Tolt MacDonald

Overnight to Tolt-MacDonald Campground

  • May 23-24, 2015
  • 76 miles round trip

It was Memorial Day weekend. Holiday weekend trips usually require advanced planning and reservations. That’s when bike camping is so satisfying! I’ve heard that Tolt-MacDonald is a good biking destination for first-time bike campers. I really enjoyed the campground and most of the route. But portions of the route were on busy roads and there was a killer hill. I wonder if I didn’t go the preferred way. I would definitely make this trip again, and I’d say it’s good for experienced bikers looking to try a camping trip, but probably not good for campers looking for a first time bike-camping trip because of the traffic and terrain.

Saturday morning it was drizzling, and we waited all morning to decide if we would even make the trip. Here’s John obsessing over the forecast.


Ultimately, we decided it was worth the risk and off we went. The majority of this ride was on separated regional trails through the Seattle area. The Burke-Gilman Trail met the Sammamish River Trail. One thing I really regret about this trip is that I did not do enough studying of how the trails would connect to the roads leading to the campground. Lucky for me, John was on top of it, but I really had no idea what the route was through unfamiliar Redmond.


Burke-Gilman Trail through Lake Forest Park


Sammamish River Trail in Bothell

Between the trail end and the start of SR 202, the Redmond Whole Foods made a great pit stop. There was good food, restrooms, and a patio area to take a rest.DSCN0343

SR 202 was a bit trafficky for my taste. There were a lot more cars than I was expecting, and the shoulder was quite small. It didn’t exactly help that we departed a few hours late because of the weather. We always have the goal of leaving earlier, avoiding Saturday afternoon/evening traffic, and playing more games and stuff at the campground, but something always seems to come up.

Approaching Carnation, there was a cool bridge over the Tolt River. DSCN0347

But then there was an even cooler bridge at the campground!DSCN0348

There were campsites on each side of the river. All the car and hookup spots were on the east side, and the walk-in sites required going over this cool suspension bridge. There are wheelbarrows available to haul your stuff (assuming you didn’t have a loaded up bike.)


There were some interesting “3-sided cabins”, but the camp host recommended that the sites at the end of the half-mile gravel road would be quieter. He also offered to deliver a bundle of firewood.DSCN0368

It was great advice. The campsite was far from all the other guests, and it was nice and secluded. To me, secluded means quite, but it also means I can change my clothes wherever I want. If all you’ve got is a bike and a little backpacking tent, trying to change in and out of lycra in the cramped space is much less appealing than doing it out in the open air. I’ve had plenty of close calls changing at my campsite, but like I said, it’s usually worth the risk.DSCN0377

Each site had its own pristine trash can, which was nice but odd. There were bathrooms and faucets in the main parts of the campground, but not down the remote gravel road. Make sure you have enough water bottles to fill up for the night.DSCN0371

Biggest campground ever! Plenty of room for non-motorized overflow.DSCN0360

This weekend’s challenge was to have self-supported meals. Ok, we did stop at Whole Foods for a snack, but we came prepared with dinner and breakfast. In the past we have been stopping at stores on the way, but we have started to realize that it is easier to pack what we can, and just use the store for things like cold beverages.DSCN0385DSCN0382DSCN0386

When we have time, we like to take our coffee cups and explore the campground in the morning. It’s a peaceful way to start the day, and it gives us a little warm up and stretch before the bike ride. This particular morning we took a short walk to the Snoqualmie River.

DSCN0391 DSCN0394

I loved this trip! The ride was really nice. The trails were low stress and allow you to keep moving without stoplights or checking directions. The campground was the nicest one I’ve been to in Washington! When I got home I checked to see if there were other King County campgrounds, but it appears this is the only one. That’s too bad. The traffic was tough in some parts. The hill on Tolt Hill Rd was really tough. It is not a beginner-level road. You could get off and walk if you needed, but I would practice some climbing before this trip.

What I wish I brought / what I didn’t need: The luxury item for this trip was a camp chair. How fancy! I strapped the Lucky Bum to the top of my panniers. The weight was not distributed evenly and it felt a bit top-heavy, but I got used to it. I don’t regret bringing the chair. But I soon realized that one chair for two people is not that useful. I could either sit by myself next to the campfire or move the chair next to where John was sitting at the picnic table. From now on, two chairs or zero chairs are the only options.

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