It might still be cloudy and drizzly, but that doesn’t stop Seattle families from getting outside. We know how to make the most of the outdoors, despite the weather, and that includes hitting the pavement and trails on two wheels. If you and your crew are itching to pedal, bike, roll and race, we’ve mapped out the Eastside’s best spots.
Long, Flat, Scenic Trails
Beginners should always start on flat, uncrowded areas like driveways, sidewalks and culdesacs. But when you’re ready to progress just a bit beyond your own property, the huge parking lots at Marymoor Park are a great place to master balancing, pedaling and steering. The expansive, flat lots also make it easy for parents to keep their eyes on little peddlers. And when your riders are feeling up to it, you can venture out to the Sammamish River Trail. Spanning almost 10 miles along the Sammamish Slough, the River Trail is generally flat and a good spot for kids to ride. However, it can get crowded on warmer days, but not Greenlake-on-a-summer-day crowded. Hit the trail with your sidekick on a weekday and ride your heart’s out!
Another sure bet is the Burke-Gilman Trail which continues along the Sammamish River Trail. The Burke-Gilman winds 20 more miles through Bothell and the north end of Lake Washington, all the way into Seattle. If you’re two-wheeler is training for the Seattle-to-Portland, this is definitely a great place to see how far he or she can make it (just remember, everyone has to ride back!).
If you’re looking for a scenic place to peddle, a long flat trail is located at the Mercer Slough Nature Park, nestled in Bellevue just north of I-90 and west of 405. The Mercer Slough is a 320-acre nature park that boasts a 5-mile asphalt path circling the perimeter of the park—perfect for jogging, bicycling, rollerblading and strollers. In addition to the trail that is generally flat with little slope, the park has a Visitor Center (did someone say pit stop?), old greenhouses and blueberry fields for summer picking. Various parking lots can be found on both the east and west side of the park. (Psst! You’ll find ample parking at the Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm during the winter months when the farm isn’t functioning). If you and your crew are feeling inspired for a long ride, the Slough is a component of the Lake Washington Bike Loop and Mountains to Sound Greenway and actually connects to Newcastle Beach Park, Factoria, Renton, Seattle and beyond.
Trails for Mountain Biking
At the south end of Mercer Island is where you will find Pioneer Park and its six miles of open trails. Well manicured with little elevation change, Pioneer Park is a good novice mountain biking locale. Be sure to take your bikes to the northwest quadrant of the park (across from QFC Village) to ride the perimeter trail that’s also accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Psst! Keep an eye out for ponies – this is also a designated equestrian trail. Porta-potties, signs, maps and doggie bags are available along the trail which makes this park an ideal spot for every member of your family. Insider Tip: Island Crest Park and the nearby elementary school are just a few blocks north and offer large-scale climbing and play equipment if your tykes want to take a break from pedaling.
photo: Allison Sutcliffe
Once your riders are steady on two wheels, head to the Sammamish Plateau’s Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park. The expansive park offers 120 acres of dense evergreen, second-growth forest with a 2.5 acre clearing in the middle and a variety of bike paths, ranging from novice to expert. Created solely as a mountain bike park, Duthie offers a variety of terrain and more than two miles of freeride trails (featuring ables, gaps, drops, step-ups, step-downs… you get the picture). Plus, the Flowpark has the biggest concentration of freeride trails and features of any public riding area in the state. Psst! During the summer, bike crazy kids ages 9 to 13 can sign up for Dirt Camps to really hone their skillz.
photo: Allison Sutcliffe
If you’re looking for a place to ride and play, Snoqualmie Bike Park (part of Fisher Creek Park which boasts a huge playground complete with 5 slides, a merry-go-round and two zip lines, plus basketball courts, fields and restrooms) is located on the park’s upper lot and is designed for all ages of mountain bikers. The Phase 1 location of the park contains dirt rollers in an open area with small jumps—perfect for kids who want to take their time around the track. The Phase 2 part of the park offers wood ladders through a slightly downhill forested section and is designed for more experienced riders. Psst! Pads are recommended and helmets are required to ride at Snoqualmie Bike Park.
Note: Before hopping on your bike, make sure helmets are on and fit snugly – no wiggling or sitting too far back on the head. Also, make sure everyone is dressed in layered clothing (good for water/mud splatter protection, as well as layering for when your lil’ Tour-de-France-r really gets to pedaling).
Does your little peddler have a favorite spot to ride his or her bike? Tell us in the Comments below!
— Jennifer B. Davis