The Cascade Rail Trail on Thrift Store Bikes

Today we drove to the town of Sedro Wooley, Washington and rode part of the Cascade Trail to the tiny town of Hamilton. We used our thrift store fat tire bikes to manage the flat gravel trail.

In the last couple weeks I found Trek Navigator 50 and Specialized Hardrock bikes, both have step-through frames and were under $40 each. I did some brake repairs on the Trek, upgraded the seat and added some Blackburn Click LED lights. My previous post is on the Hardrock and the upgrades I made on it, with a new seat, rack and lights.

These are not performance bikes by any means, but they are fine for riding like this. Rail trails are usually very flat and could be easily ridden on a single speed bike. The fat tires on these comfort-oriented hybrid bikes add traction and stability on the loose gravel surface and cut down the vibration and smooth out the bumps. I worry much less about having them stolen from the car rack while traveling— yes I do lock them to the rack.

The packs and panniers are all thrift store finds as well: TransIt panniers, a Nashbar trunk bag and a Roswheel handlebar bag.

Thrift store Specialized Hardrock

Thrift store Trek Navigator 50

We had lunch at a viewpoint on the Skagit River with a great view of the valley, surrounded by the peaks of the North Cascades. We parked our bikes and walked up to the riverbank when a great blue heron rose from the water just below and flapped off like a pterodactyl, landing on a far off sandbar.

Views of the Skagit river and the North Cascades
Views of the Skagit river and the North Cascades. The Cascade Trail continues to the east.

We continued to the village of Lyman, Washington with a fantastic old town hall.

Lyman town hall

We made it to Hamilton, Washington, about 12 miles from our starting point, took a quick tour of the town center and head for home.


The trail is a 12; wide flat gravel path reclaimed from the old railway bed. It passes houses, farms and wetlands along the way. Much of it is shaded and a great place to bike on a warm summer afternoon.

Cascade Trail

We saw very few people on the trail— fewer than a dozen over 4 hours. It is a wonderful resource and seemed underutilized on a sunny August Sunday afternoon.



46 Mile Rail Trail Bike Journey

N and I got up Sunday morning a couple hours past a good start for a day hike and decided to go north on the Burke -Gilman Trail and go all the way to Redmond via the linked Sammamish River Trail.

They are really a continuous trail with no obvious transition than signage, following the rail lines from the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle, around the the north end of Lake Washington and south to Marymoor Park in Redmond. They are asphalt paved, 12′ wide paths with marked road crossings and a few under and over passes.

The Sammamish River or Slough is the outlet for Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington. It is slow current and south of the town of Woodinville, has been turned into a straight canal for flood control. It looks more like a big ditch than the meandering stream it was.

One of the bridges over the Sammamish River near Bothell, WA.
One of the bridges over the Sammamish River near Bothell, WA.

Our first stop was the farmer’s market at the town of Lake Forest Park, near the north end of Lake Washington. There was fresh local produce and baked goods and some good music from a duo of sunburned buskers. We bought cherries and apricots and had a snack at nearby Log Boom Park and the north end of Lake Washington. We continued on through all the bedroom communities of Kenmore, Bothell and Woodinville, stopping at the Redhook Brewery for a lunch of burger, sandwich and a couple pints. We continued on to Redmond and Marymoor Park, taking a lazy Sunday afternoon rest brake sprawled out in the shady grass next to the Clive Mansion and windmill in the park.

Redhook Brewery bike parking
Redhook Brewery bike parking

We were looking over the rail trail map and decided to take the Marymoor Connector Trail to the East Lake Sammamish Trail so we could see the lake and get a feel for that trail. The lake trail is under construction about a half mile out, so we used that as our turn around point.

We worked our way back through the park and stopped at the India Festival next to the trail in Redmond. We watched dancers on stage and shared a mango smoothie. We headed on towards home with a couple short water stops on the way. There was a strong headwind for a few miles, making some work for us.

Dancers at India Festival Redmond WA 7/27/201
Dancers at India Festival Redmond WA 7/27/201

We stopped at the 192 Brewery in Kenmore. It’s a funky little brewpub with a huge outdoor seating area with old patio furniture and a live band. After re-hydrating and a good rest, we finished the last leg of the trip with the odometer showing 46 miles.

Live music at 192 Brewing
Live music at 192 Brewing

While this wasn’t a long bike trip for those used to touring, it was our longest trip to date— a few miles more than the Centennial Trail from Snohomish to Arlington. We were tired and I was a little saddle sore, but felt better than I expected. I had made a round trip to the Chittenden Locks last Thursday, giving me a total of about 70 miles in the last four days.