Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail
Hike description: There are hundreds of miles of railroads converted to multiuse trails in the Northwest, and the Burke-Gilman Trail was the motivation for many of those projects.
Opened in 1978, the trail that runs from Golden Gardens in Seattle to Bothell’s Blythe Park is the state’s most famous rail trail. It is a member of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Hall of Fame.
The 20-mile trail shows its age in places in the form of wrinkled asphalt and stretches narrower than newer trails, but it’s still a scenic place to take a bike ride.
On nice days, the trail can be packed with users of all types and should be avoided by cyclists looking to ride fast. But using the trail in the winter is sometimes a good way to avoid crowds.
The trail seems to beckon users to take their time as they tour the Seattle area. The Ballard Locks, Fremont Troll, Gas Works Park, Log Boom Park, the University of Washington and Magnuson Park are along or near the trail.
The trail never travels far from the water, starting near Shilshole Bay and passing the Fremont Cut, and spending its northern half following the shoreline of Lake Washington.
As beloved as the trail is, it is incomplete. Have a map or use your phone to navigate the missing link in Ballard. There are roads with bike lanes covering the gap. The way is marked, but it can be easy to lose for those unfamiliar with the route.
Those looking for a longer ride can link up with the Sammamish River Trail, which starts in Bothell where the Burke-Gilman ends.
Directions: From Interstate 5 north of Seattle, take Exit 172 and follow North 85th Street west until it ends. Turn right on 32nd Avenue Northwest and follow it as it becomes Golden Gardens Drive and descends into the park. The road changes names again (Seaview Place) at the bottom of the hill. Look for a parking spot in one of the lots.
Difficulty rating: 1 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: Up to 40.
Elevation gain: 600 feet.
Best time of the year: Year round.
Map: Trail maps are available for free download at kingcounty.gov.
Also: A section of the trail was recently repaved. 192 Brewing Co. in Kenmore offers a cyclist-friendly beer-and-nachos stop with outdoor and indoor seating. Horses are the only nonmotorized users not allowed on the trail. The trail is ADA accessible. Sound Transit buses offer service between Ballard and Bothell. Dogs on leashes are permitted on the trail. Geocaches are hidden along the trail. Visit geocaching.com for more information.