Lee McNeil, an engineer at the Boeing plant in Everett, and his family are avid bikers. His wife and he have seven children, from 4 to 24 years old. When looking for a trail, they look for adequate protection from traffic, good surface condition, minimal steep hills, easy access, interesting views or history and a fun destination.
With that in mind, here are some great trails for biking with your whole family, as suggested by McNeil.
Iron Horse trail
From the Hyak trailhead to North Bend at Rattlesnake Lake.
This is the McNeil family's favorite ride, a tradition they've enjoyed since the mid-1990s.
Riding in this direction, the trip is downhill.The route is 26 miles and goes through the 2.1 mile Snoqualmie Tunnel and over many trestles.
"Beautiful views, the thrill of the tunnel, and places to stop and watch the rock climbers make it special," McNeil said. "All our kids have taken their turn at braving the pitch black tunnel for the first time, which we celebrate at the end of the ride."
If you take two vehicles, you can leave one at the bottom of the trail and then retrieve the other car when you are done.
How to get there: To get to the Hyak trailhead: Take I-90 east to Exit 54. Turn right and then take an immediate left on a road paralleling I-90. Turn right at the gated maintenance yard and then take the first road to the right. Follow this road until you reach the parking lot.
There is also a bus shuttle that runs from Cedar Falls to Snoqualmie Pass. For $22, you and your bike can ride up and then bike down the trail. Reservations suggested. Check www.busup90.com for more information.
The Centennial Trail runs for 23 miles from Snohomish to Bryant. Work to extend the trail as far as the Skagit County line is planned this summer, with an opening later this year. The trail is wide and smooth, and is safe for kids as it is off of the roads. A nice stop is Lake Cassidy east of Marysville. A dock on the lake is fun to explore. It also has picnic tables and porta potties for a convenient lunch-time stop.
How to get there: The trail can be accessed from a number of trailheads. For a map, go to http://bit.ly/L5qCeY.
The Cascade Trail follows an abandoned Burlington Northern railroad grade for 23 miles between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete. It's mostly dirt and hard-packed gravel. Because it's on a railroad grade, the slope is gentle and it makes for an easily family ride.
McNeil said it is a "beautiful ride up the Skagit Valley, with lots of places to watch wildlife along the river and numerous sloughs." Sometimes you have to bypass debris that lingers after spring flooding.
How to get there: There is a trailhead just east of Sedro-Woolley at the junction of State Route 20 and Fruitdale Road. There is also a trailhead near Concrete at Baker Lake Road and State Route 20. Skagit Transit has stops along the way, which allows you to make the trip one-way, if you prefer. Go to http://bit.ly/PR4wOW to see a map showing the trail, parking areas and bus stops.
Other good choices
Snoqualmie Valley Trail: http://1.usa.gov/nWGWO
Interurban Trail from Lake Whatcom, in Bellingham, to Larrabee State Park: http://bit.ly/P1lKql
Guemes Island: http://bit.ly/LJ3RxL
Lopez Island, from ferry to Spencer Spit State Park: www.lopezisland.com
Burke-Gilman Trail: http://1.usa.gov/s33li
Kettles Trail on Whidbey Island, from Fort Ebey to Coupeville: http://bit.ly/Mlt9y4
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