Author Topic: Different routes across Washington state  (Read 4062 times)

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Offline haakon

Different routes across Washington state
« on: November 11, 2010, 07:37:23 pm »
I'm looking into biking from Seattle to Minneapolis next summer, and I'm wondering what people think about different routes going across Washington state.  I know the NT route goes across Hwy. 20, but I know there is also U.S. 2 and even I-90 (or the bike trail that parallels it for a while).  The WA DOT has a great website and maps for bikers, but I'm wondering if anyone has experience with these routes.

My initial concern is that the Hwy. 20 route doesn't look as direct as U.S. 2 or I-90.  Would one route be more direct or take more time than another?  While I want to enjoy the mountains, time might also be a bit of an issue and I don't want take a super long time as I go.

Any input or advice would be appreciated!  Thanks. 

Offline Fred Hiltz

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2010, 09:28:17 pm »
Bikes are not allowed on I-90. US 2 is a through commercial route with heavy traffic in many, but not all, places. By comparison, the ride through the North Cascades, northern Idaho, and Glacier National Park is the crown jewel of the Northern Tier, in my experience. If I had limited time, I would enjoy the mountain scenery and hop on a train as needed to cross eastern MT, ND, and MN.

Fred

Offline haakon

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2010, 10:28:18 pm »
I didn't think they were allowed on I-90 either, but the WSDOT site makes it seem like they are, with this exception of Snoqualmie Pass

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/F4E32F19-5443-417D-BE5D-D525D1EC2EAD/68279/SPE_Bike_Detour_Mapweb1.pdf

Has anyone travelled it?  Is the wide shoulder of the freeway worth it?  How dicey is the shoulder on parts Hwy. 20 or U.S. 2?

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2010, 11:21:15 pm »
WA 20 is pretty direct, if you're starting and ending on the north side of the state.  OK, from Seattle you start with a jog to the north, then it's pretty much straight east to Newport.  Great connection through Idaho into Montana, where you'll want to see Glacier NP.

And the terrain is scenic, vegetation varied, gorgeous place to ride.  Except for the uphills, but there are downhills on the other side.

The best part is the lack of traffic.  Oh, you'll have a fair bit up to Rainy and Washington Passes, but it's almost lonely riding the rest of the way through Washington.

Offline Fred Hiltz

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2010, 06:46:24 am »
I didn't think they were allowed on I-90 either, but the WSDOT site makes it seem like they are, with this exception of Snoqualmie Pass...
Thank you for the correction. I overstated the restriction while knowing that some western states allow bikes on interstates where no good alternates exist, and have used them. Be sure to check with each DOT about the full length you are interested in.

Would you really save time? And why would you prefer rolling with 65-mph trucks on roads intentionally built to be dull over some of the most beautiful scenery in our nation? I'd rather knock a day or two off the same-every-day plains of North Dakota if I had to.

My question "why" is rhetorical. You have not said you prefer it. It's just unusual for most cyclists to even consider Interstates when prettier options exist.

Fred

Online staehpj1

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2010, 10:06:40 am »
You have not said you prefer it. It's just unusual for most cyclists to even consider Interstates when prettier options exist.
Interstates vary widely.  For example, I found I-80 on the TA to be somewhat unpleasant, but I-25 in New Mexico had lovely scenery and was just generally a great ride IMO.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2010, 11:11:30 am »
By comparison, the ride through the North Cascades, northern Idaho, and Glacier National Park is the crown jewel of the Northern Tier, in my experience. If I had limited time, I would enjoy the mountain scenery and hop on a train as needed to cross eastern MT, ND, and MN.

Fred

Have done Route 20 through the North Cascades to Glacier N.P. twice (and the entire Northern Tier once) and cannot agree more.  Can't imagine trading it for interstate riding or U.S. 2 riding.  The one place I would get off 20 is between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete.  The S. Skagit Highway on the other side of the river is a gem.  And you may not have much traffic on 20 up to Rainy & Washington Passes depending on when you go.  Both times I did the climb in late May.  The rode was virtually empty.  Of course it snowed, but nothing heavy, and it didn’t stick.

Beyond WA…I would strongly advise avoiding U.S. 2 from Columbia Falls, MT to Glacier.  There is a curvy section with no shoulders and some trucks.  The route AC uses between these two points is nice.  Was there last year.  The unpaved portion was manageable on 37c tires.  The ride up Going to the Sun to Logan Pass in Glacier is well worth any extra days.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/sets/72157620763740044/

The final 26 photos were taken on the west side of Logan Pass.  There are ways to skip the portion into Canada is you are pressed for time.

The alternative, U.S. 2 from W. Glacier up to Marias Pass, is nothing spectacular, and it's a long, long slog up with narrow shoulders in most places.

How much time total do you anticipate having to get from Seattle to Minneapolis?

Offline Fred Hiltz

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2010, 11:43:39 am »
... The ride up Going to the Sun to Logan Pass in Glacier is well worth any extra days.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/sets/72157620763740044/

The final 26 photos were taken on the west side of Logan Pass.

Nice pix, indyfabz. They brought back some great memories here. My own trip through the Cascades this year was more hiking than biking. Same scenery though, most of it near Rainy and Washington Passes:  http://frederick-hiltz.fotopic.net/c1894050.html. Haakon, if these two sets of pix do not turn you on, then nothing we can write will help. <grin>

Fred

Offline haakon

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2010, 09:58:05 pm »
These replies are great, thanks everyone.   

I assumed WA Hwy. 20 was the way to go, but I have a friend who has enjoyed riding the interstate in some stretches, particularly in the southwestern US.  He thought it was more desirable for parts of a cross country trip from FL to CA.  I was wondering if for some reason narrow roads in WA would make the freeway more desirable here.  I haven't been on hwy. 20 before.  But it sounds like the NT route and 20 is the way to go. 

Those pics are fantastic-- what a stretch of the country!  Thanks for posting. 

I don't know how much time it would take to get from Seattle to Mpls.  I have a little over a month to do it.  What are people's experiences on the NT in terms of time and mileage per day in the mountains and the flatlands?

Thanks again for the input everyone!  And great pictures Fred and indyfabz.  Thanks for whetting my appetite a little more. 

Offline Fred Hiltz

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2010, 10:19:34 pm »
... I don't know how much time it would take to get from Seattle to Mpls.  I have a little over a month to do it.  What are people's experiences on the NT in terms of time and mileage per day in the mountains and the flatlands?
I rode from Anacortes WA to St. Paul MN, following the NT as far as Fargo. That was 2179 miles in 29 calendar days, a 62-year-old guy riding solo. This pace is probably about average. You should be able to extrapolate it to a Seattle start.

Fred

Offline indyfabz

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2010, 04:29:55 pm »
You're welcome.

We started in Seattle on May 25th and were in Minneapolis around mid July (I remember being in eastern ND on July 4th), including rest days.  However...

1.  We took the "long" option through MN.  There is a shorter option included on the map.

2.  We did some short days along the way when we could have done longer yet still manageable days.

3.  We followed the route into Canada, staying in Waterton Village and McGrath before heading to Cut Bank, MT.  You can probably trim two days by heading directly from St. Mary, MT to Cut Bank.

4.  We took at least six rest days in that stretch.  Two were probably not really necessary, but we had to take the group's varying abilities into account.  Plus, we had a 93 days schedule for the entire trip, which is on the long end.

Sometimes the WA par of the route leaves you few options unless you can do a lof of miles and climbs.  After the Cascades crossing, where the natural overnight is in Winthrop (bike-friendly KOA), you'd have a long day (109 miles) if you tried to do Loup Loup and Wacunda Passes the following day.  Instead you will likely do Loup Loup, overnight in Tonakset and then do Wacunda..  Maybe you could make it from Tonasket to Colville (93 miles) over Wacunda and Sherman Passes in one day, skipping to town of Republic in between, but it’s not something I would want to do unless really pressed for time, but that’s because I tend to be a one and done person when it comes to long climbs.  Your mileage may vary.  Once you get onto the “High Line” (east of Cut Bank, MT), you have more options.  It’s relatively flat in most places, and you can get some killer tailwinds.  We did two 45 mile days that could have easily been made into one day for these reasons.  At one point I was cruising along at 28 mph and actually sustained 32.5 mph for about 4 miles.

Offline mucknort

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2010, 01:45:05 am »
The one place I would get off 20 is between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete.  The S. Skagit Highway on the other side of the river is a gem.
Huge Disagree. We rode the S. Skagit Highway this September as part of our Boston to Seattle trip and (despite the pretty scenery) it was awful. There is no shoulder and we found the drivers on this road to be some of the worst/rudest of our entire trip! Many close calls and yahoos in PickUp trucks that thought it was "fun" to buzz us.

Regarding your itinerary, after leaving Minneapolis we left the NT to go through South Dakota and Wyoming so as to hit Badlands/Black Hills/Tetons/Yellowstone and we loved it!

Offline indyfabz

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2010, 01:25:54 pm »
Interesting.  There were no cars when I rode the S. Skagit both times. Maybe the timing explains the difference.  (I was there in 3rd week of May both times.)  Or maybe there has been development in the area.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2010, 08:55:19 pm »
Bikes are not allowed on I-90.

Fred

I live in Central WA and ride on I90 a lot.  they have been allowed on the freeway since the early 1980s.  I once got a warning ticket for riding on it before 1980.  However, right now, and for most of last summer, they were not allowed due to construction so be sure to check with the WADOT before trying it.  It's a busy commercial freeway, noisy but easy to ride with huge shoulders (and lots of junk on the shoulders sometimes).  Hwy 2 is narrow in places, steeper and higher than I 90, with way less traffic.  It can be scary west of Stevens Pass due to narrowness and lots of curves.  Hwy 20 is the best choice, by far, if you don't mind going farther north.  It's scenic like crazy and has good grades and shoulders.  I'd find a way to take it, unless it was too early in the summer in bad weather which can easily mean snow/rain/hail etc.  It's the highest of the three.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline PeteJack

Re: Different routes across Washington state
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2010, 03:08:59 pm »
I'd take Hwy 20. If you aren't a purist you can catch a train for about $20 from Seattle to Mount Vernon and start from there. Head for Sedro Wooley and join the ACA route a couple of miles before you get there. You have to turn left to head west past Clear Lake (on the ACA map), The road south of the river is pretty. When you get to Rockport I would not recommend the Rockport Cascade Rd, the ACA route. It's what I call exercise bike riding, flat and nothing to see thanks to high brush. If you stay on Hwy 20 it rejoins the ACA route at Marblemount and is slightly shorter. I've done them both. But the traffic is definitely heavier on 20.