If you want views or if you’re commuting you need to ride the waterfront trail. Here are the links to the northern end of that ride
The Alki Beach trail is the southern end of this ride – here is a link to a West Seattle tour that includes the Alki trail.
There is a bike lane on West Marginal Way to connect the waterfront trail to Alki. On the west end of the lower West Seattle Bridge the waterfront trail connects to the Duwamish River trail and the Alki trail.
To get to the waterfront from the Burke Gillman you take the South Ship Canal Trail (or you ride Dexter and cut across on Bell.)
Right now if you come North from the Terminal 91 trail you have a couple of choices to get across the ship canal: you can go west and take the pedestrian bridge over the railroad at 32nd and cross the canal at the Ballard Locks, you can take Emerson and ride the sidewalk up to and over the Ballard Bridge, or can take Dravus over to 15th and dodge traffic through a complicated intersection to get onto Nickerson which takes you over to the Freemont bridge – either directly or via the South Ship Canal trail along the water. A less desirable alternative had been to ride up to the Ballard Bridge, walk down the steps and go under the bridge, then pick up Nickerson and take the first left into the industrial streets that put you onto the south ship canal trail. (There are ramps from the trail to deck level on either the east or west side of the Freemont bridge.)
It was always a mystery why the South Ship Canal trail stopped where it did (somewhere right around 6th) since the right of way continued. It was also a mystery what the plan was around the approach to the Ballard Bridge – the trail was signed between Gillamn Avenue and 15th and there was a marked crossing on Emerson, but if you followed it into Fisherman’s Terminal you dead-ended under the the Ballard Bridge.
Here’s the answer – the City is getting the real estate they need from the Port of Seattle to connect the two ends of the trail under the Ballard Bridge.
As of March 2010 – the trail is paved for a few more blocks but it does not yet connect under the Ballard Bridge.
In November 2011 the segment under the bridge approach was completed. For some reason the designers felt a need to put a pair of 180 degree turns under the bridge – presumably as a speed control measure. I don’t get it – there is not grade and the sight lines are unobstructed. Additionally, it appears that the city spent more on fencing than on pavement for this section (the paper says it cost $6.5 million for 3/4th mile.)
Seattle opened an extension of the Ship Canal Trail on Saturday, providing a direct route for bicycles, skateboarders and pedestrians between Fishermen’s Terminal and Seattle Pacific University. The new, $6.5 million, three-quarter-mile segment goes beneath the south end of the Ballard Bridge, including a short bend and hill.
It removes a hazardous maze for some bicyclists leaving the Ballard Bridge. Previously, they needed to go on Emerson Street, filled with awkward turn and stop lanes, alongside irritable drivers. The costly project required relocating utilities as well as Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway track, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.
No explanation for the five year delay. No accounting for the cost. Here’s the city website anouncement.