Mercer Island, the suburb nestled between Seattle and Bellevue, may have the reputation as being an isle reserved for the wealthy (as evidenced its multimillion-dollar homes along the waterfront). But the 16.5-mile loop around Mercer Island’s perimeter is open to everyone: a moderately difficult, impressively scenic route that can be enjoyed by cyclists of all levels.
What Makes It Great
It’s easily accessible from the city and offers great views of Lake Washington, Bellevue, and Seattle. Plus, the loop is one of the few low-traffic roads in the area and almost all of it is free from stop signs or lights, so you’ll be able to just go, go, go.
To do the loop, either drive to the island or bike there via the I-90 (for more on the joys of pedaling over the highway’s famous floating bridge, see RootsRated’s post on the I-90 Trail). Once on Mercer Island, get on Mercer Way and take it all around the island’s perimeter, except for a brief section in the northeast corner where Mercer Way peters out and you’ll have to take smaller streets. Going clockwise, the best way to do this section is to take Mercer Way until it turns into SE 22nd Way, jaunt right on 78th Ave. SE, then left on SE 24th St., then right on 84th Ave SE, which turns back into Mercer Way (just reverse all directions if going the other way around).
The journey starts out on a bike path on the north side (the I-90 trail, which continues on into Bellevue), and then becomes “sharrows” (shared car-bike lanes) the rest of the way. But don’t worry, everyone here subscribes to the islands way of life: resident motorists generally drive nice and slow. Still, in some portions the road becomes quite narrow and it is also shared with pedestrians. Keep an eye out and, when possible, ride single file on a paved shoulder.
Now, which direction to go? Riding the loop counter-clockwise will give the best views of the Lake Washington, while heading clockwise will be the easier ride with gentler, more gradual ascents. But, either way, you’ll have a decent share of lavish views, and there are just enough hills to keep it interesting without forcing you to cry for mercy. The two biggest hill climbs are on the west side of the island.
And don’t forget to pack a lunch – Clark Beach or Luther Burbank Park make for wonderful picnic spots. Because we all know the real reason why anyone goes for a ride: the treats that come afterward.
Who is Going to Love It
Both experienced cyclists will love it for an everyday training ride, and newer riders who are looking for a modestly ambitious goal. Plus, anyone who likes to ogle fancy houses – there are plenty of them lined up against Lake Washington.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The friendly Veloce Velo bike shop on 77th Ave. offers free parking for cyclists while they bike the loop – they’ll also welcome you to use their restrooms, get information, and fill water bottles.