Touring Tacoma on the Water Flume Line Trail

  • The 2.5-mile Water Flume Line Trail stretches from 40th St to 80th in South Tacoma, passing many hidden gems along the way.
  • Take a ride on the trail with South Tacoma resident Sara Kiesler to discover hiking trails, public playgrounds, and food choices galore.
Sara Kiesler

Sara Kiesler

Picture of Water Flume Line Trail at the cemetery

Did you know there’s a fully separated trail in Tacoma that you can bike to visit restaurants as diverse as a Cuban goth bar, a Mexican vegan bakery, and an LGBTQ-owned bagel shop? It’s called the Water Flume Line Trail, and it allows you to bike to two splash pads, three public playgrounds, and multiple hiking trails, among other wonders.

The Water Flume Line Trail is a hidden gem in South Tacoma spanning 2.5 miles from 40th to 80th streets parallel to South Tacoma Way. The trail is central to the history of Tacoma biking. Over 100 years ago, the trail allowed people on bikes to travel from South Tacoma to the foothills of Mt. Rainier and boasted the “longest, highest, and oldest bike bridge.”

Flume Line Trail map

Today, its short span might fool you into thinking it’s simply a protected local route for off-street pedestrian strolls and limited bike trips. However, it connects to a number of fun places worth exploring if you’re visiting the City of Destiny, or live here and don’t often visit the trail. 

Starting from the north via the 40th Street on-ramp:

At the intersection of South Tacoma Way and 40th Street, the trail begins. To the west, you will see the former home of Browne Flowers, now Emerald City Orchrids with stunning floral displays to explore. 


To the east is the entrance to Tacoma’s cemetery, which offers great walking views of landscaping, flowers, and a wide variety of local trees (photo at the top of this blog).

50th Street:

Head south on the trail past the future renovation site of the Asian Pacific Cultural Center and turn right just before South Park to the trail exit to 50th Street.

From there, you can bike down 50th to visit coffee stand “Cheers” or head further down 50th to Washington Street, turn left, and visit “Pastelos Finos del Angel” a Mexican vegan bakery with a delightful owner, Miguel Angel Hernandez, and even tastier pies and cakes. Hernandez does have some dairy and egg baked goods, too, but after a major health renaissance from going plant-based, most of his donuts, cookies, cakes, and French pastries are vegan.

Vegan pastries at Pastelos finos del Angel

Get back on the trail and keep heading north. After passing South Park with its splash pad, playground, and basketball court, bike another four blocks past gorgeous Garry oaks and turn right on 54th Street. 

54th Street and South Tacoma Way: 54th includes painted bike lanes leading from the trail down to Washington Street. I have a library book to drop off at the South Tacoma library, so my first stop is a left turn off 54th onto Warner Street. There are no bike lanes here, sadly, but the street is relatively quiet.

Orson Scott Card's Gate Thief, a bike, and a South Tacoma library drop off

From there, you can zip down the sidewalk on 56th Street to access dozens of unique small businesses on South Tacoma Way. My favorites are:

  • The Mule Tavern, a dive bar that makes its own house cocktail mixes for old fashioneds and, fittingly, ginger beer-based mule drinks;
  • Fernseed offers a lot of fun plant babies and modern clay pots; 
  • The Church Cantina is a Cuban goth bar where it’s Halloween year-round and food options include a fan-favorite Krunchwrap;
  • Pho V&V is a Vietnamese restaurant known for playing jazz music 24/7; 
  • and Howdy Bagel is an LGBTQ-owned bagel shop emblazoned with the motto “y’all means all”.
Howdy Bagel storefront

To get back on the trail, I always take 54th Street back up instead of 56th because the traffic on 56th is dirty and fast. Thankfully, once you are back on the trail, there is a great stoplight at 56th so bikes and pedestrians can cross.

62nd Street:  

Head down the trail past Edison Elementary School to 62nd Street. Turn east and head down the road until it curves south and runs into Wapato Hills Park. The park has no bike parking, but if you don’t mind locking your bike to a tree, there are so many things to do. The park has a splash pad, playground, picnic spots, a basketball court, a combo soccer/softball field with backstop, and seven short trails ranging from .17 miles to .87 miles for you to explore on foot.

A women's basketball and a bike at Wapato Hills Park

I packed my basketball and a library book into panniers on a recent warm spring weekend to shoot hoops and have a nice little relaxing read. 

To leave the park, head back east on 62nd until you reach the trail. Turn south and we have a few more places to explore! Bike past Arlington Elementary School until you hit 74th Street. 

74th Street:

Use the stoplight crosswalk to head into Oak Tree Park, where you can find 25 acres of Garry oak habitat and three short kid-friendly trails. Garry oaks are special ecosystems that grew out of the gravelly soil left by glaciers 15,000 years ago, according to the City of Tacoma’s Metro Parks. By 2013, Garry oak habitat from British Columbia to Northern California had been reduced by 90 percent. These special trees still thrive in Tacoma, thanks to conservationists. 

A towering Garry oak tree at Oak Tree Park in Tacoma

80th Street:

Finally, head up the brief hill to the end of the trail at 80th Street. You will find a bike parking spot here at the intersection. I recommend locking your bike, crossing the street, and walking into the B&I International Market. 

B&I Market sign

If you have never been to this South Tacoma/Lakewood specialty shop, it is hard to describe but quite incredible. Authentic South American cuisine, dollar stores, auto tinting services, alterations services, a full arcade complete with skee-ball and mechanical bull riding, knock- off purses….you name it, this place has it. Get lost and find a new treasure (or new taste) to reward yourself for completing the South Tacoma Water Flume Line Trail tour!

P.S. Want to learn more about the Water Flume Line Trail’s history as a bike lane, and its future 3 miles of planned infrastructure linking South Tacoma with downtown, Tacoma Dome, and the Thea Foss Waterway? Curious about its original purpose of carrying water from Spanaway Lake all the way through Tacoma? Watch this YouTube video from the City of Tacoma.

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