From its proximity to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and its residents’ top-secret involvement in the Manhattan Project to its otherwise quiet reputation as Washington’s agricultural heartland, the Tri-Cities are used to being off the radar. But Kennewick, Richland and Pasco have quietly begun to develop a reputation as an outdoor recreation destination amidst one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation, thanks to an impressive, loosely connected network of urban trail systems. When cyclists would rather click into bike pedals than bindings, the sun and sagebrush of Tri-Cities singletrack beckon.

State Patrol Trail System

Singletrack-savvy riders should make the “State Patrol” trail system near Kennewick their first cycling stop. Located on private land behind the Washington State Patrol building off Highway 395 on the edge of Kennewick, the State Patrol system boasts some of the best sagebrush singletrack in the state, its deep lateral ravines concealing nearly twenty miles of trail.

Tight, twisty turns and sandy soil will keep bikers’ attention on the trail, but keen-eyed riders may spot badgers, rabbits and hawks among the sagebrush. There’s no “official” trail system, and thus no map, but it’s hard to get lost; all trunk trails eventually connect back to the informal trailhead. Close enough to town for riders to pop in for a post-work ride, but with enough mileage to accommodate an all-day haul, the State Patrol system has a dedicated core of users. Coupled with nearly year-round rideability, this is truly one of the best urban mountain biking systems in Washington.

Although the private landowner has graciously allowed trail construction – bolstered by users’ self-policing – developers have been eyeing this parcel of prime real estate for years, so there’s no guarantee this trail system will remain accessible in the future. Our tip: ride it now and persuade public officials to add the State Patrol property to the TriCities’ enviable open space network.

When cyclists would rather click into bike pedals than bindings, the sun and sagebrush of Tri-Cities singletrack beckon. Photo: Jeff Moser, Creative Commons

When cyclists would rather click into bike pedals than bindings, the sun and sagebrush of Tri-Cities singletrack beckon. Photo: Jeff Moser, via Creative Commons

Badger Mountain Trails

The multi-user trail system on Badger Mountain in Richland anchors the area’s Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network, an ambitious plan to link undeveloped lands in one of the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas. Riders will find plenty of wide-open vistas on the Skyline Trail, the best of the trails open to bikes on Badger. The threemile route features impressive ridgeline riding for minimal climbing effort, and, because the trail traverses a west-facing slope, riders can reliably access Skyline even on the rare occasions that its neighbors are snowed in.

This is one of the Tri-Cities’ most popular trail systems, so prepare to share the trail – nearly two-hundred thousand hikers, bikers, dog-walkers and equestrians use the Skyline Trail each year. But the spectacular ridgeline route is worth the company, and so are the views of the arid Columbia and Yakima River basins, the pristine Hanford Reach and, on a clear day – of which there are many here – distant Mounts Adams and Rainier. The Sagebrush Trail is also open to bikes, adding several more miles of riding potential in the Badger area.

Chamna Natural Preserve

Beginner mountain bikers and foul-weather riders can get easy laps in the saddle at Chamna Natural Preserve on the edge of Richland. Protecting nearly three-hundred acres of riparian habitat along the Yakima River near its confluence with the Columbia, Chamna features 11 miles of mostly doubletrack trails. The riding isn’t technical, but the scenery is sublime, with paths swooping among sagebrush flats and through tunnels of twisting tree trunks and wild rose brambles. Although the freeway skirts the edge of Chamna, the rushing Yakima River – and the rush of rustling leaves as riders navigate the vegetation tunnels – keeps road noise to a minimum.

More Trail Descriptions and Trailhead Directions

Find more detailed route information and trailhead directions for these and other Tri-Cities area trails at this awesome local biking website: www.biketri-cities.com. //