North Lake Washington Loop

July 11, 2012

The dry season is upon us, bringing fair weather bikers like myself out in droves. Over the last few months I’ve been hitting the road more and more in preparation for the 188 mile RSVP (that’s Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party!). It’s coming up in 6 short weeks so I’ve been trying to fit in as much saddle time as possible, riding to work almost every day and doing long rides on the weekends.

Taking a pit stop on the trail near Juanita Beach

This past weekend I went for my longest ride so far this year — 46+ miles — on a bike loop that goes around the north end of Lake Washington. Two of my fellow RSVPers joined me at 9:30 in the morning in Saturday’s glorious sunshine and from the Greenwood neighborhood we rode passed the north end of Greenlake to Ravenna. This road connects up with the Burke Gilman, Seattle’s main bike path. The trail runs for 18 miles from Ballard to Bothell and is really popular with families, commuters, and racers alike. It is nice and flat and rides along a green belt with peak-a-boo views of Lake Washington throughout and convenient stops at several beach parks. On clear days you can even see a ribbon of the Cascade Mountains to the southeast. It is a great place to get started if you haven’t done much urban riding, especially now that the new, wider repave project is completed.

North Lake Washington Bike Loop

We were happy we got a moderately early start because while the Burke certainly wasn’t deserted, it wasn’t as crowded as it usually is later in the day with groups of “recreational” riders heading up the Burke Gilman to join the Sammamish River Trail and visit the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville.

We rode most of the Burke Gilman Trail, pulling off at a gravel parking lot that connects to 96th Ave NE just before the junction with the Sammamish River Trail. From here we skirted around the high hills of Inglewood before reaching Juanita Beach Park and its short trail up to 98th. This leg of the trip follows the northeast side of Lake Washington and while the main drag’s name changes several times (96th, 100th, 98th, Market, Lake Washington Blvd, Bellevue Way NE) you pretty much just go straight and it is easy to follow.

From this side of the lake you also get views of the Olympic Mountains and downtown Seattle. The terrain is nearly all rolling hills, which was good for us since the RSVP has quite a lot of elevation. The best pit stops in this section are the waterfront areas around Juanita and Kirkland. I suppose you can also stop at the fancy shops in Bellevue Town Square if you are into that (though you might stand out quite a bit in your sweaty biking clothes).

From Bellevue Way NE you take a right onto 108th Ave SE and follow signs for the I-90 Trail. This bike path is a fun one because it covers a lot of firsts for most bikers: riding on an interstate highway, across an island, and on top of a floating bridge! It is pretty exhilarating to cross such a large body of water with mountain and city skyline views from both sides. On a clear day you can even see Mount Rainer. Adding to the excitement are head and side winds, which are common, and cars whizzing by, which are ever present. Fortunately, the path is very safe with high cement barriers separating highway traffic from bikers and pedestrians. Along the way Mercer Island is a great detour for people looking to add miles on its scenic, low traffic roads.

View from the west side of the I-90 Bridge Trail

Once on the Seattle side of the bridge you’ll follow Lake Washington Blvd (yes, there’s one on this side of the lake too) to Lakeside/Lake Washington Blvd, which passes through the Leschi neighborhood and passed Madrona Beach Park. This main drag continues up the hill and eventually passes through the Madison neighborhood and the Washington Arborteum (another great place to take a break). Then the road meets up with a short detour to the right on 24th Ave E, where you’ll want to stay left, go through a cut in the curb, and go left on Shelbey St. This route avoids some of the traffic on Montlake Blvd before taking you over the Montlake Bridge. From here you’ll reach the UW campus where you meet the Burke Gilman again, which you can use to loop back to Wallingford/Fremont/Eastlake/Ballard/Greenwood or wherever you may have started.

We decided to finish our day with a steep hill climb up Fremont Avenue to enjoy some ridiculously delicious (and well deserved!) cuban sandwiches at Paseos!

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