Cycling in Washington

Note: MM = Mile Marker

In July 2020, Tanya and I spent a few weeks in Washington. We didn’t do nearly as much cycling as we’d hoped as the weather wasn’t very cooperative.

Here are a few notes about Washington. Jay Rawlins says, “Readers often ask me why Bestrides doesn’t cover Washington state.  The answer is, I don’t think the riding is good enough.” However, he does list 5 rides that he considers good. I suspect his view is too limited because there’s a wonderful book, 75 Classic Rides Washington: The Best Road Biking Routes, which describes and has photos of some great looking rides. 

Mt Rainier

Unfortunately we didn’t have particularly good weather and didn’t even get to see the full Mt Rainier, only the lower snow-covered slopes. I’d hoped to ride up to Sunrise, which appears to be a good, hard climb, but the weather didn’t cooperate.


fullsizeoutput_35ddFrom Longmire to Paradise is a nice, 11.3 mile climb with 2,570 feet of climbing. There’s nothing very steep, and a lot of fairly consistent 6%. While a lot of the ride goes through trees, there are some good views of the jagged mountains around Rainier. I imagine there are probably also good views of Rainier itself, but all I could see were snow slopes leading into clouds.

Some people say the climb to Paradise from the east, along Stevens Canyon Road, is better, but it was closed because of road damage when we were there.

Bainbridge Island

The Chilly Hilly

rn70JgTTQZq2S6p96g%NMgThe Chilly Hilly is a famous ride on Bainbridge Island, held in February (hence the Chilly part of the name.)  It’s very rolling with lots of short steep hills (hence the Hilly part of the name.)  It’s so famous that maps of Bainbridge Island often show the route, which is about 33 miles with 2,170 feet of climbing.

The route finding is complicated, so it’s worth downloading a .gpx file to your bike computer and using that to navigate.

The ride pretty much loops round the outside of the island, taking in many roads along the sea front. You’ll probably be drooling at the sight of so many beautiful houses on the ride, with their lovely settings by the sea. The hills, although generally short, are often very steep, with plenty of 11-13%, and even one (fortunately) very short section of 18%.

Extra Credit: If you are on Bainbridge Island, you might as well ride up Toe Jam Hill from the south. It’s brutally steep and sufficiently long to hurt, rising from the sea to the highest point (425′) on the island. Tanya’s Garmin showed 23%. Mine showed 0% because it doesn’t want to frighten me on very steep climbs. The best way to get to Toe Jam Hill is along the pretty South Beach Drive.


Mission Ridge (S-1) and Badger Mountain (S-1)

WenatcheeWe were staying near Plain, so I drove to Wenatchee for the day to ride Mission Ridge and Badger Mountain, both tough climbs that Summerson rates at Category 1 climbs.

I parked at the north end of the Wenatchee Valley Mall. From here the ride up Mission Ridge was about 12.8 miles with 3,700 feet of climbing, and the ride up Badger Mountain was about 8.8 miles with 2,400 feet of climbing for a total trip of about 43.5 miles with 6,200 feet of climbing (there was a little climbing on the ways back).

Despite Mission Ridge being longer and supposedly harder, I thought Badger Mountain was the more difficult—perhaps because I was tired after Mission Ridge 😀.

Since the two rides are on opposite sides of the Columbia River, you’ll need to cross the Stevens Road bridge, which is terrifying and confusing, as there is no bike lane and lots of traffic. On the way to Mission Ridge, you’ll need to move left twice, and on the way back you’ll have to take a cloverleaf to the right after crossing the bridge. There is a bike path across the bridge but I could see no obvious way to get to and from it so I just rode the road. (After studying Google Maps later, I saw that there is a bike path that one can take but I’ll leave it to you to study Google Maps and choose the correct route.)

3uMiu0npTnK9sQznMuXfTAMission Ridge

From the car, cross the Stevens Road bridge to Mission Street. Turn left and ride up Mission Street, which soon changes name to Squilchuck Road. The ride starts relatively easily and becomes steeper higher up. About 4 miles from the top, just before MM 7, the road swings right.

The section below that is long and straight with sustained 10-11% climbing. There is some 11% in the upper section but not as sustained. The last 4 miles was my favorite part of the ride as there are some switchbacks, but overall the climb is not very interesting, having no real distinctive features or views. It tops out at about MM 11 and a very short descent leads to the dirt parking lot of the Mission Ridge ski area. Turn round and ride back to the car to refuel.

fullsizeoutput_3650Badger Mountain

From the parking lot ride north to 9th Street. Turn right and climb to the traffic light at Eastmont Avenue. Turn left and ride along Eastmont Avenue to the traffic light where a filter lane turns right onto Badger Mountain Road. There is a good bike lane from here to the top of the climb.

The first two miles of Badger Mountain Road are through a somewhat residential area but after two miles everything opens up and you see the view in the photo: open, spare, bleak, and “amber waves of grain” — at least in July.

The ride is in strong contrast to Mission Ridge, where everything is subtle and hidden. Here everything is big, visible, and in-your-face. You can see the finish from miles away, see where the road switchbacks up right to break through the top of the ramparts.

The climb from here starts with pretty consistent 6% but just before the road heads left towards the switchback the gradient rises to 11%. The climb from here is relentless and steep, mostly 11%, with some 10%, and a short section of 12% just after the switchback. The climb finishes at the obvious top, where the road intersects with Bromley Road on the left and Clark Road on the right. Enjoy the fast, sweeping descent.

I found this climb harder than Mission Ridge with its relentlessly steep last few miles, and I enjoyed it more as it’s a far more unique and memorable climb. If you were to do only one climb out of Wenatchee, I’d recommend it be Badger Mountain Road.

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