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Wednesday, June 21, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cycling in county: Bike trails gain riders as roads gain drivers

Times Snohomish County Bureau

As Snohomish County's population swells, adding traffic to formerly quiet country roads, bicycling enthusiasts are turning in greater numbers to established off-road routes.

"We're all getting to where we prefer the trails," said Bill Lutterloh, a ride leader for the Everett-based Bikes Club.

The county's two major paved trails:

The Centennial Trail: With 17.5 miles of paved trail as it passes through changing terrain and vistas between Snohomish and the Arlington area, the Centennial has become one of the county's most popular recreational draws.

The county last year opened a 10.3-mile extension, heading north from Lake Stevens, giving the trail a more remote and forested aspect. That boosted the trail's use by about 50 percent, with an estimated 400,000 people a year now hitting the trail for walking, skating, cycling and horseback riding.

The expanded trail offers a 35-mile round-trip workout and a spectrum of moods. The older part, from Snohomish to Lake Stevens, runs along the Pilchuck River and through semirural areas with grazing cows and horses. The newest addition includes stretches through woods and wetlands and along a ridge overlooking the upper Marysville valley.

Detailed map and trailheads: www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/Departments/Parks/Information/Park_Directory (click on "Centennial Trail").

The Interurban Trail: Sure, commuters would be thrilled to still have the Interurban, an electric rail system that linked Seattle and Everett between 1910 and 1939. But at least bicyclists, skaters and joggers can travel parts of the old trolley corridor, which in Snohomish County has been paved from central Everett through Mountlake Terrace.

The 15.5-mile route generally follows Interstate 5, running along a power-line right of way. The sights and sounds of traffic are softened by greenbelts that line portions of the route, which crosses I-5 twice — just north of 128th Street Southwest and at Maple Road, immediately north of Interstate 405.

In various spots, such as at the 164th Street Southwest interchange, the dedicated trail ends, and signs direct users along sidewalks and across intersections to reach the next section of trail.

Everett last year extended the trail north and built a small parking lot at its new terminus at the southeast corner of Colby Avenue and 43rd Street. Parking also is available at Cascade High School, on East Casino Road just north of the Boeing Freeway (Highway 526). The trail crosses beneath the highway and runs south past the Everett Mall to reach the I-5 corridor.

The trail continues south to 228th Street Southwest, just north of Ballinger Park. Parking is available at Ballinger Playfield, 23000 Lakeview Drive.

Map: www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/Departments/Parks/Information/Park_Directory (click on "Interurban Trail").

Popular routes that incorporate public roads:

Snohomish to Monroe: The Bikes Club likes a moderately difficult 26-mile loop through the Snohomish River valley. Trips typically head east from Snohomish along Old Snohomish-Monroe Road, then return by looping a bit south along Tualco and High Bridge roads.

Everett to Lake Stevens: This ride is a hybrid, combining public roads with the original seven-mile stretch of the Centennial Trail. The 31-mile round-trip route starts at Rotary Park in Everett's Lowell neighborhood and follows Lowell-Snohomish River Road to reach the Centennial's southern end in Snohomish.

For serious mountain bikers, pavement is a nonissue; the more adventurous don't require trails of any sort. And for those who do prefer established, unpaved routes, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation offers two popular choices:

The Whitehorse Trail: An 8-foot-wide gravel path winds through a wooded corridor between the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River and Highway 530. The first seven-mile section, with a trailhead in Darrington, opened in fall 2002. Eventually, it will stretch 27 miles west to Arlington. The trailhead lies at the north end of Railroad Avenue.

Lord Hill Regional Park: A six-mile network of trails, most open to bikes and horses as well as hikers, laces through the 1,500-acre nature preserve. The park lies on the Snohomish River between Snohomish and Monroe near the end of 127th Avenue Southeast.

Map: www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/Departments/Parks/Information/Park_Directory (click on "Lord Hill").

Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or dbrooks@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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