Spring ‘Petaling’ to the Skagit Valley Tulip Fields
Tour time: allow 4 hours
Total distance: 38.9 miles
Total elevation gain: 50 feet
Driving directions: Take I-5 to Mt. Vernon, depart at Exit 226, Kincaid St./Hwy. 536. Left at stoplight onto Kincaid. Cross railroad tracks, then right onto S. ThirdSt. Road curves left and turns into Division St. Continue two blocks, cross bridge, then first left onto N. Front St. into Edgewater Park.
Here’s a tour for those longing for the open road – the flat, open road. It’s 35 miles of farm roads, punctuated by a visit to a small tourist town. Former Midwestern farm kids will feel at home, and city dwellers will definitely know they’re not in urbanity any more.
Park at the convenient Edgewater Park, just across the river from downtown Mount Vernon. It’s free, easy to find, and very accessible to I-5. Bike across the rusty bridge and cycle through the town’s homey business district, and in a few minutes you’re south of town, riding along a dike that protects the residences from the annual rising of the Skagit River.
As you ride south, the Cascades loom to the east. A quick right over the bridge at Conway puts you on Fir Island, actually a riverine delta where the fertile sponginess of the soil is evident in the abundant rows of crops. Ride the other side of the dike on Skagit City Road to circumnavigate the northern edges of the island. This is the most secluded, verdant segment of the ride. Look for many varieties of birds, keeping an eye open for hawks and eagles that are known to soar the thermals and perch in the trees along the river.
Exit the island via a busy bridge with no shoulder on Best Road. Coast down off the short bridge into the waiting arms of the Rexville Grocery, with its jaunty promise of “Foods Galore.” Adjacent to this well-stocked grocery/deli is the Rexville Farmer’s Market, bursting every Saturday in the summer with local vegetables, baked goods, smoked fish and other delicacies.
Next stop is LaConner, a sophisticated small tourist town. Head west into town on Chilberg Road, idling alongside the inevitable tourist traffic past the town’s many curio shops and antique stores. Highlights include the glass and sculpture of the Museum of Northwest Art on South First Street. There are plenty of places for a coffee or snack stop.
Refreshed and feeling fully like a tourist, head toward the tulip fields. Take care to note intersection signs that warn “crossing traffic does not stop.” Nor does it slow down. But most of the busy roads in this area have wide, clean shoulders, so head north with confidence. Along the way you’ll pass Christianson Nursery and, in season, plenty of colorful tulip fields. But the real tulip show is yet to come, at Tulip Town, one of the area’s two major show gardens. As you wheel by the long lines of cars inching toward the paid parking, you’ll feel quite superior and free.
After a visit, shake off the tulip-color dizziness and get back on the road heading south. For comparison, stop at Roosengaarde, the other tulip haven. This one boasts a larger windmill and outdoor show gardens with swaths of tulips in every color, stripe and crinkle style. (Note: both tulip farms charge a small entrance fee.) Wheel out of there, again heading south, making the first left to head back to Mount Vernon. At the edge of the valley, ride north along the dike once again to head back to Edgewater Park.
If you’d like a quicker tour of the tulips, skip the Fir Island portion of the ride and head straight west on McLean Road from the start. You can easily navigate the grid of roads and follow your own path through this wide-open country, simply meeting up with a familiar road should you stray.
Skagit Flats has much to offer beyond tulips. Although the spring flowers are the most colorful example of Northwest farming, it’s only a part of Skagit Valley agriculture. Farmers post signs along the roads listing their crops, from wheat to berries to seed crop for spinach, beets and cabbage. Riding along the fields provides a connection with those farms and our amazing abundance of healthy food. That’s why on this tour, perhaps more than any other, slow your pedaling a bit when you see a farmer out working in the fields and raise a hand in appreciation. You most certainly will get a friendly wave in return.
0.0 Right out of parking lot onto N. Front Street.
0.1 Right onto sidewalk on Division St. to cross the bridge into downtown Mount Vernon.
0.3 Right onto S. 1st St., which becomes Cleveland St.
1.0 Right onto Hazel.
1.4 Hazel curves left and becomes Britt Road.
3.7 Left onto Dike Road as Britt Road ends.
7.7 Right onto Fir Island Road; cross over the bridge onto Fir Island.
8.0 Right onto Skagit City Road immediately after the bridge. It becomes Dry Slough Road.
13.2 At stop sign, cross Moore Road to continue south on Dry Slough Road.
14.5 Right onto Polson Road.
16.1 Left onto Moore Road.
17.0 Right onto Best Road, cross over bridge to leave Fir Island. Caution: no bike lane or shoulder on bridge.
17.6 Arrive at Rexville Grocery.
18.0 Left onto Dodge Valley Road. Caution: busy stretch of road, traffic can be fast.
18.9 Left at the Y at Valentine Road.
21.4 Left onto Chilberg Road. Caution: highway speeds; cross traffic does not stop.
23.1 Continue west through roundabout into LaConner.
23.6 Arrive at LaConner town center. Retrace route to depart LaConner.
24.1 Continue east at roundabout on Chilberg Road.
26.2 Left onto Best Road.
30.3 Right onto Young Road.
31.4 Merge onto S.R. 536 at the stop sign, then turn right onto Bradshaw Road. Caution: busy highway, traffic can be fast.
31.7 Arrive at Tulip Town display gardens.
32.9 Left onto McLean Road.
33.9 Right onto Beaver Marsh Road.
34.5 Arrive at Roozengaarde tulip display gardens.
34.9 Left onto Jungquist Road.
36.4 Left onto Penn Road.
37.8 Right onto McLean Road.
38.7 Left onto Wall St.
38.8 Right onto Division St. at the light.
38.9 Right onto N. Front St. to return to parking and end tour.