Charging the Towers of Power (Renton, WA)

The small but singletrack-packed area encircling Puget Power’s transformers in Renton, Washington, offers mountain bikers an introduction to small built stunts while putting their other skills to the test. Requiring short, anaerobic charges uphill and challenging, twitchy descents, the “Tapeworm”/”Towers of Power” trails teach riders responsiveness and excellent cornering skills, all within a compact parcel of land just southeast of Seattle.

Distance: 8+ labyrinthine miles

Altitude: 200’

The Ride: People may lament the loss of some of the more “towering” ladders that no longer exist at Renton’s Towers of Power (see what used to be here.) But there are still ladders-a-plenty, plus teeters, drops, boulders and logs strewn throughout the locally renowned “Tapeworm”, “DNA” and “Parasite” trails. The trails are all about 2-3 miles in length. Spend an hour exploring them after work or session a few fun stunts to stretch out the playtime.

Current conditions: The trails are wider than they used to be. There’s a bit of contention over whether the trails should be modified (i.e., made easier) or their boundaries respected. On the unidirectional Tapeworm trail, riders have left written messages, reproaching each other for putting up or tearing down a ramp, respectively. Other notes request riders not to take it upon themselves to widen the existing trail. Of course, I’m all for helping to cut back the invasive blackberry bushes, which can become overgrown in the spring, but I love a tight, tree-crowded, big-rooted, low branch-hanging singletrack trail, one that makes you learn to ride on nature’s terms. Ramp work may come and go (other builders will come and rise to the occasion), but I say leave the singletrack intact. Enhance it; don’t diminish it.

A photo of my riding buddy, Brian, passing by a tower…

…and pics of me on a little teeter, breaking in my new, sweet ride: a 2010 Diamondback Axis.

The occasional boardwalk conveniently offers riders a way around sections of trail that can get muddy:

Driving directions: From Seattle, drive on I-5 S for 14.6 miles, taking the left exit (Exit 154A) to merge onto I-405 N toward Renton. After 2 miles, merge onto I-405 N toward Renton and soon after, merge onto WA-167 N (Exit 2). After passing under the freeway, turn right at S Grady Way and right again at S 3rd St/Cedar Ave S. Take another right at Mill Ave S and then left at Cedar Ave S. Go left at S 7th St and climb up a steep hill. At Beacon Way S take a right and enter the parking lot for Philip Arnold Park.

Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s website has a detailed map of the area, courtesy of Cycoactive Products. I have to appreciate both the useful information the map provides and its priceless disclaimer: “This map does not provide permission to do anything on this land. Your mom has more authority than this map. Please be quiet at night.”

Good advice…See you on the trail!

Angela Sucich, Freelance Writer

About angelarides

I have many practical skills. I have a PhD in Medieval Literature. I can solder an LED hula hoop. Oh, and I ride and write about bikes.
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7 Responses to Charging the Towers of Power (Renton, WA)

  1. Dan O says:

    I haven’t ridden the Tape Worm in years – gotta head down there and revisit. My 10 year old son should dig it as well.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. angelarides says:

    I hadn’t ridden in in years either. It’s way more fun than I remembered. I’m sure you’re son will have a blast.

  3. Jason says:

    It’s been 3 years and I miss it

  4. Tom says:

    Hey, I just went their today. It was cool. what happened to the huge ladders in the pictures you linked to?

    • angelarides says:

      I wouldn’t call them huge ladders, but clearly, there have been some trail revisions since I wrote this post (a few years ago). I think there’s still a teeter-totter, though I didn’t notice it when last I rode Tapeworm a few months ago. On a positive note, the trail gnomes carved out some new flowy, bermy trails out there, which I hope you enjoyed.

  5. Tom says:

    The newer flowy trails are awesome! Is there a certain group that maintains the trails, or is it just the local riders? I noticed lots of rotting wood and other things that could use some work.

    • angelarides says:

      I think it’s just local riders, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a group is involved at different times during the year. I hear they’ve been having time trials out there in the spring for the last couple of years. So someone’s got to be getting the trails in shape for that.

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