Hills are Good for the Soul

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Today’s post is written by Brad Chodos-Irvine, a former West Seattle resident who loves riding hills. Today Brad is exploring the hills surrounding London. This post originally ran on his blog The Low Cycle.

Hills. You either love them or hate them. Me, I really like riding hills. Going up, you get the fight against gravity and you “taste the effort”, as the French say. Going down, that effort is repaid as you experience gravity in the other direction. Fun!

West Seattle is a good place to ride hills. In 20 miles you can see some beautiful scenery, climb some great hills, and descend like crazy. Good fun in less than two hours.

Not all of us get to ride in the beautiful hill towns of France or Italy, or even around our local Mt Rainier, but the hills in Seattle aren’t so bad either in a pinch. Just up from Alki there are some great streets that have some serious hills. Here are a few that I like.

Hills - College and Hughes

The intersection of College and Hughes.

College, Hughes, and 52nd streets are fun ones to tackle. It’s steep, has an OK road surface for climbing, and there are usually few automobiles. If you are descending this hill, be careful. The manhole covers are deep, and the road isn’t perfect. Add fall leaves, and a steep road and you can get in trouble.

But you get some good switchbacks, and will have stronger lungs when you are done. I like to do a loop around Alki out past the Fauntleroy Ferry. Again, good views, good scenery, good hills.

Hills - Lincoln Park viewWhen you get to the intersection of Lincoln Park Way SW and Beach Drive SW, you can choose to go up the hill to the left, which is a good climb but the road isn’t good, and there isn’t much room. Instead, go the right and ride through Lincoln Park. You get this view instead and you can ride on the wide gravel path leading past Colman Pool, around the cove, and up a little hill back on to Fauntleroy.

If you continue right on Fauntleroy past the ferry you turn left on SW Wildwood Place, and then right on 45th Avenue SW. If you are getting hungry you can stop for some old-fashioned pastries and a coffee at The Original Bakery. The line is usually 10 deep inside the door – always a little too long on the week-ends when I’ve thought about stopping.  You continue up the hill on 45th and then it becomes Marine View Drive S.W. This is a good hill if you like long hills, and a great hill for doing repeats. It’s probably almost a mile up to the top.

As you head up the hill through the neighborhood where Marine View Drive starts just past SW Roxbury, you’ll notice that sidewalks end and that there is very little space for walking or cycling up this hill. If cars are approaching from behind as you start on this part of the hill, you just have no room. There isn’t usually too much traffic on this hill, but as you can see, there is really very little space to get up this hill if you are walking, and on a bike you have about 1-2 feet to the right of the white line.

Climbing Marine View Drive

This issue is worth following up with a separate post. Why do some neighborhoods not have any room to ride or to walk?

To continue the ride, there is a nice loop on the top of this hill that means you can come back down Marine View Drive.  On the way down pay attention coming around the corner. If a car is turning right up the hill from Roxbury while you are coming down around that corner, it can be a little frightening.

On the loop on the top of the hill, when you come to the stop sign on SW 106th Street, take a right and go for a few blocks to Seola Beach Drive, which is nice little out and back through a pretty ravine to a strange little sewage treatment outlet beach, but it’s a nice hill both ways, with no traffic. (Editor’s note: This loop description is a little confusing. View map.)

Lincoln Park gravel path

Lincoln Park gravel path

On the loop back you can take a nice detour again through Lincoln Park and ride on the gravel paths through the park. There are some little inclines that make for a relaxed alternative to riding along Fauntleroy with ferry traffic. Head back to Alki via Beach Drive SW.

See you in the hills!

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