The Foothills Rail Trail is one of our favorites, located southeast of Seattle between Tacoma and Mt. Rainier, and here’s a short video with soundtrack depicting a ride on it on a beautiful late spring day. There’s great Mt Rainier views, rivers, mountains, forests, ag land, a cute town midway, Orting for lunch, good paving, and it’s busy but not crowded. It’s 15 miles long now between Puyallup and South Prairie, but someday will double in length and reach from the mountains all the way to Puget Sound at Tacoma. As described in last year’s post “The It Can Happen Tomorrow Ride” (http://wp.me/p4pOXg-8a), the trail lies in the shadow of an “episodically active” volcano.
“Because of its elevation (4,392 m), relief, hydrothermal alteration, icecap, glacier-fed radial valleys, and proximity to encroaching suburbs of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolis, Mount Rainier is the most threatening volcano in the Cascades. Its next eruption could produce volcanic ash, lava flows, and avalanches of intensely hot rock and volcanic gases, called pyroclastic flows. Some of these events swiftly melt snow and ice and could produce torrents of meltwater that pick up loose rock and become rapidly flowing slurries of mud and boulders known as lahars. The greatest risk at the volcano comes from its potential for generating huge lahars triggered by sector collapse or magma- water-ice interaction rather than from an eruption itself.” (Source: USGS)
One of the most beautiful multi-use trails in the Seattle vicinity is the Foothills Rail Trail that currently extends about 15 miles from Puyallup through Orting to South Prairie, in the shadow of mighty Mt. Rainier, aka Tahama. Scenery is a mix of rural residential and agricultural, chalky-white glacial rivers, and the cute historic town of Orting, perfect for your breakfast or lunch stop. Make sure to ride this paved trail on a clear day so that you’ll be treated to magnificent views of the volcano on your eastbound pedal. The elevation gain over the 15 miles is only about 350 feet, but it is still best to start at the bottom, or west end. We enjoy lunch in Orting, and return downhill to the East Puyallup Trailhead off E 80th Street.
Much of the trail, a former rail bed, lies in the Puyallup Valley which is one of the potential routes of the devastating lahars, and signs indicate that if a siren sounds to quickly run to high ground, at least 50 feet above the valley floor, post haste. The last time this occurred was about 500 years ago, but, as shown on a special episode on The Weather Channel, “It Can Happen Tomorrow!”
West Seattle’s Alki Peninsula sticks out into Puget Sound like a thumb, and offers the best views east to the Seattle skyline including the Space Needle and the waterfront districts from the cruise ship terminals to the shipyards. The Alki Trail follows the shoreline of the peninsula providing the best views Seattle has to offer, from Mount Rainier, to Seattle, the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound islands, and then Mount Rainier again. The main part of the perfectly flat trail is only 3 miles long each way, most of which has separate paths for bikes and peds. Dining choices abound, from the famous Salty’s, to a dining district with numerous water-view restaurants of all types. Alki Beach is one of the city’s most popular. Access the area by car or transit via the West Seattle Bridge, or take your bike on the King County Water Taxi that leaves from the main Seattle waterfront. Extend the ride to the west, by heading south on quiet waterfront streets, and a seaside sharrowed thoroughfare through a residential district. To the east, trails lead on a separated bike path across a bridge that provides fabulous vistas, and an option to follow an on-road route to downtown and the waterfront district. We typically ride halfway across the bridge to take in the view that can include Mt. Rainier. On a sunny day the ride is so spectacular that you will stop frequently for photos. It’s a great way to start or end the day, a fabulous bike and brunch ride, and at up to 15 miles with scenic extensions, a fairly good workout.
In Seattle, long connected riverside trails create a cycling paradise, especially when the weather is fabulous, like it is most of the summer. While the Sammamish River Trail that runs between Bothell and Redmond is not as spectacular as coastal trails, it provides 11 uninterrupted miles through rural landscape along a pleasant though stagnant river. In Bothell it connects to the Burke
Gillman Trail that leads west all the way to Puget Sound, and in Redmond’s Marymoor Park it connects to a trail (currently being paved) along the east side of Lake Sammamish. Plenty of dining options are available in Redmond and Bothell, however the highlight is at Mile 5.5 in Woodinville where the Red Hook Brewery, Columbia Winery and the magnificent Chateau Ste Michelle Winery (& amphitheater) are accessible via a short spur trail. This is also a popular cycling destination from Seattle via the Burke Gillman Trail to the Sammamish.
The easy scenic cycling adventures of Richard Fox, author of the 2014 (2nd Ed 2017, 3rd Ed 2021) guidebook "enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides."