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Outdoor adventures, mostly gravel rides, but not always

Vashon & Maury Islands

A cafe ride of rolling hills, quiet roads, and well-maintained trails on two island of Puget Sound

By the Numbers

Distance
52 miles
Elevation
4800 feet
Moving Time
3h30m
Nutrition
A great coffee stand in Burton and the town of Vashon provide everything you’ll need
Logistics
By far the best option is riding on from either the Southworth or Fauntleroy
External

Blue skies and warming temperatures promised ideal riding conditions so I chose to venture to Vashon Island to tour the farms, coffee stands, and bakeries. I started with a route from the Seattle International Randonneurs, 2020 WTS #9: Vashon Island, and modified it slightly to add some gravel and a trip through Dockton Forest, both of which turned out to be great additions to the route.

Many sheep farms line the island
Many sheep farms line the island

Arriving from Southworth, it’s a steep climb up from the ferry terminal before leaving Vashon Highway for the significantly quieter Westside Highway. As the name suggests it’s a main artery along the west side of the island with many side streets, almost all declared private, heading to the water. The views down the side road towards the Olympics are terrific and several farms dot the path. Overall, the cycling was enjoyable but the west side was lacking the charm of Vashon I had read so much about in preparing for the trip.

Burton Coffee Stand
Burton Coffee Stand
Strawberry danish
Strawberry danish

Fortunately I arrived at Burton and everything I had read about Vashon came to be. The Burton Coffee Stand lived up to its reputation for an extremely friendly environment, especially welcoming to visitors. I engaged a discussion on the merits of living on island in Puget Sound, discussed the arrival of spring, the quality of the strawberry danish (so good!), and overhead the genesis story of the Big Ol' Vashon Tree Love Society.

Quartermaster Marina
Quartermaster Marina
Dying ship
Dying ship

From the excellent coffee stand it was a quick spin around the community of Burton, a stop at the local boathouse to see a regatta commence, and a tour of a neighborhood of old homes and a long-capsized ship.

Gravel road leading to connector trails to Dockton Forest
Gravel road leading to connector trails to Dockton Forest
Dockton Forest trail system
Dockton Forest trail system
Hitting dirt!
Hitting dirt!

The highlight of the ride had to be Maury Island and the wonderful Dockton Forest. In planning my route modifications I chose to stitch together a few gravel roads and trails on the way to Point Robinson. This mostly worked; one of the roads the map shows going through looked more like a driveway than a road so I chose to skip it but in hindsight it was probably rideable. The trails through Dockton Forest, both the gravel and the dirt trails, were excellent and super well maintained. I could have ridden those trails all day.

Switchback down to the water from Point Robinson
Switchback down to the water from Point Robinson

But onwards to the lighthouse went I. The roads on Maury Island are wonderfully twisting and hilly and the lead up to the lighthouse was no exception. I opted to skip the lighthouse visit this time as there wasn’t a great way to down to it not involving a bunch of people and easy access for my bike. Most importantly I was hungry again and wanted lunch.

Before I leaving Maury Island there’s a wonderful little switchback to the water which would be a joy to ascend.

Maybe now is the time to point out the road surfaces. Apparently I’m spoiled on the peninsula and didn’t fully realize it because the roads on both Vashon and Maury were nothing like the wonderful roads I’m used to riding. They were pretty rough in places for a city road and I was happy to have my Barlow Pass tires to soften the ride.

Vashon Island Baking Co.
Vashon Island Baking Co.
Lovely gravel
Lovely gravel

Vashon / Uptown was in stark contrast to the rest of my morning. I had had enjoyed the roads to myself for the majority of the day to now share them with loads of cars and people. Snapdragon had been highly recommended to me by another cyclist on the ferry ride over but the line was forever so I opted for the less crowded Vashon Island Baking Co. where I enjoyed a spinach & feta croissant, cookie, and another espresso.

After finishing my meal it was only a few miles back to the ferry along some scenic backroads and the long descent to the ferry dock.

Frek!
Frek!

Waiting for the ferry a guy road up on a rando bike and while he went inside the ferry terminal I stole a look at his bike, it was Frek! I had read about this bike in BQ magazine and ended chatting with Steve for 20 minutes or so, quite the treat. He shared a route off 204th street which I’ll explore next time I come over.

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