Mellow swoopy bike trails in the PNW
November 14, 2021 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Where in WA/OR/ID can we go for groovy chill bike trails? You know, smoothish surface, little elevation gain, lots of fun swoopy curves, pretty scenery, and nowhere near any cars? Let's throw in Montana too.
posted by HotToddy to Travel & Transportation around Washington (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you thinking more of something like a flow trail, or a paved multi-use trail? It sounds like you mean flow trails, but I'm not 100% confident. I don't know much about WA/OR/ID, but if that's what you mean, that phrase might be helpful in your searching.
posted by box at 1:05 PM on November 14, 2021

I am also not certain, but I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in between your options, box. Not a "flow" trail, but a natural, non paved trail that is just pleasant. You'd take your family along even if they're not insane mountain bike folks.

I'm watching this question because I also don't know how to search for this. I usually just do 'a hiking trail that is very lightly used' or 'the unofficial dirt path beside a gravel walking path'.

(I think maybe the location tag is wrong, though)
posted by Acari at 2:02 PM on November 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail might fit what you're looking for, if you haven't been there before.

The other trails in the area that might fit the "swoopy" description probably all have some/significant elevation somewhere. But if you haven't looked for info specific to the central Gorge area, you should probably check it out. There are lots of trails, and I don't know the details of most of them.
posted by stormyteal at 2:24 PM on November 14, 2021

I usually find trails like this by searching “best gravel biking trails near X”. You know it won’t be technical enough to require full suspension and dropper posts, or bumpy enough to need 29er tires. Unsure about “swoopy” though, and there are cars going both ways on 1-lane roads.

Here in Whatcom County most of the forest roads off of Mt Baker Highway would qualify, especially in the winter when the foliage is thinner. Some of them CLIMB though. Skagit River trails off of highway 20 may be even better for views, and staying near the river means flatter.
posted by supercres at 3:35 PM on November 14, 2021

Oh yeah, US Bike Route 10 is the one that follows Skagit. Probably more of what you’re looking for at the link. Skagit valley is nice.
posted by supercres at 3:38 PM on November 14, 2021

Response by poster: Oh wow. I was not familiar with the term flow trail but I took a look at some videos and I would say Acari has it right, not quite a flow trail but a natural, non-paved trail that is just pleasant. Although maybe an easy flow trail would be okay. The tight curves I saw were more challenging than what I have in mind.
posted by HotToddy at 3:51 PM on November 14, 2021

Response by poster: But, adding onto my comment, more swoopy than your typical rails-to-trails type of bike trail. More of a fun (not terrifying) roller coaster feeling, not just peddling in a straight line forever. There's a stretch of an easy mountain bike trail near me that's wider than most single track, smooth, and curvy and it's by far the best part for me because it's physically easy but still interesting and fun and there's no danger element at all. Demographic is moderately fit middle-aged people.

If this doesn't exist, somebody should build it because it would be so great for all ages.
posted by HotToddy at 4:00 PM on November 14, 2021

Response by poster: I have no idea why the location tag is saying Iran! Mods?
posted by HotToddy at 4:01 PM on November 14, 2021

I don't know if there's anything like this in the PNW, but the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park in Maine sound like they fit your description pretty well. They have wide, crushed-gravel surfaces, winding routes with a bit of up--and-down swoopiness, and lots of great views. Definitely family-friendly but also interesting for adults looking for a chill ride. There are some similar carriage roads in another NPS park in Vermont.
posted by sriracha at 4:09 AM on November 15, 2021

I'm on Vancouver Island so I can't offer specific recs, but one thing you might look for: in the PNW, very old logging roads often regress to singletrack as the forest regrows and become very smooth, flowy, fun trails. The current fashion in trail building doesn't really seem to favour those. So a lot of the time, things that are labelled as green or blue or "access roads" on (e.g.) Trail Forks (which is something you should maybe check out -- they have good descriptions and trail reports) are actually fun, relaxing singletracks.
posted by klanawa at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2021

A friend was just singing the praises of The Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes. More than that really. She says that it’s one of the best biking trips she’s ever been on. And she’s been on a LOT. It sounds incredible.
posted by Gusaroo at 3:45 PM on November 15, 2021

"fun but not terrifying" is tricky because fun and terror are both very subjective. You might want to look up the trail you like on to see what it is rated (probably green or blue) , what the elevation gain/drop are, and what folks comment about it. Then you can compare that info to other trails you look up.

I'm guessing what you want would be considered an easy (aka green) flow trail. Usually these are not the ones that get lots of videos made about them - the videos are going to be focused on the steeper, faster, curvier trails.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 12:07 PM on November 16, 2021

Response by poster: I've done the Trail of the Coeur D'Alenes and it is indeed lovely but it's a pretty flat, wide, paved trail, not very swoopy (but the roller coaster bridge is super fun!).
posted by HotToddy at 1:28 PM on November 16, 2021

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