Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bicycling the Centennial Trail: Rails to Leisurely Trail

With miles of flat, paved trail alongside bucolic farms, wetlands, and lowland woods, the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County, Washington, is a perfect route to ease in your bicycling legs.  We headed up to Snohomish last weekend for a leisurely ride and to avoid the weekend crowds on the more popular Burke-Gilman Trail from Seattle to Redmond.

While the Centennial Trail currently extends 23 miles north from the city of Snohomish just past Arlington, and is planned to reach all the way to Skagit County, we cycled about 10 miles up and then turned around and came back. Twenty miles was just fine for my first day on a bicycle this year.

For the first few miles up to the historic Machias train station (a replica) and trailhead park on this former Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern Railroad  route, we passed homes and farmland and skirted alongside the Pilchuck River. Even though this was Memorial Day weekend, traffic on the trail was pretty sparse, unlike the Burke-Gilman "bicycle freeway."

And so it continues northward through quasi-rural and then increasingly rural country.  This being the Puget Sound region, I was expecting at least an espresso stand on the trail.  The closest was a little stand about 50 yards or so off the trail across the street from the Lake Connor corner gas station/market, where we stocked up on cold water. This little store is a treasure trove of old commercial signs.

Beyond that, there is nowhere to grab a snack or drinks along or near the trail, at least for the first 10 or so miles.  In Lake Stevens, you can hop off the trail and pedal 3 blocks into town. Otherwise, pack your own grub and, of course, water.

North of Lake Stevens for several miles, the trail passes through completely rural landscape.  We sped past horseback riders and finally pulled off where we saw a sign for a park.

As far as parks go, it was pretty unimpressive.  Methinks it is just a place for people to park their horse trailers and saddle up. We turned around and headed back south.

At occasional spots on the trail, snow-covered White Horse Mountain, Mount Pilchuck, and other lesser Cascade peaks pop out on the eastern horizon.

After returning to the trail terminus in Snohomish, we went to historic downtown Snohomish for dinner at Fred's Rivertown Alehouse and then a stroll along the Snohomish River Trail. Fred's is a lively spot that offers decent pub fare and lots of beer and spirits.

All in all a relaxing way to start the summer bicycling season.

Have you bicycled the Centennial Trail?  Have you gone all the way up to Arlington?  We'd love to hear about your experience on the trail in a comment below, especially if you've bicycled the whole trail.

When You Go
Here are links to a map of the trail that shows several access points and directions to the trailheads. I'd like to go back and start farther north to see the northern end of the trail.


Mary said...

I'm jealous! Most of the trails in my area are short, unpaved, and truly lacking in scenery - unless power lines are considered scenic!

Anne said...

This looks heavenly. My last bicycle trip, last month, was four hours of torture with very little paving, mostly sand, gravel or loose dirt, up and down hills. There was a muddy patch near the beach and one person on the ride actually her her shoe sucked off and they were unable to retrieve it!!! So this is my kind of ride, you can relax or exercise hard without worrying about the terrain.

Joe Leeak said...

It looks like you had a great day to ride up there. It's been quite a few years since I've ridden that trail and a lot of it wasn't paved then. Looks like I need to give it another try...

Anonymous said...

The Centennial Trail looks really peaceful. Thanks for the report Jill, I'll try to get the family up there this summer!


Beth Geiger said...

Hi Jill - We just rode with the kids yesterday on a part of the Snoqualmie Valley trail, another lovely rails to trail, this section was from Rattlesnake Lake to near the town of Snoqualmie, about 9-10 miles. Ran shuttles so the kids could ride all downhill.... From rattlesnake Lake down to I-90 we saw almost nobody. Deep forests, tall rail trestle, cute bridges over the southfork Snoqualmie and at the end, the main Snoqualmie, a big view or two, etc. Not paved but pretty well packed. You ride right through North Bend if you need a brew or espresso. The trail continues (with some gaps) along the forested edge of the Carnation Valley into Carnation. We've ridden parts of that section also and saw very few people. Nice to have all these options, especially with kids.

Beth Geiger said...

Hi Jill - Here's another lvoely rails to trail: we rode the Snoqualmie Valley trail yesterday with the kids, from Rattlesnake Lake to near Snoqualmie, saw almost nobody, runs from deep forests into riverside trail to town to farms and meadows. Views, trestle, forests etc so nice variety. Not paved but well packed. Beer and espresso available in North Bend..

jill said...

Anne, yes, try getting out on your bicycle on one of the rails to trails close by. See Beth's comment below about the Snoqualmie Valley trail.

Joe, yes, give it another try!

Hey Todd, yes, we saw several families with kids on the trail.

Beth, thanks for the tip! I have walked part of the Iron Horse Trail from Rattlesnake Lake east. Will have to check out the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

Misha said...

I so enjoy your blog. Ken and I rode the Centennial Trail (the first time on my bike in almost a year - yikes) and it had been years since I enjoyed the Snohomish bakery.

Anonymous said...

Looks like we'll have to add this trail to our places to bike as a family. Seems more relaxed than Burke-Gilman.

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