Distance: 12+ miles of singletrack on 316 acres (plus trails on the Big Finn Hill side, east of Juanita Drive). You can rack up another dozen miles if you ride every piece of trail in this nebulous system, but who would want to? Do five miles and call it good.
Altitude change: 200 feet
Current conditions (as of July 25, 2009):
The hard-pack terrain is quite dry, with a little sand in areas. There are some nicely stacked logs to scramble over. The gravel sections near Bastyr are finally packed down, so you won’t be surfing on gravel anymore. Surprisingly, there weren’t many trail users out today—I counted only five riders (including two kids) and a couple of joggers.
Traveling north on I-5 from Seattle, take the Lake City Way exit, going clockwise around Lake Washington towards Kenmore. Turn right on 68th Ave NE at the traffic light (there will be some construction work in the right-hand lane). Follow 68th up the hill (the road becomes Juanita Drive NE). Once you begin to summit the hill, you’ll see a sign on the right for Bastyr University. You can turn right at the sign and follow the road right to access a parking area, but I prefer keep travelling straight up the hill to park in the QFC lot on the left. Just cross the street and jump on the trail.
Why ride it:
So one of my riding buddies recently built a singletrack path—complete with berms and an itty-bitty gap jump—along the perimeter of his yard in Seattle. His house probably sits on a quarter acre, so his backyard riding is mostly symbolic (though it’s fun when people start drinking). Riding at Saint Edward Park in Kirkland is similar—it’s like riding your bike through your friend’s backyard, but it’s a big backyard. You weave around spidery trail systems that seemingly make use of every square foot of land, not to mention every gratuitously circumnavigated tree or stump. You can almost hear the trail builders’ voices in your head (“Man, we could get another six feet of trail by looping around that tree over there! Let’s build it!”)
But it can be fun when you only have an hour or less to ride—perfect for a quick spin to shake out your legs on mainly flat, rolling terrain or to test out your new gear while being just a stone’s throw away from your car and tools. And when the heat of the summer sends you in search of shade, St. Ed’s dense lowland forest provides an infinite canopy.
Of course, there are some people who may still be lamenting the demolition years ago of the bigger jumps, ladders and teeters in different areas of the park; I am. But there are still numerous small features tucked into nearly every corner of trail: piles of logs of varying height, small dirt jumps (and a larger one in the Big Finn Hill section), a sweet G-out in the section across from the QFC and the occasional plank bridge to escape the mud in rainier seasons.
In fact, the low-level stunts offer a good opportunity for beginning riders and kids to hone their skills. My friend Kat Sweet often organizes rides there for her Trips for Kids events (there’s a week-long kids’ Dirt Camp going on there this week, July 27-31). But you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy tearing it up in Kenmore’s backyard. Bring your mountain bike—or even your cyclocross bike. Now there’s an idea.