Two Great West Coast Bike-and-Train Destinations
We’ve invited Russ and Laura of Path Less Pedaled to share some of their adventures using Amtrak’s bike service. Check out their recent trips to San Luis Obispo, Ojai, and Glacier National Park.
One of the best reasons to bring a bike with you on your train journey is to explore beyond the downtown corridors. In fact, a bike is the perfect compliment to a train journey, because both allow you to see the countryside in a way you wouldn’t if you were driving. And, on a bike, you can go a step further, and stop at that little fruit stand with the perfectly ripe blackberries.
Below are two of our favorite bike-and-train destinations on the West Coast that just happen to be a little off the beaten path.
We may never have known about Lodi if weren’t for an astute bartender who recommended a bottle of Zinfandel on a cold fall evening. By the time we’d drained the bottle, we had found our new favorite wine. And, a few months later, we discovered that this little town with incredible wines also has oodles of great cycling – and an Amtrak station.
Last June, we took the Coast Starlight from Portland to Sacramento, and then transferred to the San Joaquins line. The train pulled right into downtown Lodi, making it an easy walk to breakfast upon arrival, and another easy walk after enjoying a last dinner in town on our way home.
Because Lodi is still a small agricultural town, it’s quick and easy to get out of the town limits and onto quiet county roads. The area is mostly flat, which is conducive to both a hard and fast road ride, or a meandering wine-tasting loop. We did a little of both, getting up early in the morning to ride before the heat of the day, and then hopping back on our bikes in the evening to explore downtown. Check out Visit Lodi for several great suggested routes.
Both the Coast Starlight and San Joaquins trains accommodate bikes. On the Coast Starlight, you’ll want to reserve space for your bike when you book your ticket, and then hand your bike up to an attendant in the baggage car. On the San Joaquins line, you’ll simply roll your bike onto the designated train car and secure it yourself. Or, if you want to keep it simple, consider renting a bike from Downtown Bicycles in Lodi.
The John Wayne Pioneer Trail
The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is a converted rail trail that runs from Rattlesnake Lake (east of Seattle) to the Columbia River. It follows the corridor for the old Milwaukee Road railway, offering a car-free route across the Cascade Mountains and into eastern Washington. And, given the trail’s proximity to Seattle, it’s accessible from the Amtrak Cascades line (simply reserve space for your bike when you book your ticket and then hand it to an attendant at the baggage car before departure).
We recently joined a group of friends in Seattle for a long weekend ride along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, coupled with great camping and fishing. From Rattlesnake Lake, the trail climbs gently through thick forests overlooking the Snoqualmie River. At the summit, the trail enters the incredible Snoqualmie Tunnel, which runs for 2.3 mind-bogglingly-dark miles. It turned out that my headlight was the brightest, so we lined up one-behind-another and watched for the tiny speck of light from the other end to eventually get bigger. East of Snoqualmie Pass, the landscape becomes drier, and the trail follows the Yakima River. If you make it to Cle Elum, we highly recommend Smokey’s Bar-B-Que, located right along the trail.
We chose to ride the 40 miles between Seattle and the start of the trail. To cut out this section of urban riding, consider taking one of the Sound Transit busses, or hiring a local shuttle.
Interested in taking a bike-and-train trip of your own? Learn more about bringing bikes onboard the train.
About the Authors: Russ and Laura are bicycle tourism advocates who write about their adventures at Path Less Pedaled. Follow their travels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.