Just when we thought we’d lose our collective minds, the summer arrived! Bold, sunny, beautiful weather fills up our weekends and beckons us off the couch and into the woods. We’ve selected a few family-friendly treks that are perfect for an afternoon of wheeling around, a picnic and day trip, or a full-on overnight experience.
GRAB YOUR HELMET AND GET PEDDLIN’!
Packing the panniers with lunch and having a picnic is one of the great joys of bicycling in our area. There are so many options for great trips, and so many of these trails are accessible with kids in tow. Here are some fun, family friendly short jaunts. All mileage is given as one-way.
Tommy Thompson Trail
Trailhead: 22nd Street or 11th Street
Length: 3.3 miles
Historically significant, the Tommy Thompson is a trail worthy of your afternoon. If you want to get really multi-modal, there’s a ferry terminal four miles west of the trail for extensive outdoor biking adventures. The ferries depart for the San Juans on a regular schedule.
This is yet another railway bed that was part of the Rails to Trails program. The grades are gentle and slow, the trails relatively well groomed, and wide enough to accommodate bikes, dogs, and joggers. The trail is named for a local railroad hobbyist who hand-built the Anacortes railway.
The trail rolls along the shoreline before crossing Fidalgo Bay on a long trestle that connects Weaverling Spit and March’s Point. The trail itself is festooned with public art and points of interest, and it’s worth lingering on it for an afternoon to enjoy everything it offers. There are views of Mount Baker in the distance on a clear day. A great trail for everyone in the family, the TT is a special asset in lovely Anacortes.
Trailhead: Memorial Park
Length: 3.2 miles from Memorial Park to Bloedel Donovan Park
Take a moment before you jet off to contemplate the war memorial at Memorial Park. This park was created (as were so many) to commemorate U.S. casualties in WWI. The trailhead is to the right as you face the WWI memorial. Follow it to the I-5 pedestrian-bike overpass. This is a particularly fun bridge when traffic is stalled on I-5—you can sail right over the gridlock! Railroad is, yes, an old railroad bed. It’s mostly flat, but there are a few challenging slow grades. Bicyclists will be most comfortable on knobby tires—a hybrid or mountain bike—because of the dirt and gravel trails.
The nice thing about this trail is that it’s versatile. It’s a nice way to get to Barkley without a car, as you will sneak up behind Barkley Village as you ride. There’s also a nice little pond just beyond Barkley. Keep going, and you can choose to head to Big Rock Garden Park or to Bloedel Donovan Park on the shores of
Lake Whatcom. The farthest destination is Bloedel Donovan. Big Rock Garden Park has a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden that is perfect for exploring. Whichever you choose, you won’t go wrong.
- Tire Repair Kit and Extra Tube
No one wants to get stuck with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, or, worse, on Chuckanut Drive in the middle of weekend traffic with no shoulder.
- Bright Shell
Keep the elements out and stay visible all in one lightweight piece of clothing. The brightest, most visible shells have reflective strips on the back of the jacket—perfect for high visibility at dusk and dawn.
- Water and food
- Smart phone or cell phone
- Photo ID
- Notebook and Pen
A bedroll, a light tent, a few provisions, and a night out away from the hustle and buzz of the city, bike camping is a fantastic way to see our area. The Interurban has a lot of quiet backs and wooded spots to keep you going. Most of the trail is family-friendly and easy.
The Interurban Trail to Larrabee State Park
Trailhead: Village Green, Fairhaven
Length: 8.4 miles from Fairhaven to Larrabee
Scenic and serene, this trail connects Fairhaven with Larrabee State Park, a great overnight camping spot. The trail cuts through deep woods along the newly daylighted portions of Padden Creek before sweeping you along Fairhaven Parkway to Chuckanut on undulating, twisty Arroyo Park Trails until you land softly at lovely Larrabee. Parts of Arroyo are steep and challenging, but the views and deep forest are worth the climbs and pitches.
Larrabee State Park offers camping (be sure to make a reservation beforehand) and lots of amenities, including grills, showers, an outdoor clamshell performance space, a trail to a local beach (with lots of cautions about not eating the shellfish) and trails and more trails. It’s a great place to spend a night recuperating from your ride before you head back into Bellingham. Adventurous sorts may want to continue down Chuckanut Drive to take a quick hike up Blanchard Mountain or zip down to Skagit to ride along the flat roads of the farmlands. Whatever you choose, the best way to see those views is from a bike. Just be forewarned—Chuckanut is twisty, narrow, and dangerous. Wear visible clothing and stay well over toward the shoulder.
Trailhead: 3 trailheads off of N. Cascade Highway
Length: 22.5 miles
Following the Burlington-Northern Railway bed, this long, flat trail connects Sedro Woolley and concrete. Bike through Skagit farmland and forest, as you meander along the Skagit River. Sections will draw you closer to the highway, but this is one of the most scenic highways in the country, so no worries about losing beautiful views.
East of Hamilton (not the musical) the trail crosses the North Cascades Highway and begins to get a little steep. Not mountain steep, but there’s enough of a grade to feel it. Keep an eye out for the Sauk Mountains and peaks of the North Cascades as you move along the Skagit River. As you keep going, you may run into elk. Keep your distance—as slow and cumbersome as they seem (and downright lazy) they can pack a punch in their haunches. Be careful. As you wind down your biking for the day, you’ll come upon a small state park at the end of this trail that abuts the Challenger Ridge Winery. Unpack your picnic, grab some wine, and enjoy the afternoon in the nearby county park. Or, if you prefer your meals prepared for you, eat at Challenger Ridge—they offer woodfire pizzas, and, yes, wine.
As for your night, the charming little town of Concrete has plenty of B-n-Bs and inns. Read up on Concrete in Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life. “Plenty good enough place to raise a boy.” There are diners and eateries and cute shops in Concrete. Maybe you’ll spend another night, just to make a trip of it.
- Maps of route and surrounding area
- Head Lamp
- Waterproof matches
- Sleeping bag (rated properly for weather)
- Small bivouac or tent
- Book chapters with spine and cover removed/soft cover book
- Bodum Press and small cookware
- Portable phone charger/battery back-up
You don’t have to travel to Europe to have a great little innhopping weekend bike trip. Many of the San Juan Islands offer lovely loops and trails. Lopez in particular gets high marks for being less challenging than the others as well as having lots of places to stay.
San Juan Islands
Trailhead: Ferry Landing
Length: 5-31 miles, depending on route
Assuming you walk on with your bike and supplies, the trailhead of Lopez would be the ferry landing. There’s an immediate steep pitch coming out of the ferry landing, but things flatten out from there. Four miles south of the landing is Lopez Village, a great place to grab groceries, coffee, check out a gallery, or enjoy a little treat at the local coffee shop. Village Cycle has friendly local guides who can help you out, or repair your bike if you hit a snag.
There are several options for those looking to trek on Lopez. You can follow the coastline south on Fisherman Bay Road and loop around to Village Beach County Park, or you can take a loop from Lopez Village to the east side on Lopez Sound and enjoy Spencer Point State Park. You can also take the northern route up to Swift’s Bay and Humphrey Head.
Your route will likely depend on your lodging, and there are plenty of options, from camping to cabins to the Lopez Islander Waterfront Restaurant and Resort, which features a tiki lounge and live music.
Trailhead: N.5th Street, Mount Vernon
Length: 19.8 miles
Not exactly an easy weekend with the kids, this trip will take you to the mouth of the Pacific through scenic Mount Vernon and the lovely Skagit Valley. You’ll cross the Skagit River on 536 and start your trek into the flat, beautiful valley. You’ll pass near Swinomish Village, La Conner, and lovely Padilla Bay before reaching Howards Corner.
At Similk Beach, you’ll push south on Fidalgo Island until you reach the amazing Deception Pass Bridge. There is ample camping at Deception Pass State Park, which has a lovely woodland campground and plenty of amenities. You’ll want to bring your groceries with you, but otherwise, this will make for a lovely stay. Spend a couple of days exploring Rosario Beach and the southern tip of Fidalgo Island before starting your trek back. Or, if you’re more inclined, head back through La Conner and spend a night in luxury at the La Conner Channel Lodge. Not a bad way to recuperate after all that pumping.
- Extra clothes (socks, shorts, etc.)
- Water purifier/purification tablets
- DSLR camera and extra memory card
- Back up emergency burner phone
- Kayak trailered on the back of your bike
- Full-sized tent
- Credit card for proper food stops
- Decent non-trail clothes for eating in restaurants
- Reservations at an inn or b-n-b