Thursday, December 14, 2006

Portland to Seattle

I've never ridden this exact route as a single ride. But I have ridden every piece of it at some time or another. Most of it I did with my friend Carolyn in 2004, when we rode up to Seattle to attend Bumbershoot on Labor Day weekend. We broke the trip up into two days in each direction (staying in Centralia at the McMenamin's Olympic Club -- highly recomended!), and found it to be quite a fun trek, with a fairly humane distance each day.

The difference between the route we took on that trip and this one, though, is that we took Highway 30 between Portland and Longview. The traffic on that stretch of road drove Carolyn to distraction, which was the impetus for me to scout out the alternate route on the Washington side. It's a more challenging road, but more scenic and more pleasant, too, so on the whole, probably a better way to go. If you're interested in making the trip to Seattle, you can choose either way to get to Longview -- just know what the pros and cons are of each.

From Longview, the route takes the tried-and-true StP route all the way to Spanaway, with a modification between Napavine and Centralia -- my route stays out of Chehalis, instead going on 603 to Shorey Road, joining up with the main route again near the Centralia airport.

In Spanaway, the route goes around the back of Spanaway Lake on the Spanaway Loop Road, and then takes a combination of Ainsworth, Sheridan, and M Streets to get into downtown Tacoma. In Tacoma, it's best to try to stay on top of the ridge above the urban core, because you'll just have to climb back up it if you go down. From there, wind through the neighborhoods in the northern part of the city to Point Defiance, where you can take a ferry to Vashon Island.

This is the inspired part of this route: you don't have to deal with the wearisome Puyallup-Sumner-Auburn-Kent-Renton stretch of southern Seattle suburbs. Instead, once you get through Tacoma, you take a nice ferry ride, pedal across bucolic Vashon Island, and then take the passenger ferry from the northern tip of the island right into the heart of downtown Seattle. Much better. Be sure to stop in at the bakery in the village in the middle of the island (should be at around 176th street.)

Here is a link to the detailed map on the gmaps pedometer.


Anonymous Paul said...

This isn't exactly about Portland to Seattle, but I was wondering if you know of a good route to take from Mt. Hood (Rhododendron/Welches area) to Astoria and avoiding Highways 26 and 30 as much as possible.

A friend of mine is turning 60 this summer and he wants to go from his cabin on Hood to the beach following the path of the water, specifically the Sandy River drainage to the Columbia and then out to the coast.

The plan would be to do it in two days. One down to Portland, and the second day from Portland to the coast.

This trip is part of four he has planned, each one going a different direction from his cabin in the woods. Not all the journeys are bike related, thank God (South is nothing but gnarley tree stumps and rocky ridges that would make even an aggressive mountain biker tremble).
Paul from Portland aka roadrashman

11:34 AM  
Blogger Michael said...


I've written a seperate post to answer your question. Thanks for writing!


4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me and my girlfriend are going to try to do the exact same trip. Though we are not very experienced bikers. I was just wondering if you have any tips, what to pack, where to camp (because we definately will not make it in 2 days.) and specific routes. We don't plan on going until the Summer. Any info would be much appreciated.
My email is


3:34 PM  
Anonymous patrick said...


Thanks for this post-- we're looking forward to using this route to get to Seattle (and then Victoria) later in the spring.

However, I'm having a heck of a time getting the Seattle to Portland map to load on Gmaps Pedometer. It seems like the script overloads the browser. This happens in both Safari and Mozilla.

has any one else reported this difficulty? any ideas?

do you happen to have (or could you export) the route as GPX data? Then I could try re-importing it into or back into Gmaps.

Sorry to bother you with this stuff, but if you know a quick fix please let me know! Thanks!



patrick (at) pdbd (dot) com

2:37 PM  
Anonymous augusto said...

Hello Michael, it is a small world, I was searching for the best route heading north of PDX, and I found your blog. We've met a couple of times here in Portland. Anyways I was curious about the bridge crossing at Longview? Is it an issue at all for bikes, it there a sidewalk?
Though the route in the WA side sounds a bit more pleasant it seems like it would leave more room for getting lost. I am hoping to just go north as far as I can for about 3-5 hours (50-65 miles) and then my wife will eventually pick me up in the car and we'll finish driving to B.C. with the family. I'm going after tomorrow, would love to hear your suggestions, Augusto at

11:17 PM  
Blogger Chocobot said...

Hey, I am wondering if this is still a valid route or if you have made updates to it. Also, wondering if there is a way to export a cue sheet/ does the export to GPS work?

1:54 PM  
Blogger Carlyn Arteaga said...

Hi, I noticed that you wrote the original post in December--do you think this is a feasible winter route? I'm thinking about a Thanksgiving week ride.


10:58 PM  

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