireless efforts towards environmental sustainability, it is no wonder that Washington State has been voted the most bicycle-friendly state for seven years in a row by The League of American Bicyclists. Discover the most excellent areas—outside the city of Seattle—to do just that.

Sammamish River Trail

This 10.9-mile (17.54-kilometer) trail is open to bicyclists, skaters, and pedestrians, with limited equestrian availability. The entire route, which follows the Sammamish River, is paved. The trail connects the Burke-Gilman Trail at Blythe Park in Bothell to the East Lake Sammamish Trail in Redmond at Marymoor Park. With stunning views of the Cascade foothills and Mt. Rainier, the trail is used recreationally as well as for a non-motorized course connecting commuters between Seattle and suburban areas.

Sammamish River Trail © Gene Bisbee / Flickr

Lopez Island

Lopez Island offers the flattest terrain of the San Juan Islands, though it by no means lacks in hills. About a 30-mile (48.28-km) loop around the island provides astonishing views throughout. If you’re visiting the island, you can either bring a bike on the ferry or rent one upon your arrival. For a fun event in which to participate, consider the annual, non-competitive Tour de Lopez. This fundraiser for the Lopez Island Chamber of Commerce has a limited 900-person registration and usually sells out before the day of the race.

Mt. Rainier

As the largest mountain in the Pacific Northwest, bicyclists have, of course, found a way to interact with Mt. Rainier. Though there are no bike trails and bicycles are not permitted on hiking trails, they are allowed on park roads. With six biking options on the mountain, ranging from five-mile (8.05-km) to 20-mile (32.19-km) routes, a favorite is Sunset. This 20-mile (32.19-km) trek includes an elevation gain of 3,650 feet (1,112.52 meters), but it rewards its champions with astonishing views. Avid cyclists may consider joining the group of 750 participants in the annual Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day (RAMROD) challenge of 154 miles (247.34 km) including a total elevation gain of 10,000 feet (304.8 m).

Centennial Trail

Created in 1989 in celebration of Washington State’s centennial, the Snohomish County Centennial Trail is a 29-mile (46.67-km) route converted from an abandoned rail line through Snohomish County. Next to the 10-foot (3.04-m) wide paved trail is a six-foot (1.83-m) wide natural surface section for horses. The trail is for non-motorized recreation and commuting—pedestrians, cyclists, and horses. Spanning from the City of Snohomish to the north of Bryant, over 400,000 citizens visit the trail every year.

Methow Valley

Methow Valley is an excellent cycling option year-round. In the winter, trails are groomed for fat biking. Similar to skiing, fat bikers (so named after these special bike tires which are wider than 3.6 inches) are required to have a pass. Day passes cost $10, and season passes cost $50. During the summer, both road cycling and mountain biking are available. Road cycling offers routes from 14 to 105 miles (22.5–169 km) long, and mountain biking has trails from one to 35 miles (1.6–56.3 km) long, ranging from beginner level to advanced level.

Methow Valley Trail © kcxd / Flickr

San Juan Island

San Juan Island, Lopez Island’s hillier neighbor, also provides spectacularly scenic cycling opportunities. With routes between approximately five and 21 miles (8.05 and 33.8 km) in length, cyclists can choose from rides along beaches and farms, those with lots of hills and range of levels, as well as journeys that offer historical learning and whale-watching opportunities. Many of the roads now feature a paved three-foot-wide (0.95-m) shoulder to accommodate cyclists, but cyclists should take caution on roads that have not yet been expanded.

Crystal Mountain

Another one of Washington State’s gorgeous peaks, Crystal Mountain offers a 14-mile (22.53-km) loop. The scenery is, as one might imagine, absolutely breathtaking, but it comes at a price. With exposed switchbacks and a 3,000-foot (914.4-m) elevation gain, this mountain-biking route is not for beginners. Mountain bike rentals are available for between $10 and $35. For other mountain biking trails throughout the Evergreen State, check out the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance website.

Olympic Discovery Trail

The beautiful Olympic Discovery Trail snakes between the Olympic National Park—near the Olympic Hot Springs—and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Various federal, state, county, city, and tribal groups (14 in total) own segments of the trail and are working together with the Peninsula Trails Coalition to complete the 130 miles (209.22 km) of converted, defunct rail line. It will stretch from Port Townsend to the Pacific Coast near LaPush, going through Sequim, Port Angeles, and Forks on the way. More than half of the trail is currently completed as a non-motorized path, accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians. Part of the incomplete section is called the Adventure Route, which is less groomed and not suitable for road bikes.

Olympic Discovery Trail © Robert Ashworth / Flickr