20 best bike paths in the West
Get to know these Western routes the way the locals do ― on two wheels
15 | WILLAMETTE RIVER LOOP, PORTLAND, OR
Bike-friendly Portland's most scenic ride by far is the 10.4-mile loop up and down the Willamette River. Head north on the Eastbank Esplanade, cross the river on the Steel Bridge, and go south through Waterfront Park. Recross the river on the Hawthorne Bridge for a 3-mile loop, or continue south past RiverPlace Marina, following Moody Avenue through the South Waterfront District. Continue south to the Sellwood Bridge, and to complete the loop, head north through Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Info: www.gettingaroundportland.org or 503/823-7083.
16 | JORDAN RIVER PARKWAY TRAIL, SALT LAKE CITY, UT
When the Parkway is completed, riders will roll 50 paved miles between Provo's Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake. But some of the best scenic stretches are already finished. The 8.5-mile section just west of downtown Salt Lake City has an urban skyline but is wonderfully rural, meandering along the river, sweeping through nine city parks and stately Rose Park Golf course, near wetlands teeming with birds. Info: www.parks-recreation.org/parks/html/jordan.html or 801/468-2299.
17 | BIKE THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, SAN FRANCISCO, CA
An absolute classic ― easy, breezy, and with some of the most breathtaking views of the city you'll find anywhere. Start along Marina Green at the intersection of Marina Boulevard and Webster Street. Heading west on the paved trail towards the bridge, you'll pass the city's swankiest yacht clubs and lots of kite-flyers. At Crissy Field, where the whole city gathers on fog-free days to wade in the bay and walk their dogs, transfer over to gravel paths and continue west. Follow signs up the hill to the bridge, and, as you cross on the bridge's western side, take in views of the Farallon Islands and the Marin Headlands. For an only-in-SF ending to the day, continue down to Sausalito and catch a ferry back to the city. Info: www.blazingsaddles.com/rides.html or 415/202-8888.
18 | LOS GATOS CREEK TRAIL, SAN JOSE AREA, CA
By far the prettiest way to travel from San Jose to Los Gatos is along the Los Gatos Creek Trail. The paved route's 8.5 miles are mostly flat and screened from the South Bay's busy roads by eucalyptus, willows, and the gentle mumurings of the creek. Stop the meander for a picnic, to feed the ducks, or for a paddleboat ride at Vasona Lake County Park. Info: www.sccgov.org/portal/site/parks or 408/356-2729.
19 | BURKE-GILMAN TRAIL, SEATTLE, WA
The paved and mostly level 14.2-mile trail starts in Ballard, winds east through fun, funky Fremont, curves north along the shores of Lake Washington (see views of downtown) and ends in Kenmore. There's parking at several spots, including Gas Works Park, Matthews Beach Park, and Tracy Owen Station. This year, you'll need to detour around construction at the Fremont Bridge. Info: www.metrokc.gov/bike
20 | RIO SALADO PATHS, TEMPE, AZ
The best routes for urban explorations of Tempe's 165-mile bikeway system are the downtown Rio Salado Paths. Flanked by the iconic Arizona State University and Sun Devil Stadium, the 5 miles of paved, landscaped pathways wind along Tempe Town Lake, past Tempe Beach Park and imaginative public art displays, like the murmuring water of the Marina Water Muse. Info: www.tempe.gov/bikeprogram or 480/350-8810.
Sunset's solutions for the most common biking problems
- Problem: Too much traffic.
- Solution: The best driving route is never the best one for biking, because that's where the cars are. To find the best bike route, channel your inner 8-year-old to think about your neighborhood: Can you cut through the cul de sac into the back of a park, then on a side road with little traffic? That's the best way. Or, a road with wide bike lanes.
- Problem: What if I get a flat tire?
- Solution: Your phone is your best friend. Call someone you know for a ride, or look up the nearest bike shop. If it’s close by, walk there. Better World Club, a Portland-based eco-minded auto club, offers nationwide bicycle roadside assistance for $40/year (or $17 with auto membership). And for you MacGyvers, many bike shops offer flat-fixing seminars.
- Problem: Helmets—not a good look.
- Solution: You're right. We got nothing. Except that no one has ever regretted wearing one, only the opposite.
- Problem: I live too far away from everything to integrate biking into my day.
- Solution: Think about where you can bike from. Work? Keep a bike at your office, and use it to go the .8 miles to Chipotle for lunch. Downtown? Drive to a periperhal parking lot, then bike around town to do all your errands.