How Do I Plan This Trip: Shoreline, WA - Anecortes, WA?

I have never biked a heavy distance before, and therefore do not know how to adequately get directions. If I were to use MapQuest to try to find a good route, it would surely ask me to use a freeway, which cannot be used, for obvious reasons. Therefore, I would like to know, if I am planning such a bicycle trip, how should I go about planning, in terms of streets? How can I know that they are bikeable or not? Is there a special resource that I can use? Last, but not least, does anyone from within Washington State know of a good route to try?

Thanks in advance,

Firstly, I don’t think that you’re going to find any online mapping software that produces bike-specific routes. There just isn’t the demand. You may be able to find a commercial package for which you can set a requirement that freeways be avoided, but the one I use (Microsoft Streets & Trips 2001) doesn’t have that feature.

In the days before mapping software, people used things called maps. If they on a bike and risked running into major elevation changes, they used Topographic maps. For a bike trip, you need to figure out if you can do it in a single day (it’s over 120 miles in this case). If not, do you have any preference as to where you want to spend the night on the way? North of Everett, you’ll be going along old highways (bypassed by the Interstate) with food/lodging opportunities less frequent. What kind of shape are you in? Is there anything specific you want to see?

Ideally, you want to find people who’ve done the trip before. Try contacting a Seattle-area bike club, or going to your local library. Those resources will be better able to tell you if there are bike paths along any of the route you want (I tend to think that there won’t be outside the immediate Seattle area, but I’m willing to be corrected on that!)

However, I can at least plan you a basic route using MS Streets & Trips, if we assume that you can bike along any highway that is not an Interstate (which I believe to be the case). By setting various off-Freeway specific waypoints on the route, one can cause the software to avoid the Freeway (I-5 in your case). With a little bit of playing around, I’ve generated a bike-possible route from Shoreline (WA) City Hall (right near Aurora Ave N. at N.175th St) to the main Anacortes Ferrry Terminal. The route comes out to be 121.6 miles; this is slightly further than it would be if you could use the freeway.

Here goes:

[li]Head North on Route 99 (called Aurora Ave N, then Pacific Highway, then SW Everett Mall Way, then SE Everett Mall Way, then Broadway). After about 30 miles, you’ll be in on Broadway in Downtown Everett. Good place to stop, rest, and eat.[/li][li]Out of Everett, Broadway becomes Route 529. Stay on this going North into Marysville (about 40 miles from your starting point), where it becomes State Ave, then Smokey Point Blvd.[/li][li]Turn left onto Route 530 when Smokey Point Blvd dead-ends into it (53 miles from your start)… You’ll stay on 530 for the next 28 miles as it wiggles its way through marshland, until you reach Conway (~81 miles from your start).[/li][li]At Conway, take Conway Road, which runs alongside I-5, and turns into Old Highway 99 S, until you reach the city of Mount Vernon (take S. 2nd St, S. 3rd St, Kincaid Ave, then Cleveland Ave to get into the city center). You’re now 93 miles from your start. Good place to eat, rest, spend the night.[/li][li]Refreshed, take Route 536 westward out of town (W. Division St, turns into Memorial Highway). This will merge with Route 20 (still going west) for the final few miles to Anacortes. You’ll hit the motel strip on Commercial Ave (the last mile or so into Anacortes proper) at about 114 miles from the start.[/li][li]If you’re heading out to the ferry for the San Juan Islands or Vancouver Island, you’ve got another 8 miles or so of pedaling on Route 20 still to go.[/li][/ol]

That’s a fairly flat ride (certainly once you’re north of Everett). Good luck!

That seems - long.
By car, Shoreline to the Anacortes Ferry is only 75 miles (it always takes two and a half hours to drive there. but it’s really only 75 miles away).

You may want to try online to see if anyone has done such a ride, and posted their route. Here’s the Seattle to Vancouver route which is not flat, not at all… But will take ~80 miles to Route 20 and then 20 miles to the ferry.

Check with Skagit and Snohomish county bike clubs. Someone’s got to have a good way of getting around up there.

Never say never, Tony: I give you Map24. The interface can be buggy at times, but it does allow you to specify routes that avoid highways. (Hills, though, not so much.) For what it’s worth, it returns pretty much the same route that you recommended.

You may want to check out the WA DOT Biking page. You can request a free Washington State Bicycle map by calling the DOT at (360) 705-7370. (there’s also an email link somewhere off the page).

I am not a biker, but it seems like it might be a more interesting ride to take the Mukilteo ferry over to Whidbey Island and then head north rather than spending that much time on Hwy 99. Or at least do that one way if you’re planning a round trip.

Sure it does. In ‘More Options’, either set your driving speed for Interstate and limited-access to 0, or set your ‘Preferred Roads’ on the ‘Segments’ tab to avoid these same roads.

NW cycling
NW Mountain biking
Books on Biking in Washington

Firstly, mea culpa! I just realized that my Microsoft Streets and Trips wsa (rather unusually) set to “kilometers”, not “miles”, and I was just reading the numbers, not paying attention, which makes a rather large difference!!! :smack:

So, the route I gave above is about 76 miles (not 122), which makes much more sense, and fits perfectly with what amarinth said.

Thanks, KeithT. Now that you’ve reminded me, I remember that I’ve used that method before for bike trips.

MikeS, when I said that I didn’t think there was bike-specific mapping software, I meant something that knows not only about limited-access highways and elevation changes, but about bike lanes on streets, and separate bike paths.

Maps themselves, rather than software, seem to be the way to go. Down here in the SF Bay Area, I’ve relied extensively on the printed version of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s SF Bike Map & Walking Guide (warning: PDF), which shows bike paths, bike lanes, and hill gradients (extremely important for SF!)

Finally, this WA DOT page, “State Highways Sections Closed to Bicycles” , says:

It’s clear from the sections listed on that page that for some of your route you could use I-5 if you wanted (but cyclist beware!).

A lot depends on whether you’re on a tight time schedule or looking for a pretty ride. If the latter, then zoltar7’s Whidbey Island suggestion is going to be a strong contender.

76 miles, that seems like a trip that I could make in a day if I was in shape and left early. Is there any reason that I couldn’t do that?

Antonius Block, thanks for the directions, I may very well use those. They seem rather straightforward, and they involve food stops. Food = Good.

However, are you one hundred percent sure that I can bike on all of those major streets (Route 20, etc)? I know that I can bike on Highway 99, but I just want to be sure, because I am probably taking this trip in 2-3 weeks, and planning ahead is the best thing to do.


The WA DOT page that I linked to in post #8 above seems quite clear:

The list includes sections of I-5 in the Greater Seattle Area, Marysville, and Mount Vernon, (but my route kept you away from I-5 anyway). No mention of Route 20 or others. If WA DOT says they’re bicycle-accessible, who am I to say otherwise? :slight_smile:

If you feel up to doing it in one day, start out as early as you possibly can. You’ll be in downtown Everett at mile 19 or so – great for a rest and coffee. You’ll be going right past the town of Stanwood (just off SR-530) at mile 43, and there are restaurants, cafes and pubs there. Downtown Mount Vernon is now at Mile 56, and there are numerous places to eat and drink (and, if need be, motels to stay at, if you’re too tired to continue).

SR-20 from outside Mount Vernon to Anacortes may be the hardest part, since you’ll be riding with all the vehicular traffic (hope there’s a shoulder or bike lane). There may be a parallel frontage road for some of the length. It’s probably not a good idea to do SR-20 once it starts getting dark (if your progress is slower than hoped), especially since you’ll be tired. You can make your decision in Mt. Vernon as to whether to push the last 20 miles or so.

Are you aiming for a particular ferry from Anacortes? The option of staying the night in Mt. Vernon rather than Anacortes would put you on SR-20 the next morning in good daylight and well-rested (but sore!).

If your final destination is downtown Anacortes rather than the main ferry terminal, then the total trip is 72 miles.

[Incidentally, if you take zoltar7’s suggestion of the Mukilteo-Clinton Ferry / Whidbey Island, it’s 77 miles (of cycling) to Anacortes Ferry. You may have more traffic problems, however. Someone who’s done it should be able to help you there.]

I’d try to avoid 99 as much as possible early on.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in that area, but I’d take Meridean north out of Shoreline up to the Interurban trail and take that north to Everett Mall.

North of there is a mystery to me, at least on a bike.

I know Cascade Bicycle Club has a message board but you have to be a member to post there. You might search for a similar route there though (

You could also ask at since there are a lot Seattle area folks there.

I’m pretty familiar with the area.

I would suggest riding from Shoreline to Mukilteo via Edmonds, take the Ferry to Whidbey Island, head north on lesser roads via Langley and Coupeville. This will take you nicely through Deception Pass. Take the first left after Deception Pass, its a nice back road to Anacortes.

They don’t list a route through Shoreline, but in general if you want route maps for long distance I recomond Adventure Cycling
They also offer a kick ass newsletter for free that is full of good reads.
Some day I want to do an unsupported multi day epic. ::: sigh:::

I almost forgot. Aurora is not too bad to ride on early on a weekend morning. I have done this and not been intimidated by traffic. Through Shoreline, and lynwood area the shoulders are fairly wide. Much above Lynwood I am unfamilar with the road, so I can’t comment. Through Shoreline and lynnwood the road is a roller, up and down, not steep mind you, but not flat.
The interurban trail would have less traffic of course. Since I haven’t ridden it, I can’t comment on the contours.