Fall is upon us. The days are a bit shorter, the evenings cool and crisp, and the leaves changing. But just because winter is on its way doesn’t mean that it’s time to hang up the bike and binge-watch Netflix. Instead, the cooler, sunny days are perfect for a nice long road bike ride.
It’s my favorite time of year to head out for a ride, and here are some of my favorite Thurston County bike routes. If you’re a fairly fast cyclists, all of these routes can still be completed after the work day and before sunset! If you’re, perhaps, a bit slower or bringing the family, they make for a perfect weekend outing. And because the only thing I love more than a fall afternoon bike ride is planning my post bike ride snack, I’ve included snack stops for every route.
1. Woodard Bay Loop – 17 miles
The Woodard Bay loop, starting near downtown Olympia incorporates some of the best cycling and most beautiful parks in Thurston County. It’s one of my favorites.
Start at the Eastside Street Trailhead of the Olympia Woodland Trail and head east for about two miles until you meet up with the Chehalis-Western Trail, and then head north on the trail. Follow the Chehalis-Western Trail through lush cedar forest and eventually arrive at the Woodard Bay Trailhead and, to the west, the Woodard Bay Conservation Area.
Take a break here and walk. Bikes aren’t allowed as it is a wildlife refuge, so either park your bike or walk it down the road. Head down to the bay to see birdlife, seals, and other wildlife at Woodward Bay.
After this interlude, head west up the hill on Woodard Bay Road until reaching Boston Harbor Road, and then head south. The road will eventually become East Bay Drive, which you follow to downtown, passing Priest Point Park, and back to the Woodland trailhead.
Hungry? Want more distance? Head up to the Boston Harbor Marina before going back to town. Grab a snack at the Fourth and Plum food trucks on your way back to the trailhead.
2. Tenino Loop – 25 miles
The Tenino Loop incorporates scenic sections of the Chehalis-Western Trail and the Yelm-Tenino Trail. Start at the Fir Tree Road trailhead parking area, and head south on the Chehalis-Western Trail. The trail meanders through woods and fields and soon parallels the Deschutes River for an especially lovely stretch. Shortly after the trail departs the river and heads east, you pass the Monarch Contemporary Art Center and Sculpture Park, an interesting stop although it’s sometimes temporarily closed awaiting community support.
After your art break, continue southeast on the trail until reaching the junction with the Yelm-Tenino Trail near Highway 507. Head west on the trail to Tenino, and then go north on Old Highway 99. Practice caution, the shoulder can be narrow in spots. After three miles head East on Offut Lake Road, follow this road for another three miles, then take Waldrick Road East back to the Chehalis-Western Trail and return to Fir Tree Road.
3. Black Lake Loop – 21 mile loop
Southwest Thurston County has truly retained its rural character. You can get a taste for it on this loop around Black Lake. The Black Lake loop can easily be reached on bike from West Olympia, or if you need to drive to the trail, limited parking is available at Blake Lake Meadows. Head south on Black Lake Boulevard, which will turn into 62nd. At the top of the hill head south on Delphi Road for 5.5 miles before heading east on 110th Avenue, crossing the Black River and wetlands, and then north on Littlerock Road. Connect back to Black Lake Boulevard via 70th Avenue and 66th Avenue, and Black Lake Belmore, and then head back to your starting point on RW Johnson Boulevard.
Want more distance? Take Waddell Creek to Littlerock instead of staying on Delphi. This will add some hearty hills to your route, and some great Capitol Forest greenery. Hungry or thirsty? Grab a drink or a snack at nearby Farm Fresh Market.
4. Yelm Loop – 29 miles
Start at or near the Lacey Amtrak Station and pedal east on Yelm Highway for 10 miles. When you reach Yelm, hop on the Yelm-Tenino Trail at the west end of town. Enjoy the fairly flat, wide trail for five miles before arriving at Rainier, where you’ll leave the trail and head northwest on Rainier Road for 5.5 miles, before turning right to head north on Balustrade Boulevard, which will connect back to the Yelm Highway in three miles, and back to your starting point.
Want more distance? Instead of heading north at Rainier, continue west to the Chehalis-Western Trail and connect back to the starting point via Rainier Road and Balustrade Boulevard. Hungry? Stop at the Yelm Food Co-op for a healthy snack.
For more inspiration and information on bike-friendly routes in Thurston County, check out the Thurston County Bicycle Map. Please use caution and observe all cycling safety measures and rules of the road, all of these routes incorporate shared roads with motor vehicles present.
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