Rolling Into May

Ancient Norwegian folklore: when the dandelions come out, the roller skis come out.  When you just hate to say goodbye to the last ski season and you're already excited for the next one, roller skiing is a great way to hang onto the ski fitness, proprioception, balance, and technique you gained over the previous year.

So, technique.  No surprise; it turns out there are a couple of schools of thought about roller skiing.  The most widely accepted, followed by many skiers both local and international, focuses on long distance, miles and miles of easy double poling or skating.  The other school, espoused by some big names who know what they're talking about, is that long easy roller skiing messes with your technique; you're better off using hiking/trail running/biking as your long distance workout and using your roller skis for shorter, harder, more explosive workouts.

Whichever method you prefer -- long slow distance, short hard intensity, or a combination -- Seattle and the surrounding area has you covered!  We have a wealth of trail options, so we did a little informal survey to see where people most like to roll.

Seattle is a hilly city, and if you're looking for short hills for intensity work, you probably have one in your neighborhood, like this bike lane on 32nd NW in Ballard:

Discovery Park offers a wide range of hills, from long and steep to short and steep to long and rolling to short and rolling; whatever kind of workout you're looking for, Disco Park can do it.  Some of the roads in the park are closed to cars, which is a nice bonus, and the ones that are open tend to see very little traffic.

Or for a seriously hardcore hill workout, tackle Mercer Island -- only for those with nerves of steel and ski skills to match.  We're talking big hills, lots of traffic, and no shoulder.  But hey, it's pretty!  Nerves of steel indeed.

There are plenty of flat or flattish trails for your workout, if that's your preference.  Long-ago roller skiers talk of rolling at Green Lake or the Burke-Gilman, but those are now seriously crowded unless you go really early in the morning, and on the BG, sections of the trail are choppy and rooted.  But the south-side Ship Canal trail is a great option: close in, flat, lovely, not super long.  You can start on the bike trail at the south end of Lake Union (warning: super crowded, especially on a nice day), or just start at the Fremont Bridge where the crowds disappear, then continue all the way to the Ballard Bridge.  In fact, if you're feeling adventurous, you could continue up the hill to Nickerson on Magnolia, then loop around Magnolia (serious crazy-big hills) or head back down toward the Myrtle Edwards trail along the waterfront.  And then, why stop?  Continue on the (extremely crowded) bike trail all the way to T-Mobile Park stadium and then on to West Seattle.  Or, just enjoy the lovely, peaceful Ship Canal trail.

Maybe you want to get a little farther out of town.  The Cedar River trail south of Seattle is 12 miles of smooth flat pavement, following a river.

Or maybe you're heading north?  Think about the Sammamish River trail: miles and miles of smooth flat pavement from Logboom Park all the way to Marymoor Park.

A little farther north yet, and providing a combo workout, is the Centennial trail.  This one starts in Snohomish and goes to Arlington (or you can go the opposite way, of course, if you want a longer drive to start with).  It has a short, not too steep hill right at the beginning, then is flat and smooth the rest of the way, winding through farm country.  If you're looking for variety, you could always do some hill repeats at the beginning or end of your long flat roll.

Or maybe you want to head east.  Many options await!  Fall City is in the midst of farm country, with empty rolling roads winding through fields and neighborhoods.  There used to be a regular posse of Fall City roller skiers on Saturday morning, but the main instigator moved to the Methow, then the roads were chip-sealed and the posse moved on to other things.  But a little farther east is the Middle Fork out of North Bend, beloved by many.  You can start at North Bend Middle School or the Mailbox trailhead and find ten miles of smooth rolling roads.  No shoulder or bike trail, but the roads are emptier during the week than on the weekend.

(Jim Lindsey photo)

Farther east, a long-time Kongsberger favorite, the famous Denny Creek to Alpental road; old-time KSCers used to do roller ski time trials up the road, but now that there's a campground and several trailheads branching off the lower part of the course drawing crowds, that might not be such a good idea anymore.  It still makes for a spectacular workout: three miles (five miles?) of nonstop uphill, a little crowded through the forest (but better after Labor Day when the hikers and campers go home), then breaking out into incredible wide-open mountain vistas, views for miles to take your mind off the steepness of the road.  No shoulder, but the traffic is light when you get higher up and the road is in great shape and super fun.

(Tim Melbourne photo)

Also at Snoqualmie Pass, shorter (two miles) than the Denny Creek-Alpental option but with great pavement and far less traffic, is the steadily uphill access road between Hyak and the Summit that parallels the freeway.  Roll here and dream about seeing snow on the hillside.  And just look at that shoulder!  When roller skiers and bike riders rule the world, it will look like this, with a shoulder wider than the traffic lane.

And finally, maybe about as far east as a Seattleite would want to go for one day, but right in you east-siders' back yard, the newly paved Teanaway River road: 13 miles of gorgeousness, and like so many others, less crowded in the fall.  Who else is thinking post-Labor Day field trip?

So many options, the summer is starting to feel too short!  Try these out, and let us know what you think.  See you out there!


** Green River Trail out of Three Friends Fishing hole. The Cedar River Trail either from Maplewood Roadside Park (traffic light for easier exit onto Maple Valley Hwy) or Cedar River Park/Carco Theater parking are flat options with good pavement. Once the paving is finished later this month, the Eastside Rail Trail could be an option out of Renton.

** Clear Creek trail in Silverdale is pretty good for a short course. Also Lake Steilacoom park has a new paved circuit around the pond there.

** For the few of us east-siders I'd recommend the trails at Suncadia. Typically few people to be found and the surface is great.


  1. In south Seattle we have Lake Washington Blvd. Road is closed on bike Sundays in the summer and possibly more frequent closures happening this summer. The inner loop of Seward Park has been a popular training spot over the years too, although the pavement quality is deteriorating. Outer loop of Seward Park also good, and pavement was recently upgraded in places. Also recommend the loop around Jefferson Park, but need to go early to avoid conflicts with walkers.

    1. Jefferson Park is one of my favorites; I do a figure 8 loop and can get 3 hills... also the paths around Lake Ballinger and the Interurban Trail north to the park and ride near Alderwood Mall... to avoid the crowds on the Centennial Trail, drive north to the Nakshima Barn and roll south to Arlington... finally, the Green River trail, starting at the 3 Friends Fishing Hole Park - we’ve rolled all the way to Fort Dent and as far south as the golf complex... I’ve heard early in the week, the golf paths at Suncadia are good too...

  2. The Suncadia Bike Trails are rolling, smooth and often blown of the needles coming off the big Ponderosa Pines. It's busy on Weekends but mostly just a few walkers on Weekdays. Lots of various loops and variety. Park at Dawson Park if you are looking to start a flat loop. Nelson Dairy Pool if you want more rolling, less traffic.

  3. Thanks, everyone, for contributing your great ideas!


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