Swift Travels: Some bike camping destinations from your doorway

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts written by Martina Brimmer, a friend and owner of Ballard-based Swift Industries. Swift is a Seattle Bike Blog advertiser, but this post is not paid for. Martina has passion to bicycle travel that is reflected in both her business and her personal life. I hope you enjoy her outlook on Seattle-area bike travels!

The early morning sunlight illuminates my tent. I can hear the propane of our backpacking stove whispering on the picnic table outside, and the rustle of my travel companion pulling coffee from a pannier. Watching the light play on the dome of the tent I retrace the route from our prior day’s wandering. The fruit stands and farmland, a gut wrenching climb right after lunch, a few frustrated tears, the stellar cup of coffee that put a little town on the map. This is the life!

Welcome to traveling by bicycle.

I’m not sure whether my observations are statistically viable, but something in the air tells me that we experiencing a resurgence in traveling by bike. There are lots of amazing ways to be a tourist, but going by bicycle invites you into the social and geographical landscape in ways that make traveling spellbinding and adventurous. The inside cover of the book Two Wheel Travel, Bicycle Camping and Touring, published in 1974, says nothing more than:

“Retreat gracefully.”

To me, that can mean packing my panniers and making sure that, along with the camp necessities, my watercolor kit, favorite bourbon and a kite make it onto the bike. But it can also mean booking a night in a youth hostel in Vancouver and hopping on Amtrak with bikes in tow to explore unfamiliar city streets, or cycling out to a yurt at the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range in the Snoqualmie Valley.

From the Seattle area, we have amazing bike camping and travel right out our doorways. Here are a list of my favorite destinations, each vary in distance and offer a few sleeping options:

Fay Bainbridge State Park (17 miles), located on Bainbridge Island a short ride from downtown Seattle (mileage includes the ferry crossing). It’s a great destination for first-time family bike camping!

Tolt MacDonald Campground (45 miles), offers another wonderful introduction to bicycle-overnights. One can head northeast out of Seattle on the Burke Gilman Trail which connects to the Sammamish River Trail, for nearly two thirds of the way on designated walking and cycling paths. Book yurts in advance and enjoy amenities right in the town of Carnation, WA. Pack your fly fishing gear because you’ll be right at the confluence of the Tolt and Snoqualmie Rivers. You can return by looping south through the Snoqualmie Valley and back to Seattle via Issaquah.

Fort Flagler State Park (60 miles), looks out over the Puget Sound and Port Townsend. The Olympic Mountain Range seems to rise from the water. Pedal into Port Townsend on a Sunday morning to enjoy a thriving farmer’s market, or a cheese tasting at Mt. Townsend Creamery. The Victorian port town also offers B&B’s galore if you’d like to treat yourself for the weekend.

Choice websites to discover:

For more overnighters peruse the postings on Adventure Cycling Association’s Bike Overnights Site: http://www.bikeovernights.org/
Warm Showers bicycle touring hospitality: http://www.warmshowers.org/
Path Less Pedaled: http://pathlesspedaled.com/what-is-bicycle-travel/

Martina Brimmer is the owner of Swift Industries, a Seattle-based pannier and bicycle bag company and Seattle Bike Blog sponsor (though this is not a sponsored post). On August 17th, Swift Industries and Roving Studios will be hosting Post Car Travel Agency, a ten day bicycle travel pop-up shop in San Francisco, CA. For more information about workshops, route planning, and presentations at the event check out http://postcartravelagency.tumblr.com/.

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17 Responses to Swift Travels: Some bike camping destinations from your doorway

  1. Pingback: Swift Travels: Some bike camping destinations from your doorway … | Bicycle News

  2. RTK says:

    Another great option is the Ranch Hostel on Vashon. Special rates for bicyclists. The dorms are closed due to some issue with the county, but teepees, covered wagons and camp sites are available. With the wild west thing it is a great place to go with kids. About 6 miles from the ferry to the hostel, nice ride.

  3. Martina says:

    Thanks for the tip! Vashon Island offers the perfect escape from Seattle. It’s amazing that only half an hour from downtown is a pastoral island ready for exploration.

    Also, Doe Bay on Orcas Island greatly reduces their campsite fee for cyclists.

  4. Drew says:

    I put together a map of potential overnight camping destinations within about 75 miles from South Seattle, accessible here:


  5. Shondra says:

    Thanks for all of the tips. I’ve used the Sammamish River Trail for running, but would love to get into cycling.

    I’d love to feature this post on our San Diego-based site. Email me for details!

    shondra (at) dwellable (dot) com


  6. Martina says:

    This is really great! Thanks for sharing this map, Drew

  7. Anna Lee says:

    Good post! I love traveling on bicycles, the open road and fresh air feels so good ;)

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  10. Glen says:

    Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island is also great. For a shorter trip (we did it with young kids) you can drive to the Anacortes ferry terminal, park for free and just ride onto the ferry. It is a few miles (with hills) to get to the park and then from there about 2 miles across the island (again hills but nothing significant) into town. They have several walk-in campsites in a wooded area (not reservable) as well as walk-in beach campsites that are reservable and one site (43) which is close to the beach (non-reservable).

    A great option for first time bike camping or bike camping with kids.

    • Javier says:

      I like to take the train or bus into Everett, then a bus into Mount Vernon. I ride backroads through the Swinomish Reservation if I have time, or take Highway 20 if i’m hustling and catch the last ferry to either Guemes or Lopez the first night. the next day i catch a ferry to Orcas and spend a couple of days at Doe Bay, then head home again, usually by riding to another bus stop again.

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  15. Joe Tutch says:

    Any one interested in joining me in some bike-camping trips starting in the Seattle area this fall season? I just got back from an overnighter to the KOA along the Green River this weekend and it was a blast!

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