Tacoma Treat: Car-Free Five Mile Drive

Tacoma File Mile Drive Dalco Passage

Tacoma Open Street Event Occurs Every Weekend All Year Long

Seattle has its seasonal Bicycle Sundays, but do you know that Tacomans can enjoy a similar car-free experience on Five Mile Drive in the city’s Point Defiance Park? But wait—it gets better. Five Mile Drive is closed to motor vehicles until 1pm on Saturday AND Sunday. Hold on—there’s more. This open street event happens YEAR ROUND.

I have wanted to experience this car-free route for some time and I spontaneously went for it on a recent Saturday morning. My journey to Tacoma was car-free as well, but I wasn’t interested in biking the distance to Tacoma. I left my residence in West Seattle in time to catch the 8:35 Fauntleroy ferry to Vashon Island.

vashon marketVashon is a rural oasis in Pugetopolis. As I pedaled up the big hill to the village, my senses were teased by nature: the smell of salty air, the melody of thrushes and the croaking of frogs, and the rainbow of spring colors in the trees and flowers.

The village of Vashon was bustling when I arrived. A couple of yard sales were underway and farmers were busy setting up their stands for the Saturday market. Islanders were arriving at The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie for their morning fix of caffeine.

I pedaled onward to the little shoreline community of Burton, then up and over another hill to the Tahlequah ferry terminal. I arrived just in time to roll on this ferry for its 15 minute sailing to Point Defiance in Tacoma.

???????????????????????????????Point Defiance Park is Tacoma’s crown jewel of public spaces. Granted to the city in 1888 by President Grover Cleveland, the park is an interesting mix of natural areas, historic buildings and developed recreation sites. Point Defiance is home to the zoo and aquarium, old growth trees, public gardens, and more.

The views begin as soon as you roll off the ferry. I immediately took a detour to pedal the shoreline promenade to Owen Beach and back, then meandered my way through the park until I found Five Mile Drive. Metro Parks Tacoma has a downloadable map of Point Defiance Park that is helpful in guiding you directly to Five Mile Drive and lists the viewpoints and points of interest you will encounter on the route.

???????????????????????????????I wasn’t alone on Five Mile Drive. I saw plenty of bicycle riders, joggers and families savoring the car-free atmosphere of this route. No one seemed to be in a hurry on this lovely Saturday morning. I often met the same folks at various viewpoints taking in vistas of Vashon Island, Dalco Passage and the Narrows. I pedaled through old growth trees, along high bluffs overlooking the water, and past the preserved structures from Fort Nisqually.

As I neared the Pearl Street park entrance, I stopped an approaching cyclist and asked him where the new Ruston Trail connection was. He said he couldn’t explain it to me, but he could show me. We biked through a parking lot to the start of an unmarked trail. My guide assured me that this path would lead me down to the waterfront and connect to the older segment of trail that follows Ruston Way. He was right!

???????????????????????????????I followed the new trail segment to its junction with Ruston Way, then returned back to Point Defiance and the ferry for my return home. I had other things to do that day, but I intend to make this trip again and allow for more time to explore Tacoma!

Metro Parks Tacoma has a pilot program underway through October 31, 2014 that closes the outer loop of Five Mile Drive to motor vehicle traffic until 10 am Monday thru Friday. You can share your input about the pilot program through their online survey.

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