Blending a combination of stunning landscapes, rolling pavement and a whopping 120 vineyards, Walla Walla is the perfect basecamp to ride, relax and even race. Home to the annual Tour of Walla Walla, a three-day stage race, the eastern Washington town is a bona fide cycling destination.
Bordered by the mighty Columbia River to the west, the wild and winding Snake to the north and the undeveloped Blue Mountains to the east, the Walla Walla Valley has a treasure trove of outdoor recreation. From the heart of downtown, riders have the pick of rolling farmland, forested river valleys or long mountain climbs. But every good ride starts with calories, so be sure to pop into John’s Wheatland Bakery for one of its famous scones and a cup of coffee to get the pedals turning.
Also read: The hero gravel of Walla Walla
While there are rides leaving town in every direction, the Mill Creek out-and-back and its offshoots deliver an excellent mix of rolling terrain and wide-open vistas. Heading east on Boyer Avenue through the beautiful campus of Whitman College, the route links up with the winding Mill Creek and the trail that shares its name. Just 5 miles in, you turn right onto Mill Creek Road and the parade of vineyards begins. Depending on your priorities, you can go ahead and take a wine break or wait until you’re on your way back to town to turn off for a glass at Walla Walla Vintners. Be sure to plan ahead because the vineyard does require reservations.
From here the gradient slowly rises toward the Oregon border; and the rippling farmland is replaced by shaded valleys and towering evergreen trees. If you’re after a bit more of a challenge, peel off at Blue Creek Road and climb up the steep valley past secluded farms and homesteads. To get to the top, a short section of gravel riding is required so either take your time or come equipped with wider tires.
Once you’ve suitably worn your legs out, do an about face and start your way back toward civilization. Like any good out-and-back, it’s all downhill from here. After the ride, enjoy a glass of vino at the idyllic Tranche winery southeast of the center or rinse off and head for a nice dinner at Hattaway’s on Alder (the Brussel sprouts are on another level) or The Kitchen at Abeja.
If you want more information on great road rides, look no further than the Bicycle Barn. Besides offering any bike maintenance you might need this local bike shop hosts organized group rides on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Serving the Walla Walla Valley since 1985, the Bicycle Barn has an appropriate motto: Live it, love it, ride it.