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Despite - or perhaps because of - the hills, Seattle is a bike town extraordinaire, and the town is littered with bicyclists! Bicycle riders are friendly, but helmets are a must in this town and required by law in all of King county, and if you venture out without one, there's a better than average chance that someone will call you on it! (Of course, you may not feel the need for a helmet if you have nothing to protect.)
Bicyclists in Seattle share the road with automobiles, and share sidewalks and trails with pedestrians. Please be considerate. Also be aware of the traffic laws that apply to all vehicles, including bicycles, and obey them for your safety and the safety of those around you.
Seattle has traditionally been a home of courteous drivers and a bicycling friendly environment. However, with a massive influx of newcomers to it's confusing streets (both vehicle drivers and bicyclists) collisions average around 375 per year. This number has held steady in spite of efforts to improve bicycling safety. Ultimately, your safety is your responsibility. Follow the rules of the road. Assume you are invisible to vehicles and pedestrians alike. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Give yourself additional awareness by avoiding the use of headphones and music players while riding. Wear high visibility clothing. Wear a helmet. If riding at dusk or at night, use approved lighting (as required by law.) Keep you equipment in good operating condition.
Know your routes and potential hazard areas. The local newspaper - The Seattle TImes - published an interactive map of Seattle bicycle accidents from 2007-2011 which will point out 'red flag' areas at a glance.
Be courteous, considerate, and cautious. Remember, in a vehicle-bicycle collision, the cyclist always loses.
Bicycle riding means burning calories. Hard-core cyclists eat to ride (fuel in = miles out.) The rest ride to eat (a good ride = a cheeseburger.) Since this is an exploration of bicycling in Seattle, it's an exploration of eating and drinking in Seattle as well. The powerbar crunching/protein goo slurping/accelerade swigging crowd can stock up at REI, then pound right past the attractions and eateries mentioned in this article - the routes are still among the best available. All others - take note it's no accident many of the best places to see the sights, eat and drink are conveniently located along the best cycling routes in and around the city. The routes, sights, eateries and drinkeries listed here are by no means comprehensive. Ask 6 Seattleites and get 12 fervently-held opinions on the best (fill in the blank) in any particular neighborhood. That being said, this article's contributors confidently steer you in the right direction to enjoy Seattle cycling.
Even though bicycle routes thread throughout the Seattle environs, you may find yourself in a situation where you don't want to ride: your location might not be the ideal starting point for your chosen route; sudden changes in the weather may make riding uncomfortable; darkness may descend while you are miles from your destination; a mechanical breakdown or injury may make continuing a ride impractical; you may opt to burn all your energy riding as far as you wish in one direction. In Seattle and King county, the Metro Transit bike program can step in to be your able assistant and 'sag wagon'. Metro runs one of the largest rubber tire transit fleets in the world, as well as a growing light rail and heavy rail network. Every bus and train is equipped to transport bicycles as well as people. On buses, external bike racks can hold 3 bikes. Link Light Rail and Sounder Train cars have two spaces to accommodate bikes and standing space for two more bikes and riders. Check along your planned route for Metro bus or train routes and schedules. Smart-phone users will find One Bus Away - Puget Sound a particularly useful app for finding bus routes and real-time bus location information.
If you would like some education with your recreation, or recreation with your education, Seattle Heritage Bicycle Tours offers half-day and full-day tours, on your choice of routes. The programs explore the history, cultures and personalities that created the city, while also enjoying a fun, engaging, easy going and beautiful bicycling experience.
An extensive network of trails in and around Seattle provide a wealth of bicycling experiences. Please note that bicyclists share the trails with walkers, runners, skaters, and a variety of other activities. Most trails have a posted speed limit - generally 15 MPH. When riding the trails, please practice good trail etiquette: be considerate of others, obey the posted signs, be especially cautious at trail crossings (streets, railroad tracks, driveways, and crosswalks), and respect the property and privacy of adjoining neighbors. Many trails parallel alternate on-street routes for fast riders.
The Burke-Gilman Trail: This rail to trail runs from Ballard in the west, to Kenmore about 14 miles or so northeast. The paved two-lane path takes you along some of the prettiest parts of town, including Fremont, along Lake Union, past Gasworks Park, skirting the University of Washington campus, and through some lovely shaded areas and neighborhoods above Lake Washington's western shoreline. Trail maps available here and here and a handy distance calculator help plan your ride on Seattle's most popular trail. Note that you will encounter all types of trail traffic, and most will be obstacles to fast riding - as will the 15 MPH speed limit. Please be aware and courteous while riding the trail, collisions and near-hits between inattentive trail users and inconsiderate riders, while not epidemic, are all too frequent. Fast riders may opt to ride steets adjacent to the trail to get their speed on. In Fremont, a former working-class neighborhood, artists enclave, and self-proclaimed Center of the Universe - now inundated with Adobe/Google geeks and neo-hipsters - detour off trail and uphill under the Aurora Bridge to visit the Fremont Troll. Stop in Gasworks Park and make your way up Kite Hill for a spectacular view of Lake Union and the Seattle skyline. The the trail intersects the park-like University of Washington campus before turning inland through the Laurelhurst neighborhood. Continuing north, the trail makes it's way toward Lake Washington's western shoreline. Detour off trail at N.E. 65th Street and cross Sand Point Way N.E. to visit Warren G. Magnuson Park, a former Naval Air Station, for clean restrooms and water, and a great view of Lake Washington. Matthews Beach park offers similar amenities and views. The trail hugs the shoreline passing the city limits, the town of Lake Forest Park, and into Kenmore; ending somewhere east of Log Boom Park. If your ride so far is to be rewarded with a cheeseburger, turn off the trail at 68th Ave. N.E. onto trafficed, strip-mall infested Bothell Way N.E. and stop for lunch at Kidd Valley. In practice, where the Burke-Gilman trail ends is up to personal interpretation, but at the end you can relax and turn around, or you can continue on the same pavement to...
The Sammamish River Trail: This trail picks up where the Burke-Gilman leaves off. Officially starting in Blythe Park, where local daredevils of yesteryear would leap off the wooden railroad trestle into the river (now discouraged), and continuing through Bothell, Woodinville, and Redmond for about another 10 miles to Marymoor Park. In Bothell, detour off the trail at Main Street and make a carbo stop at the Hillcrest Bakery which has been serving up Dutch and other European delights to the happy locals for over 80 years. In Woodinville, a detour off trail takes you to a wealth of world-class wineries and breweries. Immediately off the trail, and worth a visit, are Chateau Ste. Michelle winery and the Redhook Brewery. The Sammamish, Snohomish, and Snoqualmie River valleys are Seattle's breadbasket, and the venerable Woodlinville Farmer's Market showcases the abundance of produce grown here. At trail's end, the intrepid can map out a wealth of routes around the Cascade foothills or back to Seattle. A particularily beautiful destination ride is to spectacular, 270 foot high Snoqualmie Falls - round trip from Seattle approximately 100 miles. Another popular route from Marymoor continues around Lake Washington, into Bellevue, crossing back over the I-90 Bridge. Finally, the East Lake Sammamish Trail winds south along the Lake Sammamish shoreline to Issaquah. Return to Seattle biking on a well-traveled patchwork of trails and streets along the I-90 corridor to the I-90 Bridge.
I-90 Bridge: Yes, that's right. The I-90 Bridge. Seattle is so bike friendly that the highway has a bike lane on it! It's off to the side and has a barrier so there's no fear of cars running into you. The ride across the bridge can be a little windy, so hold on. Cross the I-90 bridge for a pretty loop around Mercer Island. On the Seattle side, come down from the bridge, head toward the water, and bike on down to Seward Park, a lovely little stretch. On Bicycle Sundays in the summer, Lake Washington Boulevard near Seward Park is closed to vehicles from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., making for leisurely biking, although it can be a bit crowded.
Lake Washington east side route: Instead of crossing Lake Washington on I-90, continue south on the Lake Washington Loop Trail through Kennydale, Renton, and the South Seattle neighborhoods of Rainier Beach and Mount Baker. (Check out Everytrail.com for a good overview of the entire 60 mile Lake Washington loop ride.)
The Washington Park Arboretum: Traffic is frequently heavy on narrow Lake Washington Boulevard passing through the floor of the Arboretum, but taking bike-friendly Arboretum Drive E., which is closed to vehicle traffic, makes for nice shade and pretty scenery either on your way down to Seward Park or on your way up to the Burke-Gilman trail.
Madison Park to Seward Park: At the south end of the Arboretum, turn east on busy E. Madison Street (Seattle's only street that runs uninterrupted from Elliot Bay to Lake Washington) and visit the tony Madison Park neighborhood. There are beautiful views of Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier from the park at street end. Madison Park hosts a plethora of restaurants, cafes, bakeries, coffee houses, and drinking establishments of all persuasions. (Madison Park is a compact, quiet neighborhood. Please be cautious riding through the village center.) From Madison Beach Park, head south on 43rd Ave E., winding above the Lake Washington shoreline and past the stately homes on E. Garfield, 42nd E., and E. Lee, to McGilvra Boulevard E. past the Seattle Tennis Club and the Harrison/Denny-Blaine neighborhoods. Make a short stop at Denny-Blaine Park to learn the history of the area, then continue south on Lake Washington Boulevard E. to the Leschi neighborhood, past I-90 and on to Seward Park.
Downtown Seattle: Riding downtown is somewhat of a blood sport. Heavy traffic; inattentive, impatient and confused drivers; and lack of dedicated, protected bike lanes make it the province of bike commuters who have no choice; bike messengers - who beat on each other for fun in a bike-hockey game of their own invention; and strong riders up for the challenge. If you must ride downtown, assume everyone around you is an idiot out to kill you (and have doubts about yourself as well), make aggressive eye contact, obey the traffic laws, and if you can't keep up with traffic - ride on the sidewalks (slowly and yield to pedestrians.) Riding east-west on the streets (across town) is slightly less dangerous than riding north-south on the avenues (up-down town.) So far the city has taken only rudimentary steps to make biking safer. On some streets, there are painted 'sharrows' to remind automobile drivers that bicycle traffic uses the same lanes. On other streets, there are painted bike lanes, usually on the left or right margin of the roadway, between the traffic and parked cars. Most of these are marginally safer than riding in the traffic lane, ride closer to the traffic lane than the parked cars to help avoid getting whacked by someone opening their car door without paying attention. Some, however, are potential death zones - notably the bike lane down 2nd Avenue, which is on the left margin of an uber busy arterial with traffic constantly turning left across the lane at every driveway and eastbound intersection, or left onto 2nd Avenue from every driveway and westbound intersection. This horribly situated bike lane should be avoided if at all possible. Many strong riders prefer to ride in the 2nd Ave. traffic lanes rather than take chances in this tragedy magnet. There are some dedicated 'cycle tracks' and protected bike lanes planned (including 2nd Ave.), so there's some hope for future improvement. Just weeks before the 2nd Ave. bicycle lane renovation is slated to be completed, a cyclist was killed in a collision with a left-turning truck at 2nd and University. The Seattle Department of Transportation's bicycle map shows the downtown streets and avenues they think are best for bicycle traffic, but use your own best judgment. For now, riding in the downtown core for recreation is best avoided.
From downtown, two popular loop rides are mapped here.
Chinatown/International District to Kubota Garden: The inspired labor of Fujitaro Kubota, now a city park, the 20 acre Kubota Garden is a 15.5 mile round trip from downtown Seattle. Start the route on 2nd Ave. Extension S. at the south end of Downtown. Head east on fast S. Jackson St. or move over to quieter S. King St. through the Chinatown/International District. Chinatown/ID has shops, restaurants and attractions too numerous to mention. Leave some time to explore this Asian cultural treasure on the way back - but on the way out, stop at Uwajimaya Asian grocery super-store for lunch supplies and Japanese sports drinks. (Who wouldn't want to take a Bento box and a bottle of Pokari Sweat on their ride?) Turn right at 12th Ave S. and climb up Beacon Hill across the Jose Rizal bridge. The Beacon Hill neighborhood has a rich multicultural history. Follow Golf Drive S. a short way to 15th S. Make a quick stop at Hiroshi's Take Out for great Japanese food to go, and then onto Beacon Ave. S. - the busy main thoroughfare on top of quiet Beacon Hill - for 3 miles. There are 'sharrows' and painted bike lanes along its length. Also, a separated, curving paved path meanders on a center island for much of the way. At S. Cloverdale St., turn left and plunge downhill to Renton Ave. S., turn right and follow Renton Ave. uphill to 55th Ave. S. Kubota Garden will be on your right. Admission is free. Eat your picnic lunch, enjoy the exquisitely landscaped grounds and the supremely peaceful atmosphere. The recently completed Ishi-gaki stone structure will serve as a foundation for a spectacular Terrace Overlook to be completed in spring 2015. Reverse the route to return downtown. (If climbing Beacon Hill again is too much, Metro Transit route 106 stops on Renton Ave. S. near the garden. Alternately, turn off Renton Ave. S. at S. Henderson St. westbound to access the Link light rail Rainier Beach station.) Back in Chinatown/ID, turn off 12th Ave. S. on S. King St. and proceed to 10th Ave. S. to pass the newly-installed mural: Eternal Spring. Continue down S. King St. and visit the Wing Luke Museum for an unflinching look at the Asian Pacific experience in Seattle. Hungry? There are more great Asian restaurants in Chinatown/ID than you can shake a chopstick at. Spicy Szechwan at Seven Stars Pepper, Vietnamese at the Tamarind Tree, Dim Sum at Jade Garden are just a few in the ocean of Asian cuisines here.
*Alternate route* Heading south atop Beacon Hill, at the intersection of Beacon Ave. S. and S. Dawson St., look for the junction of the Chief Sealth Trail on your left. Turn onto the well paved trail and ride its fast descents and moderately steep hillclimbs along the Seattle City Light power-line right-of-way on the east flank of the hill, through the streets of the New Holly neighborhood, then back on trail pavement to S. Henderson St. (or ride the trail a bit further to S. Fletcher St.) and turn left (east) to Renton Ave. S. and on to Kubota Garden.
Seattle Waterfront: From the north, riding through Myrtle Edwards Park is a scenic route to the Central Waterfront and Downtown. You can tack this on from another trip via the Burke-Gilman trail, Ballard, Fremont, or Magnolia by accessing the Elliot Bay Trail, skirting the Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Garden (well worth a stop to explore) and then head down Alaskan Way. Note there are multi-year seawall and road construction projects along Alaskan Way. The safest bet is to ride the sidewalk on the west side of the road until you can cross Alaskan Way to ride the dedicated path in front of the hotels and condominiums. The south end of the Central Waterfront devolves into a mess of automobile, pedestrian, and bicycle trail detours so use extra caution and obey all traffic signs and signals. Hang out in the bustling, touristy Central Waterfront - stop for lunch at Seattle institution Ivar's Pier 54 Fish Bar, sit dockside and feed the aerobatic gulls french fries. Ride up Western Avenue to the Pike Place Market. Venture into Downtown. Catch a ferry to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island. Make the trek to...
West Seattle: West Seattle is lovely riding terrain and can be accessed from the Central Waterfront via East Marginal Way and the West Seattle Bridge Trail. Across the lower West Seattle Bridge, you can connect with the Alki Trail to head torward Alki Beach area, head up S.W. Avalon Way toward the West Seattle Junction, or climb S.W. Admiral Way towards the Admiral neighborhood. Note that E. Marginal Way is a busy transportation corridor with heavy truck traffic hauling cargo from the busy port facilities. Fast riders can use the painted bike lanes along both sides of the road. Also, there is a wide, well paved sidewalk along the route that will afford more separation from traffic.
*TIP* If riding along with the semis doesn't appeal to your sense of adventure, you can cruise across Elliott Bay on the West Seattle Water Taxi from Pier 50 to Seacrest Park. Bikes are welcome (maximum 18 per trip.) For a few bucks you get a nice harbor tour and avoid all the industrial hubbub. Seacrest Park is located right on Harbor Avenue S.W. and the Alki Trail, about a mile from Alki Beach. On the Seacrest dock you'll find Marination Ma Kai, a restaurant incarnation of one of Seattle's most popular food trucks. A great place for food and drink along the ride - and they serve shave ice! Mahalo bra! During summer especially - line out-the-door busy but worth the wait.
Before proceeding to Alki Beach which has incredible views of the harbor, visit quiet Jack Block Park, which has even more incredible views of the harbor, the downtown Seattle skyline and the busy industrial waterfront of Harbor Island; as well as clean restrooms and a drinking fountain to refill water bottles. The park is fully wheels accessible, so you can ride right up onto the viewing tower for a super 'Kodak moment'.
Heading to Alki Beach, the route has broad traffic lanes with a painted bike lane situated with parked cars between the bike lane and the auto traffic; as well as a super-wide sidewalk for the bikers, skaters, strollers, joggers, walkers, and gawkers that make up the Alki scene. The sandy beach attracts the sunbathing crowd, volleyball teams, and group picnics. Across Alki Avenue are blocks of shops and restaurants catering to diverse tastes. Two popular local restaurants - Spud and Pepperdock - have been serving fish and chips to the masses for decades.
At the end of Alki beach, continue on Beach Drive for more water views of Vashon Island and the Kitsap Peninsula. You will eventually encounter a hill climb that will take you into Lincoln Park - an Olmsted designed park with urban old-growth forest, hiking trails, and more killer views. This can be a good turn-around point, but the intrepid will want to portage through the park to Fauntleroy Way and head south to the jewel-box Fauntleroy neighborhood, where you will find a collection of excellent shops, cafes, and bakeries. Stop at Endolyne Joe's for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner sure to please; or replenish carbs at The Original Bakery as generations of locals do.
Refueled, you can ride to the Fauntleroy ferry terminal and cruise to Vashon Island for some hilly rides on bike-friendly rural roads.
At some point you will have to turn around and head back to town. Just reverse direction and enjoy the route all over again.
*TIP* If you find yourself in Fauntleroy or at the West Seattle Junction, and realize enthusiasm has trumped stamina, make your way to the Rapidride bus line, put your bike on the front rack (3 bikes per bus maximum) and be whisked Downtown in air conditioned comfort - with free WiFi to boot. Exact cash fare, prepaid tickets, or Orca pass required.
Duwamish Trail: The Duwamish is Seattle's only river and has suffered the past indignities of industrial overload. In spite of that, restoration efforts and nature have teamed up to provide one of the best bird-watching opportunities in Seattle. Herons, Gulls, Ospreys and a myriad of other birds make their homes along the river. The Duwamish trail winds along the bank of the river past Boeing's back lots, industrial parks, farm land, homes, and river habitat. Access the Duwamish trail at the junction with the Alki Trail. Ride south on the sidewalk, then paved trail separated from busy West Marginal Way. (You will be crossing several driveways to freight yards and cement plants, so use caution when approaching - the trucks around here are all very massive.) At S.W. Alaska Street, Herring's House Park and adjacent T107 Park can provide a shady rest spot (water fountain, no bathrooms) as well as views of the river along with cultural and natural history exhibits. Across W. Marginal Way is the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center (admission free, $3.00 suggested donation) with a history of the Duwamish people, a small gallery that is "educational in it's own right as a center for bona fide Puget Sound and coastal Salish art in the greater Seattle area", clean bathrooms and a drinking fountain. Pick up one of their cool black with red graphic Duwamish Tribe T-Shirts to support a good cause. A bit further south, you can refuel at the funky Portside Coffee Company. The trail turns onto city streets through a short gritty industrial section and then along broad boulevards of tidy working-class homes in the South Park neighborhood. The Seattle Department of Transportation is working on improvements to the Duwamish trail through the industrial section around S. Portland St. Work is expected to be complete January 2015. The trail continues partly on quiet streets and ends abruptly at S. Henderson Street.
*TIP* At S.W. Cloverdale Street, detour off the trail east for 6 blocks to the commercial center of South Park, which serves a large Latino population. Stop at Mi Fondita del Itsmo for authentic Mexican cantina food. The menus are all in Spanish (Tu hablas Espanol, si?), but its not hard to figure out that good eats await. 99 cent quesadillas, burritos, carne or arroz y frijoles tacos, served with flavorful, mildly hot red and green sauces and a slice of lime, empanadas, tortas of all varieties, mole, tostadas, barbacoa, and more. Most welcome lighter fare - tropical fruit Cocteles de Frutas (fruit salad), Jugos (juice), and Licuados (smoothies) made-to-order from fresh papaya, mangos, bananas, oranges, jicama, betabel (beets), and a variety of other ingredients. Cocteles can be ordered plain, or with granola, yogurt, or crema (Mexican sour cream).
Duwamish to Green River: Non-timid riders can proceed on 14th Ave. S. from the end of the Duwamish Trail to busy, exposed W. Marginal Place S. for 1.2 miles. Near the city limits, access the Green River Trail (same river, different name) on dedicated pavement north of Cecil Moses Memorial Park in Tukwila. The beautiful Green River Trail meanders along the river for nearly 20 miles through Renton, Kent and Auburn. At the north junction of the Green River Trail and the Interurban Trail South, choose to continue on winding Green River or arrow-straight Interurban, south to the 2nd junction of the two trails. At the 2nd junction take Interurban south to Main Street in Auburn. Turn east on E Main St., then south on R St. S.E. to S.E. Auburn-Black Diamond Road. Head southeast, turn right onto S.E. Green Valley Road and on to Flaming Geyser State Park. This gives the 'century' rider a scenic and moderately protected ride along mostly flat river valley terrain. (See MapMyRide entry by bobbygadu for map of Duwamish Trail and browse the Green River Trail map for the route to Flaming Geyser.) From Greenlake to Flaming Geyser is a roughly 90 mile round trip.
Greenlake: Some will suggest Greenlake for a nice 2.8 mile ride; use caution, though. This heavily used park has runners, skaters, kids playing, moms with strollers, dog walkers, all of which make it difficult for a serious biker. Fast riders will use the painted bike lanes on city streets around the lake. Inattentive automobile drivers can be less hazardous than inattentive trail users along the lake. Several protected bike lanes, neighborhood 'greenways', and trail junctions converge on the Greenlake basin, making it a good starting/ending point for a number of rides. There's an easy connection to the Burke-Gilman Trail via Ravenna Boulevard and the University of Washington campus (to head east) or Leary Way and the Fremont neighborhood to ride west. (See Burke-Gilman Trail above.)
Ballard: Continue west on the Burke-Gilman trail and wend your way through beautiful downtown Ballard. Traditionally a neighborhood of Scandinavians driving Volvos and Saabs at 15 MPH, Ballard has morphed in recent years into a too-hip-for-words urban community. You can still see and feel the Nordic influence, but will also find some of the most trendy shops and eateries in and around Ballard Avenue N.W., and around N.W. Market street. Seattle's rock-star chefs all seem to be clamoring to Ballard to create the latest buzz among the fooderati. Ethan Stowell's Staple and Fancy Mercantile and Renee Ericson's The Walrus and the Carpenter oyster bar are a couple of examples of the world-class destination dining establishing a firm foothold in a neighborhood traditionally known for lutefisk and krumkake. The Pacific Northwest is ground-zero for the resurgent micro-brewing and craft distilling craze. Ballard is especially well endowed with a concentration of excellent breweries. PWI (Pedaling While Intoxicated) is not encouraged, but one may consider Ballard an excellent restorative end-point after a day's ride. Most breweries have on-site brewpubs serving their local liquid produce and a variety of quality pub fare. You can map the Ballard breweries to plan your Tour de Brew. Of course, great beer is not restricted to Ballard, you can check out the Seattle section of the Beer Mapping Project for a beer's-eye-view of the larger scene.
After exploring a bit, head west on Market which will curve around into Seaview Avenue N.W. and ride towards the water. Here you have two choices - Golden Gardens and Magnolia Bluff:
*TIP* Stop for lunch on the way, if you like, at the Red Mill Totem House. Wildly popular, long established local hamburger joint - Red Mill - took over the equally popular and long established fish joint - The Totem House - a few years back and thoughtfully decided to keep the Totem House tradition alive - fully restoring the kitschy N.W. native long house decor and featuring Fish and Chips (capitalized here because they're that good) on the menu - even going as far as learning and serving the original Totem House recipe. The result is the best of all possible old-school casual dining worlds: really great burgers from the Red Mill tradition, and really great fish and chips from the Totem House legacy. Good milk shakes and onion rings too.
Golden Gardens: Continue up Seaview Ave. N.W. and ride along the waterfront. The shoreline is a rugged Seattle beach and the harbor is lovely. Stop at Ray's Cafe for a great seafood lunch, hit the hot dog stand by the park, or simply have a picnic on the beach. (Ray's Boathouse restaurant has a deck off the bar that is one of the best places in Seattle to watch the sunset. It gets deservedly crowded, so go early to stake out a good spot. Seattle's northern latitude means there is a long summer twilight, so you can watch the sunset and still ride for a couple of hours before dark.) The Shilshole Bay marina at Golden Gardens is a great spot for boat-watching.
Golden Gardens by day is a busy, fairly family-friendly park. (You may encounter groups drinking and smoking pot in the parking lot and on the beach.) Go into Golden Gardens Park at dusk and light a bonfire--it's one of the few places around where it's legal to have a beach bonfire! Golden Gardens at night is decidedly more sketchy. It has always been a 'hangout' - way back in the day, crowds would congregate to drink and drag-race along Seaview (complete with 'christmas tree' starting lights, and race timers.) Today, the night crowd can include gangs of local toughs. If visiting Golden Gardens Park at night, be sure you are with a crowd you know. (Not so nice park experience.)
Heading back south on Seaview Ave from Golden Gardens, you can detour uphill at 38th Ave. N.W to N.W. 61 St. The short steep climb will take you onto Sunset Hill. Head north on 34th Ave. N.W. to tiny Sunset Hill park. You will be treated to a jaw-dropping view of the boats in the marina, Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympic Mountains looming in the background. Head back down to Seaview and continue your ride.
Magnolia: Enter the grounds of the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Gardens and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (known locally as the Ballard Locks), tour the grounds, rest on the lawn in a food coma from indulging at Red Mill and oxygen debt from climbing Sunset Hill, watch the boats make the transition from fresh to salt water (and vise-versa), and visit the fish ladder. (Note, you need to walk your bikes through the locks). Crossing the top of the locks, you're now in Magnolia. Ride uphill to the top of the bluff and take a break in Discovery Park (which is best explored on foot.) In the park on this route you will find the Daybreak Star Center (open M-F 9-5) where you can explore N.W. Native culture and art. Taking Discovery Park Boulevard downhill will lead to the massive West Point sewage treatment plant - not a tourist attraction in it's own right, but you can skirt the plant's boundaries and make your way to the West Point lighthouse for yet more water level views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic Mountains, and to the south - the Mt. Rainier massif floating majestically above the mist. Exit the park and make a loop around Magnolia - especially Magnolia Boulevard West for it's stately homes and killer views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, Elliott Bay and Mt. Rainier.
You can exit Magnolia at several points:
The Interurban Trail (North): This 25 mile trail follows the bed of the old Interurban rail line from Seattle to Everett. Principally a bicycle commuter route connecting North Seattle to Snohomish county, the trail's southern terminus is N 110th. St. in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood. Not far from the southern end Fu Man Dumpling House serves some of the best Chinese boiled dumplings and green onion pancakes in the city. Heading north passes through the city of Shorline to the Snohomish county line. Immediatly north of the line, a detour to busy Highway 99 leads to a series of strip malls housing a nice collection of asian restaurants. The Korean places are especially interesting - Hosoonyi serves a variety of Korean specialties including an excellent Tofu soup. Exiting the trail to the west will take you to the shoreside town of Edmonds with charming shops, a nice view of Puget Sound, and the ferry to Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula. Continuing on the trail through the sprawling bedroom communities of Montlake Terrace and Lynnwood, passing regional shopping center Alderwood Mall, you can leave the trail at 44th Ave. W. and head toward Mukilteo and the ferry to Whidbey Island. This exit will also take you past Boeing's Everett plant and the Future of Flight tour. Proceeding north, the trail passes the Everett Mall and terminates at 41st and Colby south of downtown Everett. A nice description of the trail by sections is available here.
Bainbridge Island: While not technically Seattle, hopping a ferry to Bainbridge Island is an excellent way to spend a morning. Have breakfast at the Streamliner Diner and then hop on your bike and ride around the island to work off your meal. (Note that Bainbridge Island is quite hilly.) Celebrated local chef and writer Greg Atkinson has opened the Restaurant Marche in Bainbridge and serves up exquisite local cuisine. (Reservations highly recommended - even for lunch.) The Bainbridge Island Farmers Market (Saturdays through November) is a great place to browse (and buy) high quality local produce and crafts. A visit to the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial is a quiet and sobering reflection on a difficult time in American history.
If you're in need of bike help while you're in town or you're looking for a supported ride, you can check out the bike clubs:
Cascade Bicycle Club The 15,000+ member club offers over 2,000 daily free organized group rides per year (members and non-members welcome.) They also organize some of the major Northwest cycling events such as Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (STP), Flying Wheels Summer Century, Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party (RSVP1 and RSVP2), Chilly Hilly, Ride Around Washington (RAW), and the beyond-challenging Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day (RAMROD.)
Seattle Bicycle Club A nonprofit membership club. They have a nice library of rides that you can download.
Lots of information (and bike help) can be found at any of the bike shops in town, of which there are many. Here is a sample:
Gregg's Greenlake Cycles (In Greenlake. A good source for rentals.)
R + E Cycles (In the University District. Founded by the highly regarded Angel Rodreguez and his highly regarded bikes.)
Elliot Bay Bicycles (Just north of the Pike Place Market. Makers of the prized Erickson custom bicycles.)
Alki Bike and Board (In the Admiral neighborhood of West Seattle. Long-time neighborhood shop.)
Cycle University (Retail store on the Alki Trail near Alki Beach.)
Alpine Hut (On 15th Ave W. in Interbay)
Velo Bike Shop (Long time Capitol Hill shop moved downtown on 6th Ave. 'City bike' rentals available here. They also organize a regular schedule of rides, including a variety of 'Womens Rides' that may be of interest to the female cyclist visiting Seattle.)
Montlake Bicycle Shop (Near the University of Washington Campus and the Burke-Gilman Trail. A good source for rentals.)
The Seattle Transportation Department maintains an on-line interactive map of city bike routes. You may also request a free printed copy by filling out an on-line form, or by phone using the supplied number.
King County Bike Map a comprehensive map of bike trails and suggested street routes, including those in the Seattle city limits. A mobile-enabled version is location-aware for the cycling smart-phone user. (Please do not use your smart-phone while pedaling.)
The Washington State Department of Transportation maintains a site with links to maps of local bicycle paths and pedestrian accessible trails.
The Seattle Bicycle Club maintains a library of 'cue sheets' detailing a myriad of rides in the seattle envions and beyond.