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Great bike rides around the South Sound

Where to pedal for great views in the area

Olympia cyclist Trudes Tango gets out of the city on her bike to soak in rural scenery and enjoy riding on low-traffic roads. Photo credit: Duncan Green

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Come rain or hail or dark of night, Duncan Green can be spotted riding his bike through the streets of Olympia.

As the coordinator of Intercity Transit's Bicycle Commuter Contest, Green promotes bicycling as transportation. But riding a bike is also one of his favorite recreational activities. He favors rides on rural roads, where traffic is light and scenery is appealing.

There are lots of places for great bike rides in the South Sound. Here are five that Green and other avid cyclists recommend:

Anderson Island

The island, known for its beautiful scenery, good bird watching and low traffic, is a great day trip for cyclists (and non-cyclists, for that matter).

The journey begins with a short ferry ride from Steilacoom. Island highlights include Lowell Johnson Park, also known as the Ol' Swimming Hole. Besides swimming in Lake Florence, the park offers pretty picnic spots, volleyball courts and restrooms.

Much of the saltwater shoreline is private property, but there is a public beach in Andy's Marine Park on Clausen Road. It doesn't take a triathlete to bike the whole island, either: It's just 7.75 square miles.

Chehalis Western Trail

At 22 miles, the trail is the South Sound's longest bike path, created along what was once the right of way for the Chehalis Western Railroad. It's a safe and comfortable place to ride and passes through all kinds of environments, offering access to the Deschutes River, the Puget Sound, Chambers Lake, wetlands, forests, farms, prairies and more.

The trail begins at Woodard Bay, which is a great place to see kingfishers, harbor seals, herons and more wildlife. It's also home to a historic logger's bunkhouse and heads south to link with the Yelm-Tenino Trail (more on that later).

The trail passes by the Monarch Sculpture Garden, 8431 Waldrick Road SE in Olympia. The entrance from trail to garden is marked by an arch made out of bicycle parts created by Myrna Orsini, the garden's director. The garden offers 108 sculptures accessible year round during daylight hours; among them are a giant Monarch butterfly and a huge hand holding 15-foot-long pickup sticks.

Get trail details at

Northeast Olympia

The rural countryside northeast of Olympia is Green's personal favorite place to ride, and it offers suitable options for short trips as well as longer excursions.

For a casual two-hour ride, he suggests starting in downtown Olympia and riding out East Bay Drive past Priest Point Park, going right on Ames, left on Gull Harbor and right on 30th, then heading to Woodard Bay on the Chehalis Western Trail.

At Woodard Bay, there's a bike rack where you can leave your bike if you want to walk out to the park's waterfront picnic area.

To make it a loop, you can return via Woodard Bay Road, 66th and Boston Harbor.

For the more ambitious cyclist, Green suggests heading further north to Fishtrap Loop, which offers attractive scenery with a nice mixture of hills and level ground.

Point Defiance Park

The park's Five-Mile Drive is a great place to ride. The drive's outer loop is closed to motor vehicles until 1 p.m. on weekends and until 10 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, making it a safe and tranquil spot to ride.

The trail offers views of Vashon Island, Gig Harbor, the Narrows and more, as well as access to the park's botanical gardens and the zoo. There are plenty of public restrooms along the way.

For a longer ride, you can begin in the museum district and head up Pacific Avenue through the Stadium District to Ruston Way.

Yelm-Tenino Trail

This 14.5-mile trail, a former railroad line, connects Yelm, Rainier and Tenino. It joins with the southern end of the Chehalis Western Trail to the southwest of Rainier. The trail begins at Yelm City Hall, goes near Rainier's Wilkowski Park and ends at Tenino City Park.

If you begin in Yelm, you can reward yourself at the end of the ride with a swim in the Tenino Quarry Pool, open July through September. This is not your average swimming pool. It's in a former rock quarry with a waterfall. Be prepared, though: The water is very cold, typically about 57 degrees.

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