Easy Riding: Centennial Trail Offers Cycling Fun For Everyone
Mike Griffith is run by family dog Crumb while his wife Jennifer and daughter Grace follow the Centennial Trail. (Andy Bronson / The Messenger)
One rainy day when I was in high school, a buddy and I threw our bikes in the back of a truck and drove halfway to Lauck Hill east of Marysville. We parked near where an unmarked primitive trail cut into the woods. We grabbed our bikes and headed into the unknown, heading south.
It was the Centennial Trail at the time. The rugged path that followed an old railway line led us through brambles and spindly trees. As we pedaled, the brush scratched our legs and limbs slapped our faces, regularly reminding us of our insanity. We dodged the traffic crossing 84th Street before disappearing into the thicket again. It was not a leisurely stroll with a picnic basket. It was a wild mountain bike ride with no signs – and only the hope of getting us going.
When we got out of the undergrowth we crossed Highway 92 and entered Stevens Lake. We might as well have been on Mars. In our childhood minds, we had been biking for hours and headed for a different dimension. I remember rolling our bikes past a fence keeping us away from a large manufacturing company that seemed to work with metal, and thinking it was something exotic. We met up at Lake Conner Grocery on Hartford Drive, parked our bikes, and stumbled inside, looking for refreshments. We then made the long, difficult journey home. We ended our adventure by spraying the mud ourselves in my friend’s backyard.
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The Centennial Trail has come a long way since then. The trail we took years ago is now fully paved and offers families the option of a leisurely stroll without watering afterwards. After years of planning and hard work, the Centennial Trail stretches 30 miles north from Snohomish through Arlington to the Snohomish-Skagit County line.
The trail is used by over 400,000 people each year. But in 2020, that number was likely higher. With our inner lairs closed due to the pandemic, we got out. Bike sales exploded and our trails were packed with people who had to beat cabin fever.
With the rollout of vaccines and the decline in COVID-19 infections, the buzz of normal life returns. But now is not the time to ignore the great outdoors. Don’t let this bike collect dust now that you can catch Mariners games and meet friends in the pub. Get out and ride, even if there is no mud.
Three beautiful walks
The Centennial Trail offers a wide, paved trail suitable for all ages and abilities. Along the way there are many places to stop to rest and have lunch.
Easy: Machias Trailhead, south of Stevens Lake, north to Getchell Trailhead, east of Marysville. (15.2 miles round trip)
Drive north through farmland and past Bonneville Field on the outskirts of Stevens Lake Community Park. Right after the Stevens Lake trailhead you can turn right and visit the same Conner Lake grocery store where my friend and I stopped over two decades ago. There, buy some treats for a picnic and resume your commute. Go under Route 92 and continue until you see a bench and a small trail leading west from the main trail. Follow the spur and enjoy a picnic on the Lac Cassidy dock. After lunch, cycle for a few more minutes to the start of the Getchell trail. This portion is easy due to the few road crossings and the flat terrain.
Shorten it: Start at the trailhead on Route 92 and head north. (7.6 miles round trip)
Moderate: Lake Stevens Trailhead south to Snohomish. (16.6 miles round trip)
Head south from Stevens Lake. Take a break at the start of the Machias trail and let the children, if you have them, run around in the playground. Or keep going and stroll along the Pilchuck River at American Legion Park. Prepare for the ride to downtown Snohomish. Once there, have lunch at Pilchuck Drive-in and have dessert at Grain Artisan Bakery. Want to relax and enjoy a pint? Stop at Trail’s End Taphouse, just off the trail, before heading back. It’s a bit more difficult ride due to the longer length, a few busy road crossings, and some elevation gain when driving through Snohomish.
Shorten it: Start at the Machias trailhead and head south. (9.6 miles round trip)
Difficult: Beginning of the Bryant trailhead south to the Wade Road trailhead north of Marysville. (17.2 miles round trip)
South of Bryant, the trail follows Highway 9 to downtown Arlington. If you have time, take a break at the Mary Neil Blackburn Bench. If it’s warm, visit Haller Park and let the kids play in the new paddling pool. Lebanon Park on the other side of downtown also has nice shade. Then pedal to Nutty’s Junkyard Grill for burgers and shakes. End your ride by burning those calories on the way to the Wade Road trailhead. This is the longest route of the three. Keep your head on a pivot when cycling with children. There are a number of very busy level crossings and a lot of foot and car traffic to dodge in Arlington.
Shorten it: Start at Bryant and stop for lunch at Nutty’s in Arlington. Then turn around. (9 km round trip)
North Washington Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the summer issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement to the Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue costs $ 3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $ 14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or visit www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.