Thomas Burke

Thomas Burke

Burke Gilman Trail     – “Road Trip”

Daniel Gilman

Daniel Gilman

Riding The Burke Gilman Trail  is more than just a bicycle ride.

As you bike your way through beautiful scenery (it’s about 27 miles long) you’ll begin to understand why people who visit Seattle want to stay in Seattle.

It’s absolutely beautiful! Bicycling on the Burke Gilman Trail is one of those events in life that you will enjoy so much that you will be unaware of the actual distance you have traveled!

Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane and the early beginnings of the Burke Gilman Trail.

Way back in 1885, Daniel Gilman and Thomas Burke and others decided that it was time to bring railroad traffic into the city of Seattle.  Their reason?  They wanted to, of course, make money for themselves but also to make Seattle a major transportation center that others would want to flock to.

They started small, but were thinking big.  Originally, they wanted their line to connect with the Canadian Transcontinental Line.  However, it was just not to be. Their Rail Line got about as far as Arlington.  But even so, it had tremendous local traffic.  Who were the  “passengers?” ……….  Logs!

Here Come The Brides!

An early Seattle Bride

An early  Seattle Bride…  (click pics for larger image)

Remember, Seattle back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, was mainly a huge “logging camp” type city.

In fact, there were so many men in the Seattle area that there was a shortage of women and future wives.

Back in the 1960’s TV show era, there was a weekly series called “Here Come The Brides” that showed how the men in the  Seattle lumber camps, actually “imported” women from around the country to come and live in this newly developed city of “rough and tumble” men, as their wives.

Many dozens of women met the challenge and moved to Seattle!

Have you ever heard the term “skid road?”  That was the term used when the cut logs were dragged through the Seattle “streets” and “skidded” up to the waterfront, then loaded onto the waiting ships in Puget (pew-jet) Sound.

It did not take long for word to get around about the new influx of women into Seattle.  Needless to say, Seattle really began to take off and grow as a city.

The trading and supplying of goods to Alaska, was another “growth spurt” for this great city in the Pacific Northwest.

Rattlesnake Prairie

Now, getting back to the railroad line.  This short-line built by Burke and Gilman, went to another area called Rattlesnake Prairie located above the Snoqualmie Falls area.  (FYI  there are no rattlesnakes in western Washington, it’s just too cold for them)

Rest assured, there are no rattlesnakes, but I have to admit, it is an interesting name.  In 1913, that short line now came under the control of the Northern Pacific Railway, and eventually a part of the Burlington Northern Railroad in about 1970.

Now The Good Stuff!

About a year later, in 1971, the track was totally abandoned by Northern Pacific Railway, paving the way for the Burke Gilman Trail. Officially, the Trail begins at 11th Ave. NW in Ballard.  Ballard is a suburb of Seattle.

The Burke Gilman Trail presently follows along the Lk. Washington Ship Canal (which is a great place to enjoy the water and boats) and then north along Lk. Washington.

A bit of the Trail

A bit of the Trail

Everyone enjoys the Trail

Everyone enjoys the Trail












A slight change in the direction also changes the name of the Trail.  When you get to Blyth Park in the Bothell area, (a section of Seattle) the Trail now becomes the Sammamish River Trail and will give you at least another 10 miles of scenic views.

One thing I always enjoyed about this Trail is that it can be enjoyed by all members in your family.

Little ones and big ones. And for those little toddlers, there are bicycle rental shops where you can have a “kiddie car” attached to your bike so those little ones can come along with you.

Through The College And Beyond

University of Washington in Seattle

University of Washington in Seattle…  (click pics for larger image)

As you meander through the sights and sounds that come your way on this beautiful Trail, you’ll be taken right through the campuses of the University of Washington where you will come in contact with students, teachers, profs., and general bike traffic of all kinds.

Since Seattle is a very bike friendly city, you’ll need to be aware that there are certain “rules of the road” on this Trail.

Just to name a few:

Go slow.   Remember, no racing is allowed.  There are walkers, joggers, children, dogs on leashes (bring your own pet “poopie bags” for clean ups, it’s mandatory),  elderly, sightseers and all manner of folks enjoying this scenic trail.

If you want to ride fast, then you need the Seattle Bicycling Guide Map.  It will show alternate routes for those who have a “need for speed.”

Keep to the right.  So, just like driving your car and having to keep right, the same applies when you are walking, riding or skate boarding on the Trail. Pass on the left only.   Again, remember the traffic laws.  Pass only on the left.  When you sound your bell, horn or simply say, “passing on your left”, those ahead of you will automatically move to the right.

Respect others.   Remember that you are not the only one on the trail.  Show manners and allow others to do the same.

Horses and motor vehicles are not allowed.  That would include motorized skateboards, battery powered vehicles of all sorts (wheelchairs are the exception).

Helmets are a must!  Enforced throughout the state. Pedestrians of all sorts, whether walking, jogging, stopping, or skating, all have the right-of-way over bicycle riders.  So be on the look out.

The Divided Trail

Be on the look out for 96th Ave NE.  Here the Trail forks.   Left turn, and you will continue on to the Sammamish Trail as mentioned above.  It will continue on for another 11 miles or so, right on into Redmond (where Microsoft headquarters are). Right turn will take you across the Sammamish River where this section of the Burke Gilman Trail ends at Riverside Drive.

Gateway Park

Since you’ve decided to go Left onto the Sammamish River Trail, keep an eye open for the  railroad trestle in Woodinville which is about 3 miles down the Sammamish River Trail.   Look for Wilmot Gateway Park.  Need a rest?  That’s the place to do it.

Public restrooms and a playground area for the kids are right there. If you decide that it’s time for a little rest break and stretching, then Wilmot Gateway Park is the place.

If you are like me, be sure that before you ever start your bike ride, you have your back pack with you, along with drinks and a snack for all.  Everyone will LOVE you for it!

Something else that we like to do is take our little dogs (2 boston terriers) with us.  My wife and I get a real kick out of them when they get a chance to run through the grass.  My simple “doggie style” back pack carrier works great.  Running them along side you on a leash, as you ride, can be a real hazard.

Enjoying a pub style lunch at Redhook Brewery

Enjoying a pub style lunch at Redhook Brewery…   (click pics for larger image)

Redhook Ale Brewery…At Trails End…YaY!

On the other hand, if you choose to not stop at Wilmot Gateway Park, then keep on the look out for the first bridge you see.

When you get to the first bridge past Wilmot Gateway Park, go left and then exit on the left again.  Turning right, across the overpass and…lo and behold, you will be at the Redhook Brewery on your right.

So why stop at the Redhook?  First of all, it’s a great place to get a bite to eat.  The light pub-style meals are always something to enjoy.

While you are there, how about a tour of the Brewery?   It will run you about a dollar per person (no minors though) along with 3 or perhaps 4 samples of some of the best tasting Redhook microbrews.

This refreshing liquid will come to you in a souvenir ‘tasting glass’ that will remind you of your enjoyable ride along the Burke Gilman Trail.

Inside the brewery

Inside the brewery…  (click pics for larger image)

A few of what Redhook offers.

A few refreshments of what Redhook offers…  (click pics for larger image)





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Written by:  Tom McDaniel

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