About 15 years ago I wrote:
I don’t like the SR 520 Trail! It’s too hilly. Why couldn’t they have engineered it to stay on the same grade as the freeway? Besides, it puts you out in the middle of nowhere.
Things change. In the year since the trail across the 520 bridge opened, my riding focus has shifted from Lynnwood to Redmond. The rides shown here are a selection of classic routes east of Lake Washington, updated for 520 bridge access. I used to avoid most eastside rides because I had to drive to the trailhead, but now I find that they are within reach.
My idea was to present basic 30, 40 and 50-mile loops that show off the connections and route options you get when you ride across the bridge. Here are some other favorite eastside rides that are maybe a little less obvious:
Note that I’ve plotted all of these rides as loops starting at Gasworks Park and heading east over 520. If they don’t work well in the opposite direction I’ve indicated that in the narrative.
North Bridge Loop
This is the basic loop north of the bridge – 30 miles and 1,200 ft. of climbing. A lot of rides heading north and east can be built on this loop. Except for the bridge crossing the route is the classic Lake Washington Loop and it should be signed where it’s not on trail.
Where this loop turns to head around the lake there is a connection to the Cross Kirkland (and obviously the 520 trail continues east.) At 68th / Juanita Dr. where this loop regains the Burke Gilman, you can go the other way on the trail to find the Sammamish River trail to Woodinville (and the North Creek trail to UW Bothell and beyond.) The best places to leave the 520 trail heading South are at 84th, 92nd, or Northrup.
Some variations in the basic loop are possible, too. At Juanita Bay you can continue on 100th and return to the trail at Wayne Golf Course (or you can turn onto Juanita-Woodinville and then onto 112th and come out on Riverside just before Bothell Landing.) You can drop down to the water and get an extra climb on Holmes Point Rd. In Lake Forest Park there are a couple of connectors to the Interurban that are particularly interesting if you’re heading North or East and are starting West of I-5.
It’s not really long enough to need a lunch spot, but 192 Brewing in Kenmore is worth a stop. There are bathrooms at Juanita Beach, Big Finn Hill and Logboom.
South Bridge Loop
This is the basic loop south of the bridge – 25 miles and 1,800 feet of climbing. A lot of rides heading south and east of Seattle can be built on this loop. The route through Bellevue and from I-90 up through the arboretum are both straight from the classic Lake Washington Loop and (at least in Bellevue) it should be signed.
There’s a major connection on Northrup where the 520 trail continues east. Similarly, on 118th where this route picks up the westbound I-90 trail, the eastbound trail continues to Eastgate, Issaquah, North Bend and eventually Ellensburg. The Lake Washington loop route would continue south from this point heading for Renton and around the south end of the lake with connections to the Cedar River trail and to Tukwila where you find the Green River trail. This loop leaves the I-90 trail on the Seattle end of the bridge. The trail continues through a tunnel with connections to capital hill, Dearborn and Colgate. On Mercer Island you can add the ride around the southern perimeter for an extra 8 miles and some fabulous hairpins. (If I’m doing the Mercer Island loop I want to head in the other direction so that I’ve got the water – and the views – on my right.)
Generally when I’m riding this route I leave the 520 trail at 84th and take Lake Washington Blvd. to Main. A Lake Washington Loop option shown on the old Bellevue bike map takes me up 100th and 98th to Killarney and then follows the bus route on 25th, 104th, 30th and 106th to get back to the bridge. This option is shorter and has less traffic – but the trade-off is two steep climbs. You can leave the 520 trail at Evergreen Point and take surface streets past hedges hiding fancy houses to connect back up with the option at 84th. You can leave the 520 trail at 92nd and ride that back to the option route at Lake Washington Blvd. This alternative adds a third steep climb. Instead of leaving Northrup at 108th you can cross and continue up to 116th which has less of a climb and bike lanes. On the Seattle side, there is an arboretum bypass to avoid the Arboretum sprint. I usually take the I-90 tunnel, Judkins Park and then 19th to Interlaken. A descent on Harvard and the University Bridge get me back to the Burke-Gilman with no extra mileage and a really manageable climb.
If you’re riding this for lunch try the Roanoke Tavern. There are bathrooms in Aubrey Davis park on the Mercer Island lid.
Longer North Loop
At 40 miles this loop isn’t really “long” and the 1,600 feet of climbing isn’t excessive, either. However, this route takes you on a major commute track and opens up a variety of rides accessible from Redmond and Woodinville. It’s also remarkable to be able to ride this long of a route combining really rural and really urban settings while staying on trail much of the way. (For a ride entirely on trail, stay on the Burke-Gilman in Lake Forest Park – the route turns into a 37.5 mile loop with 1,100 of climbing and is on trail for the entire distance.)
The segment of the 520 trail where it runs along Northup between 108th and 24th has to get called out as its only serious design failure. It appears that the City of Bellevue thinks WSDOT ought to be on the hook for that segment of trail and wasn’t willing pay for more than conventional bike lane striping. There’s a blind crossing where you come off the trail onto 24th and somebody is going to get killed there eventually. There is a nasty crossing at 108th where it looks like they expect you to sit through two traffic signal cycles. The worst part is that two important commute infrastructure components intersect in this segment (520 trail & Eastside Rail Corridor) but the way they’re set up there’s no connection between the two. Maybe after the Sound Transit construction is done it will get better, but it looks like you’re still going to have to ride a couple blocks out of your way to go north on the Cross Kirkland (heading for Google, for example.) Too bad we don’t have an effective bike lobby to work on stuff like this…
There is a major connection in Redmond where the route turns from the 520 trail onto the Sammamish River Trail. You can continue east on the Bear Creek trail or on the Redmond Central Connector to reach Avondale and the rides off of Union Hill or Novelty Hill roads. At Wilmot Gateway in Woodinville you can take 75th to Woodinville-Duvall which is one of the main routes heading for Snohomish, Monroe and the rides in the Snohomish River valley. A little further on the route is the junction with the North Creek trail to UW Bothell and another route to Cathcart and Snohomish. At the top of the Lake Forest Park climb, instead of heading South you can turn north on the Interurban for yet another route to Snohomish as well as Edmonds, Lynnwood Mill Creek and Everett.
There are interesting options to ride north of 520 on Willows, 132nd and/or 116th in lieu of the Sammamish River trail. Where that trail crosses 145th you can pick up the road and ride Riverside back to the Blythe Park and the Burke-Gilman. Where it crosses 124th you can ride west to pick up the Cross Kirkland or the Lake Washington Loop route. Instead of taking Greenlake and Stone Way to get back to Gasworks you can turn right on 83rd and take Greenwood to 50th and then Fremont back to Gasworks.
There are lots of places for lunch in Bellevue and Redmond but you might want to try McMenamins in Bothell. The best bathrooms are probably at Wilmot Gateway, Blythe or Logboom, but the Sammamish River trail has plenty of facilities.
Longer South Loop
This loop is 41 miles long and has 2,100 feet to climb. It goes out to Redmond on 520, cuts across on West Lake Sammamish Parkway to the I-90 trail and heads back to the I-90 bridge and tunnel. The return takes the Lake Washington Loop and the Arboretum Bypass to get back to the Burke-Gilman. This is one of those routes you don’t want to ride in the other direction – at least as far as the West Lake Sammamish Parkway segment is concerned. Everything else works fine both ways but there is no bike lane or shoulder on West Lake Sammamish and there’s a lot of traffic. Go east of the lake instead or take 140th.
There’s a major connection at Marymoor where the connector trail takes you through the park so that you can get over to Union Hill Rd. or Redmond-Fall City Rd. This is also a way to get to the East Lake Sammamish trail so that you can climb Inglewood Hill or Louis Thompson or Issaquah-Fall City Rds. (Eventually the East Lake Sammamish trail puts you onto the Issaquah-Preston trail in Issaquah.) This route heads back toward Seattle at Newport Way – turning the other way takes you to Issaquah. Continuing straight takes you up Lakemont with connections possible on up Cougar Mtn. and across to Newcastle and May Valley. In Factoria where this route crosses Richards Rd. you can turn North instead and either head for the Lake Hills connector and the Lake Washington Loop route through Bellevue or take Kamber to 140th and eventually to the 520 trail. At Enatai Beach you can leave this route and choose between several options to ride back to the 520 trail. In Seattle just before this loop leaves the I-90 trail there is a branch that goes through the I-90 tunnel and hooks up with everything downtown and to the South.
Instead of taking the 520 trail all the way to West Lake Sammamish Parkway you can save about 3 miles by taking 40th straight over to the lake. This option eliminates two crossings of West Lake Sammamish Parkway. There is a trail, signed the I-90 Mountains to Sound Greenway trail, on the north side of I-90. The surface is plagued with root heaves and the switchbacks are too tight for a tandem so almost all cyclists ride Newport Way. Substituting the classic Arboretum segment of the Lake Washington Loop route (or the 19th / Interlaken route, for that matter) for the bypass route doesn’t add any distance.
The recommended lunch spot on this ride would be BJs Brewpub in Redmond Town Center. There are bathrooms at Marymoor and at Aubrey Davis park on the Mercer Island lid.
50-Mile Loop North
One of my favorite rides – 50.7 miles and 2,500 ft. of climbing that shows how close the really rural areas are to the city. (I usually ride this in the other direction but not for any good reason, I guess the climbs appeal to me more that way.) Out to Redmond on 520, on out to Bear Creek, further out on Paradise Lake Rd. and back on Bostian & I56th, the RSVP route back to the Sammamish River, trail to Lake Forest Park, up the hill on Shoreline’s IU-BG connector, across I-5 at 117th and back to the start on Fremont and Greenwood.
There are major connections where this route passes Union Hill and Novelty Hill roads. The intersection with Woodinville-Duvall has rides that take off in both directions. Maltby, where this route turns off Paradise Lake onto Bostian, is where you cross SR 527 if you’re heading for Snohomish or Monroe or Echo Lake.
You can leave this route at Woodinvill-Duvall heading north as far as Avondale where you jog over the pick up 165th. That becomes 172nd and 175th before a steep descent on 171st that takes you back to Wilmot Gateway for what is still about a 50 mile ride.
Lunch spot is the Maltby Cafe. Bathrooms are at Wilmot Gateway.
50-Mile Loop South
Another favorite ride – 55 miles and 2,700 feet of climbing combining really urban and rural settings. Out 520, across on West Lake Sammamish, Issaquah-Hobart to May Valley. Back on Lake Washington Loop to I-90 and 19th / Interlaken.
There are major connections in Issaquah (East Lake Sammamish, I-90 eastbound, Squak Mtn., etc.) and where you turn off onto May Valley (Tiger Mtn., Landsburg, 200th or 216th down to Cedar River Trail, etc.) Where May Valley branches off from 164th there is a route across to the Cedar River that, in addition to the trail, allows you access to Jones Road (and to 196th on the other side of the river.) SR 900 is rideable in both directions. Coal Creek parkway connects to rides in both directions. The Lake Washington Loop route goes both ways and connects to the Cedar River and Green River systems if you head south.
An option for this loop is to leave May Creek at 116th and take Newcastle Way over to Lake Washington Blvd to get back to the Lake Washington Loop route. On the Seattle side of the bridge you can take the Arboretum route instead of 19th & Interlaken.
Rogue in Issaquah is the lunch stop and bathrooms are at Marymoor, Tibbetts Valley, and Aubrey Davis park on the Mercer Island lid.