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Best Family Friendly Road Bike Trails in the Northwest (BC, Washington, Oregon, & California)
The Best Biking Trails for Families
What are the best road bike trails for families in the Northwest? I've been living in the Northwest for the past 35 years and I've been an avid cyclist for 25 years. I've cycled through parts of BC, Washington and Oregon state. Cycling with young children has been rewarding but it's also been a challenge. It's taken our family awhile to find appropriate trails and figuring out what bike gear works for our family. Currently we use a double bike trailer for our kids, but our 4 year old is transitioning to his own bike soon.
In this article, I'm going to review the best family friendly bike trails in the Northwest that will accommodate regular bikes, bikes with seats, bike trailers, balance bikes and kid bikes. I'm reviewing trails on the riding surface and scope; the physical surroundings and the general safety of the trails.
Road Bike Trails: Best Trails in BC
Metro Vancouver: Lower Seymour Conservation Trail (North Vancouver)
Directions from Vancouver, BC
- Go over the Second Narrows bridge and take Exit 22A Lillooet Road.
- North past Capilano College, North Vancouver Cemetery
- Follow the signs to the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve at the north end of Lillooet Road. This is a long road with lots of speedbumps.
This trail is an easy, mostly paved (90% of the trail is paved and the last 1 km is hard packed), and car-free path that takes you from the Seymour forest to the Seymour dam. The Lower Seymour Conservation trail is an easy ride, but the hills can tire out beginner cyclists. The route is 12 km to the dam and 24 km, round-trip.
This ride is very pleasant, especially in the summers months, as you can enjoy the shade and breeze of the old growth forest. How often do you get to enjoy a wide, paved trail without any cars? It was nice to see a variety of cyclists on this trail from geared up road cyclists to toddlers on balance bikes.
Besides being surrounded by an old growth forest, the best part of this ride is the safety of the trail: mostly paved, car-free and wide trails.
Okanagan Valley: KVR (Kettle Valley Railway) Myra Canyon
Directions from Orchard Park Mall at 2271 Harvey Ave. Kelowna, BC:
- Head east on Harvey Ave/BC-97 N
- Take the 2nd right onto Dilworth Dr
- Continue onto Benvoulin Rd
- Turn left onto K. L. O. Rd
- Turn right onto McCulloch Rd
- Take the 2nd right to stay on McCulloch Rd
- Turn right onto Myra Forest Service Rd
This incredibly scenic portion of the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) features 18 trestle bridges and 2 tunnels, originally built at the turn of the last century, and rebuilt again (near exact replica) between 2003 and 2008 when the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire claimed 12 of the trestle bridges. The Myra Canyon stretches about 12 km from end to end (so double that for the return journey). This historic railway route is flat and the surface is hard-packed gravel.
The Best Bike Trails in Washington State
The 37-mile loop of Lopez, the mellowest, the most agricultural, and most hippie of Washington’s achingly beautiful San Juan Islands. Some people call it Slowpez, for the way it winds you down. Some people call it the Friendly Isle, for the way drivers finger-wave at everyone. And some people call it the Bicyclists’ Island, for all these reasons, and for the bike-turnout signs on the main roads, and the Victorian inns with bike storage, and because Lopez—compared with the hilly Orcas and busy San Juan, which comprise the other main stops on the ferry route—is relatively flat.
Directions to Lopez Island (from Seattle, Wa):
- Get on I-5 N
- Follow I-5 N to WA-20 W/Avon Cutoff in Burlington.
- Take exit 230 from I-5 N
- Continue on WA-20 W. Take WA-20 Spur W to Anacortes - Lopez Island in Anacortes
- Take the Anacortes - Lopez Island ferry to Lopez Island
- Drive to Center Rd in Lopez Island
- Continue straight onto Ferry Rd
- Turn left onto Center Rd
The Best Road Bike Trails in Oregon
More than 7,000 years ago, a volcano here erupted with a force 40 times as powerful as when Mt. St. Helens blew, leaving a hole almost 2,000 feet deep. And, bless the National Park Service, crews built a road around it—one that everyone agrees is a stunner. Start at Diamond Lake, climb up to the crater, ride around the rim, then careen back to Diamond for a swim and a beer. The rim alone offers 3,900 feet of climbing, with constantly shifting views of the nation’s deepest, bluest water. “If I had one last day on earth,” says bicycle tourer Lynn Pilato, “I would ride the rim at Crater Lake.”
Directions to Crater Lake National Park (from Portland, Or)
- Follow I-5 S to OR-58 in Lane County.
- Take exit 188 from I-5 S
- Get on US-97 S in Klamath County from OR-58
- Merge onto US-97 S
- Follow OR-138 W to Crater Lake Hwy N in Douglas County
- Turn right onto OR-138 W
- Turn left onto State Hwy 209/Crater Lake Hwy N
Road Bike Trails in California: Best Bike Trails in Orange County
Santa Ana River Trail & Parkway
- Has nearly 28 miles of class one (vehicle-free) bikeways in Orange County.
- The Santa Ana River trail is a coordinated effort between three counties: Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino.
- The trail is being extended and will span about 74 miles (between all three counties) by 2015.
Why they're No. 1: The Santa Ana River trail is one of the longest open tracks for bike riders. In fact, the trail is "designed (for riders) to ride without interruption. It's continuous, you don't have to stop at intersections and you can ride almost without stopping," says Jeff Dickman, Orange County Regional Recreational Trails Coordinator. The trail can be accessed in multiple locations and is free. It is open to the public at any time.
Claim to fame: "It is an incredible mixture of urban landscaping and nature," said Patricia Lock-Dawson, Acting Executive Director of the Santa Ana River Trail & Parkway Partnership. Wildcats can sometimes be seen near the trails and large bird populations make bird-watching a popular hobby among visitors. Wide, green areas surround the trails but the roads themselves are paved and marked with signs. People enjoy spending time by the river or riding down to the ocean.
Fan favorite: "It's a nice, safe trail. The Santa Ana River trail is pretty flat. I ride with the Bicycle Club of Irvine and have ridden the full length of the trail. It's enjoyable. You don't have to go through traffic and during the weekdays there is hardly anyone on the trail. You can see birds and wildlife and the trail is peaceful and quiet."– Louie Iacopetti, Huntington Beach
Fun fact: Santa Ana River has some of the densest populations of the Least Bell's Vireo, an endangered songbird.
Best Bike Trails in the Northwest
Whether you're a seasoned cyclist or a beginner rider, there are so many options for you and your family in the Northwest.