There’s no better time to grab a bike and hit the Centennial Trail. Perfect for beginners but interesting enough to attract more committed riders, this historic trail has a little something for everyone.
Built on the remnants of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway tracks, the mostly flat, easy route is an adventure and a history lesson all at once. The original train tracks were built on an ancient path cut by Native Americans travelling between the city of Snohomish and Canada. The tracks were turned to trail once more to mark the centennial of Washington State. In pieces, and over many years, the path was paved and expanded until it reached its current length of 30 miles. Those miles connect the charming antique mecca of downtown Snohomish to Arlington’s historic downtown.
Along the way, the trail hugs the banks of rivers and cuts through farm and forest in turn. Passing through towns, you’ll see toddlers finding their balance and older kids zipping ahead of their parents. Horses and dog walkers alike enjoy the adjacent natural surface trail while wheeled travelers of all types, scooters to skateboards, share the 10-foot wide, paved path.
There are around a dozen trailheads along the route, all with parking and restrooms, so you can design the journey you’d like, whether you’re looking to take in the scenic wonderland up North or you’re just hoping for a light ride with a wonderful meal at the end. The trailhead in Machias (1626 Virginia St, Snohomish, WA), just a few miles north of downtown Snohomish, boasts a sweet little playground and a charming replica of the original 1890 train depot. For families with younger children, this could prove a perfect turnaround point for a light ride. For more committed souls, the route gets increasingly beautiful and less populous the farther out you ride. While the trail does cross a few roads here and there as you pass through small towns along the way, it is almost entirely protected and you won’t find yourself sharing the road with cars. For those with the legs to do it, the entire trail can be ridden in under four hours. The scenery, the company, and the posted speed limit of 15 mph encourage a leisurely pace.
The route is peppered with benches and picnic tables for a quick break to catch your breath and take in the scenery. Pick up some first-class pastries before you start out from the Snohomish Bakery (101 Union Ave, Snohomish, WA) and enjoy them on route when the scenic beauty calls for it. If you begin your ride in Snohomish, you’ll no doubt be craving a burger and a milkshake by the time you roll through Arlington. Nutty’s Junk Yard Grill (6717 204th St NE, Arlington, WA 98223) has you covered on both fronts with a funky, service station vibe to boot. If you’d rather wait to fill up until you’re back in Snohomish, the aptly named Trail’s End Taphouse (511 Maple Ave, Snohomish, WA) will serve you up a delicious American brew-pub style meal with some quality beer to wash away the miles.
Those who still have the will to walk after their ride will find a lot to love with a stroll through historic downtown Snohomish. First Street runs right along the river. The road is flanked by antique shops and restaurants, cafes and curios. Grab a philanthropic pint at Center Public House (2925, 115 Ave A, Snohomish, WA), Washington’s only non-profit pub, or pop into the nearby micro-distillery, SkipRock Distillers (104 Ave C, Snohomish, WA), to taste some award-winning local spirits. When you’re done shopping, head back to your car along the river path and enjoy a walk through history, reading the illustrated plaques describing the storied history of the area.