Washington Bike Towns
Great two-wheel weekend getaways.
Some 1,600 riders will take off from Toutle in the Tour de Blast on June 23, snaking 82 miles up and back the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway on the north flank of Mount St. Helens. The Plains of Abraham trail on the mountain’s southeast side is an off-road peek at the still-blasted blast zone, and nearby Castle Rock offers modest hotels for those who find camping to be just a little too much of the out-of-doors for one trip.
Though any of the San Juans provide bike-ready bucolic landscape, Lopez is especially ideal—the flattest of the island chain also has the fewest cars with which to share the road. Lopez Bicycle Works (lopezbicycleworks.com) is a shed-size cycle depot a few miles from the ferry terminal—the shop, like the hippie lifestyle that dominates on Lopez, dates back to the ’70s.
Mountain bikers have 100 miles of trails to explore in Colville National Forest near Washington’s northeast corner, including the well-loved Kettle Crest path. Stay on the few paved roads to leave the historic mining town Republic for ghost towns or fossil sites. At scenic fishing spot Swan Lake, the Fall Mountain Bike Fest on September 29 and 30 offers demos, rides, and free tandem bike rentals.
There are interpretive signs and Columbia River views along the 23 miles of the looping Sacagawea Heritage Trail in the Tri-Cities; Richland and its two sisters make for a good home base. Nearby wineries, particularly in the red-hot Red Mountain wine appellation, can be reached by ambitious cyclists, provided one doesn’t taste the vino too heavily.
Two of the five wooden Rendezvous Huts that dot the placid Methow Valley now welcome bikers in the spring and fall shoulder seasons, between when skiers and hikers crowd their wooden bunks. Stop by Methow Cycle and Sport (methowcyclesport.com) in Winthrop for lists of local rides; the staff monitors conditions on road and mountain routes, as well as gravel wilderness paths that combine the best of both.