by Stephanie Dickson
Are you looking for an interesting place where your family can enjoy a safe bike ride? The gravel-surfaced Arlington Airport Trail offers a six-mile loop perfect for families.
The trail winds through woods, open fields, industrial areas, and along the airport with great views of a variety of aircraft. There are many different locations to park and access the trail. A good place to begin/end is on the East side of the airport at Quake Field, located at the intersection of 59th Avenue and 188th Street. Beginning here allows access to the only water and bathrooms available along the trail.
When beginning at Quake Field and heading north, the road is soon left behind as the trail turns westerly toward the north end of the runway. The city is currently using this area as a gravel pit, leaving this portion of the trail with the only significant hills. The last and longest hill brings you to the northeast corner of the runway and is a good place to stop and rest.
It’s a scenic location, with the runway stretching away to the south and planes taking off overhead. On a clear day, Mount Rainer and Mount Pilchuck are visible. The only detraction from the scenic value of the area are the surpluss dumptsters the city has chosen to store near here. The trail passes through a small wooded area before drawing even with the Ultralight Airport, the site of the Experiemental Airplane Association annual Fly In. Ultralight pilots can frequently be seen practicing their take offs and landings. There is a street crossing here but it cars are infrequent.
Loose gravel makes the next area a bit tough going but save some energy, at the end of the gravel is the last set of hills. There is a parking area at the bottom of the hill along 188th Street/Pecnik Road.
The trail branches into two paths, both converge at the top of the hill. The trail then winds through a lovely wooded area as it comes to the west side of the airport. Once here, there is a choice of three routes. Continuing on in a straight line will bring you to 172nd where the trail is muddy and pot holed until the stop light at John Henken RV. Veering to the left when the trail forks allows you to ride on the pavement, which ends at the stop light near the RV lot. Our favorite route is to begin by going to the left and take the first right you see, which will put you back on a wooded trail. When you approach the Stillaguamish Athletic Club, the trail makes a sharp turn to the left and borders a grassy field often used by RC airplane enthusiasts who can be fun to watch.
The noisiest portion of the trail comes next, hugged up against the south boundary fence of the airport with busy 172nd nearby. It can be fun to stop half way down and watch the airplanes come in for landings seemingly near enough to touch. As the trail turns and heads north, there is a one of a kind mailbox to the east our kids like to admire.
In our years of circling the airport with kids of various ages and abilities, we’ve learned a few things that make the experience more enjoyable. When riding with young children, allow plenty of time to get around the trail, walkers may pass you. Come up with a plan for breaks, every 15 minutes works well for us. Bringing snacks and water for the rest breaks is essential for boosting morale. The gravel trail is not training-wheel friendly. If you have small children riding in a bike trailer, attach the trailer to the strongest rider. Bring a first aid kit for scrapes. If you are interested in geocaching (see www.geocaching.com for more details), there are several caches hidden along the trail.
The airport trail is a great family ride. The mostly level trail has plenty of places to relax in the grass and enjoy the outdoors. Kids of all ages enjoy watching the R/C airplanes, ultralights, and small aircraft. Get out and enjoy this fun trail.
Stephanie Dickson has lived in the Arlington area for over 25 years and is the mother of six children. She enjoys exploring the area to find family friendly recreation.