Road Biking: Vashon Island

Vashon Island is a fun road bike ride. It’s rural and scenic, and hilly making a great workout. Here you will find suggestions to make this ride a smooth experience.

Ride Overview

The full ride is about 43 miles with 3900′ of climbing. The hills are steep and there’s lots of them, making it feel more like a 50-60 mile ride. Here is a GPX of the full route. Here is a picture:

On the route you can see 2 black dots. These are decision points to change the ride.

Decision point 1: about mile 13; whether to ride down to the Tahlequah ferry terminal at the S tip of Vashon Island. This is an out-and-back 3.7 mile round trip descending 350′ then back up.

Decision point 2: about mile 22; whether to ride the Maury Island loop. This is 11 miles with about 1100′ of climb. It has scenic sections, and the toughest climbs on the route.

Getting There (and Back!)

From Seattle, the easiest way to get to Vashon is the WA state ferry. Here’s the schedule. It’s different on weekends & weekdays. You’ll depart from and return to Fauntleroy. As of Oct 2020, the fare is $7 for a walk-on with a bike and is paid only westbound. Masks are required due to COVID. As you approach the Fauntleroy ferry terminal, if you are on the walkway, then walk (don’t ride) your bike. If you want to ride your bike, take the car lanes. If your forget this, the ferry workers will chide you when you arrive.

Parking: you can park a car at Lincoln Park parking lot 1. This is about 1/4 mile up the street from the ferry terminal. There are no fees for parking. From there, ride down to the ferry terminal to walk onto the ferry.

Ride Notes

Vashon’s pavement is often rough. Autumn leaves fall onto the road, get rained on and decompose, making the corners slippery. And some of the downhills are steep. So take extra care!

Most Vashon roads don’t have bike lanes, but most cars drive slow. It’s similar to biking the San Juan Islands.

For typical riders in decent physical condition, due to road conditions & hills, plan on lowish average speeds around 14 mph which makes 3 hours of riding. Bring food & water accordingly. About halfway through the ride there’s a little town with a coffee shop, hotel, and a deli called Harbor Mercantile, where you can get food & water.

Ride Scenario

Here’s a typical scenario for a Vashon ride in Autumn 2020:

  • Meet @ 7:40am @ Lincoln Park
  • Park, prep, ride to Ferry
  • Pay fare & walk onto 8:15am ferry
  • Disembark onĀ  Vashon around 8:45am
  • Bike: 4 hours (full route, with extra time to eat or fix a flat)
  • Walk onto return ferry: 12:40 or 13:30
  • Ride back to Lincoln Park