Level Up Your Workout: Bike to Your Next Hike
These human-powered outings are creative ways to get outside, sometimes involving multiple modes of transportation and a lot of time dedicated to travel.
Summertime in Washington means hours of daylight. And with so many landscapes to immerse yourself in, it's no wonder so many hikers hop in their cars every weekend and head to a trailhead. But driving to a hike can include a number of headache-inducing factors, from the practical to the existential. You have to buy gas. You have to find parking at the trailhead. And you'll definitely be sitting in traffic on the way home.
There are alternate ways to access trails, of course. You can walk to a local park. If you live in the Seattle area, you can take Trailhead Direct. And in the Puget Sound area and some other parts of the state, you can use TOTAGO to plan your outing, an app that helps you access trails using currently-existing transit stops as dropoff points.
But if you want to try a fully-human powered outing, you'll likely need to rely on a bike. One of WTA's hiking guide correspondents and outstanding trip reporters, Jessica Kelley, has done some pretty remarkable bike-powered adventures, so we asked her for some tips and itineraries. Here's a fun source of inspiration for you to level up your hiking game.
Bike it, then hike it
These itineraries put a new spin on old favorites. Jessica draws inspiration from a quote by Becca Cahall of the Dirtbag Diaries podcast.
“Sometimes, by placing a constraint on adventure, we can deepen our relationships with the places we consider most familiar.”
That quote helped prompt Jessica to create her Seattle Summits project, and to create these completely human-powered itineraries, Jessica is making the experience of visiting classic hikes fresh and new. The routes below can be done completely under your own power, making for longer days and a more complex workout. Jessica suggests these for strong cyclists or those who live close to the mountains. The summaries come straight from her personal experience.
North Seattle to the Issaquah Alps
It sounds daunting, and it is a long ride (about 60 miles round trip). But luckily there's not a huge amount of elevation gain, and you can stay on paved or gravel trails almost the entire way. Take a look at the route here.
Summary: Start in Seattle and bike north on the Burke Gilman, until you reach the Sammamish River Trail. Ride the Sammamish River trail to Marymoor, where you pick up the East Lake Sammamish River trail. Take this trail all the way to the Issaquah-Preston trail, which will in turn deliver you to the High Point Trailhead. From here, stash your bike, then explore the trails around Tradition Plateau and West Tiger, including Cable Line, West Tiger 3, and beyond.
Note: Your best choice for this route is a gravel bike. You could probably get away with a road bike, if you have sturdy tires and are willing to do a bit of hike-a-bike over some of the chunkier gravel. A mountain bike would be fine, if not overkill.
Seattle to North Bend area hikes
This route is also a long one, but again, it's primarily trails, which may make it more appealing to the general public. The route is some pavement, but mostly gravel.
Summary: Follow the Burke Gilman up to the Sammamish River Trail, then follow it to the Tolt-Pipeline Trail. From the Tolt-Pipeline, take a combination of trails and city streets to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, then pop out in North Bend. Once in town, it's your choice to hike any of the trails accessible on Mount Si Road. You could even head across I-90 using the overpass, and out to Rattlesnake Ledge, though that adds considerably more mileage.
Note: A gravel bike or mountain bike are probably your best choices here. A road bike on parts of the Tolt would be a bit too tricky for most riders.
Traverses and loops
Jessica's also done several hike and bike routes that aren't entirely car-free, but still reduced the amount of time she spent in the car, and allowed her to experience classic parts of Washington in a new way. Her trip reports are in-depth and extremely useful, and her pictures make them even more fun to read.
- Hike-bike loop in Mount Rainier National Park: Hike up Crystal Peak, then to Crystal Lakes, and finally to Sheep Lake. Closing the loop with a bike shuttle. Note: If that route is too ambitious, you can always shorten the distance and elevation gain by skipping the peak. It's still a gorgeous route.
- Bike-to-hike on the Olympic Peninsula: Bike up the closed Dosewallips Road to access remote trails in Olympic National Park.
- Hike-bike loop around Baker Lake: Walk the Baker Lake trail and then bike back to your car to complete the loop.
- Southern Olympic Wilderness Coast loop: A walk and run from Oil City to Third Beach, with a bike shuttle to complete the loop.
- Chiwaukum Traverse with a bike shuttle
TIPS for Gear and Clothes
Jessica suggests cycling-specific bottoms if your ride will be more than 2 hours, then changing at the trailhead. The biggest thing to remember is your bottoms are probably not going to be transferable between activities, though some people do hike in bike shorts, and vice-versa.
As far as packing all of this goes, you've got a few options. You can carry it all in a backpack, or attach gear to your bike using panniers or bike-packing bags.
Jessica's advice? "The simplest way to go is to just to ride with your hiking backpack on your back. But after a while that can get uncomfortable. If your ride is much more than 60 minutes and you're carrying a significant amount of gear, you'll probably want to try another method of carrying your hiking gear.
Keep it Safe
Once you're at the trail, Jessica recommends stashing your bike in the woods and locking it to a tree, rather than locking it somewhere visible at the trailhead.
"Even if you lock the frame and wheels at the trailhead, components can still get stolen. I'd rather just hide the thing, so they don't know it's there (and then lock it while hidden for extra safekeeping). I've used this strategy numerous times at multiple trailheads, and as long as you hide it well — and make sure no one is watching when you duck into the woods with your bike — then you should be fine.