In my recent blog post “The Beer Fan’s Guide to Woodinville Wine Country” my Fueled by Beer suggestion involved walking to and from Redhook Brewery along the Sammamish River trail. I also suggested Sound Transit Express buses as the car-free way to connect to the trail from downtown Seattle.
This post provides a more detailed write-up of the trail and its connecting transit options, along with pictures. It is based on my own hike from Redmond to Woodinville therefore it starts and ends at Bellevue rather than downtown Seattle. Whether you choose to include a short detour to Redhook or a winery is up to you (of course I can’t think of a single reason why I wouldn’t… 😉
So, if you’re game, let’s get started…
Overview: The Sammamish River Trail is a paved recreational trail running alongside the Sammamish River between Marymoor Park in Redmond and Blyth Park in Bothell. Trail length from end to end is around 11 miles.
The trail forms one third of the ‘Locks-to-Lakes’ corridor; the other two parts being the Burke-Gilman and the East Lake Sammamish trails. Together these three trails provide over 40 miles of safe off-road biking/hiking starting in Seattle, then passing through the cities of Bothell, Woodinville, Redmond, Sammamish, and ending at Issaquah.
Generally speaking, the further you get from Seattle, the less urban the trails become, becoming increasingly pastoral. From Issaquah there are more trails heading east over the Cascades and across the state.
The walk in depth: Depending on where in Redmond you start, this walk will be between 6.0 and 6.9 miles excluding any detours. Allow three hours plus travel time to and from the trail, and additional time for any detours. My recommended trail access points in Redmond, from south to north, are as follows:
- W. Lake Sammamish Pwy at Leary Way – 545 Bus from Seattle & Overlake
- 154th Ave NE at NE 85th St – 545 Bus from Seattle & Overlake
- 154th Ave NE at NE 90th St – RapidRide B Line from Bellevue & Overlake
Check this map at Metro Transit for further information about Eastside routes.
Starting at Leary Way in Redmond the trail passes through an urban landscape bordered by apartment complexes, office parks and industrial buildings. Along this stretch the river is more like a canal, the trail more like its towpath. This continues a little way past NE 90th Street but soon you sense the environment beginning to change.
The transition is complete when you reach the intersecting trail coming across the river from the west (left) which then heads off to the east (right). This is the Redmond/PSE Powerline trail; here you’ll find a King County parks information kiosk at the intersection.
It’s worth mentioning that this intersection is one of only three places along the trail where you can bailout from the hike. From the Powerline trail crossing you have a one mile return trip (on paved level surface) to the NE 90th Street bus stops.
Alternatively, a Metro bus stop (route 221) is located to the east of the Sammamish River trail on NE 104th Street. It’s a little over half a mile walk along the Powerline trail. But be aware: the Powerline trail is unpaved and involves a climb up from the river trail.
Continuing along the Sammamish River from this point the trail becomes increasingly rural and the river valley and its flood plain broaden out quite noticeably.
A word of advice – if the weather is even halfway decent be sure to bring sunblock. My hike took place on a warm sunny day and I was punished by the lack of shade along the trail. Although much of its length is lined by tall poplar trees, the trail won’t be shaded except perhaps during the early morning hours; based on my experience there is virtually no shade from late morning onwards.
A nice feature of the Sammamish River trail though is that for most of its length, in addition to the paved asphalt, it has a soft-surface shoulder for equestrian use. During the summer, on warm sunny days, as was the case for my hike, the paved surface gets pretty hot underfoot. I know walkers have many different preference; as for me I was grateful for the cooler, softer surface option.
The second bailout point comes where NE 116th Street crosses the trail on a bridge/overpass. Just a short distance south of the bridge/overpass is a nice rest spot with a large shade tree, a hitching post for horses, and a picnic table. And a similarly short distance just north of the bridge/overpass there is a large park with a bunch of soccer fields and restrooms conveniently located right next to the trail.
This point on the trail is almost 2 miles from NE 90th Street. The nearest bus stops are to the east on Woodinville-Redmond Road at NE 116th St. In conjunction with the October 2011 launch of the RapidRide B Line, many local bus routes on the eastside have been revised, and this area is no exception.
As of May 2012 there are two Metro routes serving Woodinville-Redmond Road and NE 116th St: the 221 and the 931. The 221 (coming from the south – Redmond) turns east along 116th on its clockwise loop returning to Redmond. Metro route 931 on the other hand runs north-south in both directions along Woodinville-Redmond Road, passing NE 116th St on its way to/from Redmond and Woodinville.
It is not clear whether direct pedestrian access from the trail to Woodinville-Redmond Road exists at NE 116th; if not the stops further south on Woodinville-Redmond Road at 113th Ct or 109th St may turn out to be nearer. Worst case, bus stops are within one mile of the trail, with not as steep a walk as with the Powerline trail bailout.
Another nice feature of the Sammamish River trail is that every so often you see mile markers posted along the trail. The distances appear to be measured from the trailhead at Marymoor Park. The restrooms at the park beside the NE 116th Street overpass, for example, are near the 3.5 mile marker.
The third and final bailout, which I believe should be considered the point of no return, is where NE 124th St crosses the trail. At this point we’re not quite halfway; there are still another 3.5 miles to the end of the hike in Woodinville and a 2.5 mile return trip to NE 90th Street in Redmond if we turn back. The nearest bus stop from here is the same as mentioned above: to the east on Woodinville-Redmond Road at NE 116th St.
If we continue on the trail north of NE 124th St there will be no more bus stops until we reach downtown Woodinville. There are no bus stops at the ‘tourist district’ which straddles the trail at NE 145th Street – still about 1.5 miles ahead. Strange but true – at the place where the wine and beer tastings are happening – there are no buses available for anyone who might be at risk of a DUI.
The upside of soldiering on past the point of no return, committing to reach the end, is that this happens to be the most picturesque section of the entire trail – it’s well worth it. At the 5 mile marker, located midway between the NE 124th Street overpass and NE 145th Street, we reach our halfway point, and at the 5.5 mile marker we reach the NE 145th Street bridge/overpass. If you want to make the detour to the wineries or brewery, this is where you leave the trail and head up to the road above. Enjoy the view down the Sammamish river valley and if you’re lucky get a great view of Mt. Rainier in the distance, then cross the dragonfly bridge and go enjoy the vines – grapes or hops – you pick your poison.
Suitably refreshed we now rejoin the trail where we left off and resume our northward hike. If I recall correctly I’m pretty sure this is where for the first time since starting out at Redmond we see signage stating that we are on the Sammamish River trail. There are also more restrooms here – good job too just in case we left Redhook before the last pint left us. For the remainder of the hike the river retains its pastoral quality on the trail side however it becomes increasingly industrial on the other side.
Eventually the trail reaches downtown Woodinville where it enters Wilmot Gateway park. Stay on the trail close to the river passing the long crescent-shaped gazebo and restrooms that are away to the right. At the Y take the right fork and exit the park at NE 175th St and 131st Ave NE. From here there are essentially three transit options: Metro route 236 (to Kirkland); Metro route 372 (weekdays only to U-District); and Sound Transit Express 522 (to Seattle). To take the 522 walk north along 131st Ave NE to the freeway ramp stops.
To get back to Bellevue Transit Center take either the 236 to Brickyard Park & Ride, or the 522 to UW Bothell. At either of these locations transfer to the southbound Sound Transit Express 535 to Bellevue (the northbound 535 goes to Lynnwood).
Hope you have as much fun on this walk as I did 🙂
The map below may be used to view the four trail access points in Redmond; zoom out to view the entire walk.