Five Awesome (And Doable!) Bike Trips in the PNW
The idea of a bicycle trips seems like the ultimate getaway – hitting the open road, winding through forests and meadows, stopping to picnic near a lake. Picturesque yes, but what about all the planning? If you’re not an avid cyclist, preparing and planning for a bike trip might sound overwhelming – especially if biking around the city has you gasping for breath. Fear not, novice cyclists of the Northwest! This list brings you five low maintenance bike trips that you can take this weekend. None of them require much planning, though some are more strenuous than others. Pack a picnic, tune up the old bicycle, and saddle up.
Bellingham Interurban Trail. The Interurban Trail runs from Larrabee State Park north to Fairhaven, an artsy community on the outskirts of Bellingham. A 6.7 mile ride makes this bike trip suitable for an afternoon jaunt. The trail is packed gravel and dirt for most of the journey, but a relatively flat grade makes it an enjoyable ride. A bike with sturdy tires would make for the easiest ride, but cruisers do just fine as well. The trail begins by winding through quiet woodlands, crossing creeks and waterfalls. On clear days, there are gorgeous views of Bellingham Bay and The San Juan Islands – simply pull your bike to the side of the trail and take it all in. I prefer to start the ride at the Clayton Beach trailhead in Larrabee State Park – that way, I’m rewarded with ice cream (or beer) upon arrival in Fairhaven.
John Wayne Pioneer Trail. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail (often called the Iron Horse trail) is the largest railroad to trail conversion in the United States. The entire trail runs for 253 miles, but the popular stretch, between Cedar Falls and Columbia River spans 110 miles through Iron Horse State Park. Though enthusiastic cyclists can bike the entire trail, detours, closures and desolation abound beyond the western segment. For those looking for an overnight bike trip, just 35 miles aways from downtown Seattle, the Iron Horse State Park section fits the bill. Most of this section of trail is made of well-packed, crushed rock – fancy racing bikes are likely not the best option. The views are spectacular – the trail is tucked into the Cascade foothills. You’ll cross several canyons on high trestles, enjoy epic vista views and relish in the solitude of the primitive campsites along the way. Instead of going over Snoqualmie pass, cyclists follow the tracks into a long, unlit mountain tunnel.
McKenzie River Trail. The McKenzie River Trail consistently comes to mind when talking about the best bike trails in Oregon – sometimes even in the nation. Located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the McKenzie River Trail is an Oregon signature. A ride suitable for mountain bikes only, the 26 miles of trail provide adventure, excitement and hot springs. The trail winds downhill through lava rocks, along the beautiful shores of Clear Lake and next to the bubbling McKenzie River. If you’re looking for a multi-day trip, cozy cabins line the McKenzie River waiting for your tired bones. More experienced mountain bikers often make the whole trip, but beginners are hampered by the sheer distance, rather than the difficulty. Most people who decide to ride the entire 26 miles opt for a car shuttle – several companies operate in the area. There are multiple entry points if you want to make a quicker trip – the bottom part of the trail is less technical than the top.
Sammamish River Trail. Another weekend afternoon worthy ride, the Sammamish River Trail is gloriously flat, wide and paved. For cyclists looking for a short trip, start at Blyth Park in Bothell and head 11 miles to Marymoor park in Redmond. If you’re looking for a longer journey, the trail meets up with the famed Burke Gilman – riders can continue on into various parts of Seattle proper. If you’re looking to add a little flair to your cycling experience consider stopping off at Redhook Brewery for a craft beer and a snack. Another option? Woodinville wine country is easily accessed from this trail. Look for paddle boarders and kayakers in the slough that runs trail-side. Enjoy awesome views of the cascades and Mount Rainier as you wind through the quiet suburbs outside Seattle. This trail gets busy with pedestrians and cyclists alike, keep that in mind when you’re planning your trip.
San Juan Island. San Juan Island is a perfect weekend bike journey, especially for those looking to ride on the road. San Juan Island offers the ability to do a 35 mile round-trip journey – so you won’t have to see the same thing twice. The other nice part about biking San Juan Island are the amenities – enjoy wineries, lavender farms, sculpture parks and bed and breakfasts. Throughout the trip bikers will enjoy striking views of the surrounding water. Keep your eyes open for orcas, especially at Lime Kiln Point State Park. Though relatively easy to pull off in a weekend, this trip requires a little more bike stamina than the others on this list – a few big hills and riding in the road up the difficulty level slightly.