An Introduction to The Burke Gilman

The mother of all bike and brew paths. The Burke Gilman has more breweries on it than it does people. It's so important that it's going to be the subject of multiple posts, but we've got to start somewhere. This isn't going to be a post about the perfect routes along the trail; I intend to break this trail into manageable and optimized chunks later. It is my favorite path, and I luckily I live right on it. Stumbling along this trail after a night brewery hopping in Ballard, the idea of the Cycling Cicerone was conceived.

The Burke Gilman was created by Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman. These two guys were interested in building a railroad. They've got some history in Seattle and are probably pretty interesting dudes. They weren't known for their love of bikes paths or breweries or anything good, so I don't really care. All they were good for was being rich and building a railroad that took up space for a long enough time after being completely abandoned for someone else to realize that bike paths were a neat thing. So thanks for that, I guess. Good job, rich guys. Other than the interesting factoid of the "missing link," a section of the trail that has been proposed and repeatedly shot down to connect Ballard with Golden Gardens, you know all that you need to know about the trail itself. Now back to the good part.

The Burke Gilman: Crossing the Wasteland

  • Length: Long

  • Difficulty: Easy

Hellbent and a young Cycling Cicerone

Hellbent and a young Cycling Cicerone

The trail is broken down into three main parts: the Ballard Land of Plenty on the western most tip, the Kenmore Oasis on the east, and the tragic Wasteland dotted with sparse breweries that connects the two ends. The whole thing is almost completely flat and stretches for a total of 16 miles, with a couple of extra miles and hills for detours in the Wasteland. It has amble benches and parks along the way for rest breaks, but the seasoned drink-rider will have no problem making it the whole way if they are choosy about the breweries they stop at.

Ballard Land of Plenty

Exploring this area completely won't take you more than 5 blocks away from the trail. It's extremely dense, all ten of its breweries can be hit with a 1.3 mile ride. Ballard almost has too many breweries to name, but for the sake of the completionists out there, I did it. Here is the list from West to East.


  1. Northwest Peaks

  2. Lagunitas Corporate Tasting Room (tragically, this used to be Hilliards. Now it's a Heineken)

  3. Peddler

  4. Reuben's

  5. Maritime Pacific/ Jolly Roger Taproom

  6. Stoup

  7. Lucky Envelope

  8. Populuxe

  9. Bad Jimmy’s

  10. Hale's Ales

There's a lot to unpack there, so it will have to wait. For now, know that if you are looking to try out a lot of places all within (barf) walking distance, Ballard is the place to go.

The Wasteland

The Wasteland is the length that connects Ballard and Kenmore. Calling it a wasteland is a bit unfair, since it does have several breweries along its length. Perhaps "Wastedland" is more appropriate if you don’t pace yourself properly. The trail here is quite nice, going through the University District and up past all the fancy folk that live along the lake. It's the longest stretch at 14 miles which makes it easy to pace your drinking while you practice pacing your riding. It starts with Outlander in Fremont, which just wasn’t quite close enough to Ballard to make the cut to be listed above.  The more lenient you are with your detours off the trail, the more breweries you can find along the way. Ravenna, for instance, is a block from the trail, but is right up the side of a hill.

  1. Outlander

  2. Fremont

  3. Floating Bridge

  4. Ravenna

  5. The Ram in U Village

  6. Elliot Bay

  7. Hellbent

Kenmore's Indulgent Oasis

As you grow weary from your ride, know that you are about to reach Kenmore, a bizarre oasis where 3 breweries all live basically on top of each other. Not sure what happened there in Kenmore, but I suspect they saw a need and overcompensated. This area of town just to happens to be the target of the Cycling Cicerone's upcoming Bike and Brew ride. Turns out if you ride with us, then you can score some sweet discounts, so mount up and ride!

  1. Cairn

  2. Nine Yard

  3. 192 Brewing

Jesus, I never counted them all out like that. Twenty breweries in about as many miles. Maybe now you can see why I like the Burke Gilman so much. Next time, I’ll break down each district into individual routes and tell you which breweries are must hits and which you can skip. If you want to see these breweries with the Cycling Cicerone, we've got some rides coming up, so check out our Facebook page for events.

Did I miss a brewery? Comment below!