Saturday, January 25, 2020

Ride: The Burke-Gilman Trail

Winding through northern Seattle is a bike path built on an old railroad right of way.  Starting in the west on the shore of the Puget Sound, the Burke-Gilman trail works its way east along the ship canal to Lake Union before turning north and following the Lake Washington shore up toward Bothell.  It is a popular trail for walking, jogging, biking, and commuting.

In the 1880s, Seattle was a growing city that was quickly being crisscrossed with railroad lines.  One of these new lines was the Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern Railway, founded in 1885 by Thomas Burke, Daniel Gilman and a set of additional investors. Starting in downtown Seattle, the railway roughly followed the shores of Lake Union and Lake Washington north to Woodinville.  There it split: one half headed north toward Snoqualmie Falls, while the other headed south toward what is now Issaquah.  As was the fate of many railways that started in that timeframe, the SLS&E was eventually merged with other rail companies, and by the 1970s the line had been abandoned.  The first multi-use trail segment on this rail line opened in 1978, and it has slowly grown ever since.

Today, the trail is a 27-mile paved path going from Shilshole Bay out to Seattle's eastside suburbs.  Starting out at Golden Gardens Park, it follows the Lake Union Shipping Canal past Salmon Bay and under the bridges at either end of the Fremont Cut.  From there, it passes Gasworks Park as it follows the north shore of Lake Union to the University of Washington.  After a curvy trip around the University of Washington, the trail heads north along the shore of Lake Washington, passing Warren G. park and a few smaller parks.  Beyond those parks, the trail begins a long stretch along the lake until it reaches the north end of Lake Washington.  After rounding the top of Lake Washington, the trail reaches its end at Bothell.  Although the Burke-Gilman trail ends there, other Eastside trails pick up where it ends and head to other destinations.

Since the trail is a former railway bed that follows shorelines for much of its length, the Burke-Gilman trail is generally flat and has very few road crossings.  It makes a great commuting path from the northeast Seattle metropolitan area, as well as a pleasant weekend out-and-back from either end or starting somewhere in between.  You can start exploring the Burke-Gilman trail at the Wireless Bike Map.

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