Ride Guide: Ballard Locks & Ship Canal Tour

montlake bike ride loop

So many of the best Seattle bike routes follow the water. In the last Ride Guide, we traced a loop around Lake Union, stopping at favorite local parks, restaurants, and shops from Montlake to Fremont to South Lake Union and beyond.

The ride to and from the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, otherwise known as the Ballard Locks, is a mostly flat 14-mile loop featuring several stretches of bike trails, and requires some route-finding as the trail enters the Ballard neighborhood. Along the way, you’ll ride on the banks of the Fremont Cut, have access to some of the city’s best cafes, and will enjoy views of passing ships.

Important note: Make sure to walk your bike through the Locks and adjacent park to avoid a strictly enforced fine!

Got your bike and your gear? It’s time to ride west toward bayside Ballard!

1. Begin at Montlake Bicycle Shop and travel east on Lynn St. toward 25th Ave E, where you’ll turn left.

2. Continue along 25th Ave E, then turn left at E University Blvd.

3. Follow E University Blvd for two blocks before turning right to head north along 24th Ave E.

4. Continue going north along 24th Ave E. After passing over 520, you will see Canal Reserve park just to your left.

5. Continuing north, turn left once you reach E Hamlin St.

6. Follow E Hamlin St going west until you reach Montlake Blvd, where you will turn right to go north towards the Montlake Bridge. Be sure to enjoy the view while you cross.

7. Continue along Montlake Blvd going north until it splits with NE Pacific Street. Merge with the nearby Burke Gilman Trail, as NE Pacific St can get especially busy with traffic.

8. Turn right once you reach University Way, then take a left to hop onto the Burke Gilman Trail. This will take you through the U-District and towards Fremont, passing under University Bridge just next to “The Wall of Death” public art installation.

9. Continue on west along Burke Gilman Trail. After The Wall of Death, you’ll have NE 40th St to your right, with Peace Park just beyond it to the north.

10. Continue following the trail until it ends at the corner of NW 45th St and 11th Ave NW. You will continue west along NW 45th St. Just before you reach this point, you will pass by the Burke-Gilman Trail Orchard in the U-District, and SteamWorks Espresso in Fremont in case you want a quick pit stop and a cup of coffee. For this entire stretch you’ll have the Fremont Cut and Salmon Bay just to your left.

11. Continuing west, NW 45th St will become Shilshole Ave NW. Use the footpath just to the right of the street to go under the 15th Ave NW overpass.

12. Keep on Shilshole Ave NW until you come to NW Market St. Here you will take a left to continue west. This will take you through the southern tip of Old Ballard. To the right, after 26th Ave NW, you’ll find Firehouse Coffee, and past 28th Ave NW to the left you will see Kiss Cafe and Portage Bay Cafe.

13. Turn left onto NW 54th St when Market splits. This will be the midway point for the ride.

14. Turn left on 30th Ave NW. At the end of the road you will see a path through Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden that will take you to the Ballard Locks.

15. Cross Salmon Bay over the Ballard Locks, and keep an eye out for a glimpse of any ships coming to dock. On the other side of the bay you’ll come to Commodore Park.

16. In Commodore Park, take the first right just by the water. Watch for the first left to take after this. Go past where your trail merges with another coming from the south west, and take the next right onto W. Commodore Way.

17. Turn right onto W. Commodore Way, followed by an immediate right onto 33rd Ave W. This will take you just east of Discovery Park.

18. Continue on 33rd Ave W, and take a slight left to begin going south on Gilman Ave W. This will have you passing Kiwanis Memorial Preserve Park.

19. Gilman Ave W turns into 32nd Ave W. Follow it until you can turn left on W Government Way. This soon turns back into Gilman Ave W.

20. Continue along Gilman Ave W. until you can turn left onto W Emerson Pl. Once you pass 22nd Ave W to the left, keep an eye out for the Emerson Street Bike Trail / S. Ship Canal Trail. Once you spot it, hop on. This will take you all the way up to and through the northern tip of Queen Anne and where it meets with Fremont where you can once again see Fremont Cut to the left.

21. Turn right from the trail onto Westlake Ave N. You’ll have the Aurora Bridge in sight just to your east.

22. Continue south on Westlake Ave N. and get on the bike trail all the way to the south end of Lake Union.

23. Continue north on Fairview to Roanoke, then turn right and up the hill, crossing the I-5 overpass and passing the Roanoke fire station. Roanoke will then become Del Mar Dr. E.

24. Ride on for another couple of blocks until you cross over SR-520, then take
your second right up into Interlaken Park on E. Interlake Blvd. Stay on that road as it winds
through the park and takes you to 24 th Ave E.

25. Rather than crossing 24th Ave E., go left and ride one block down the sidewalk to get on Boyer Ave E. Go left for one block, then turn right on 23 Ave E.

26. Ride north for another block. As 24th veers a little to the left, stay straight and you will
be heading down into the alley between 23rd and 24th. Enjoy the short stretch of cobblestone remnants and continue north until the alley ends at E. Lynn St.

27. Go right down the steep hill and in 50 feet Montlake Bicycle Shop will be on your right.