A Cycling Dream Come True: The Olympic Discovery Trail

Where can cyclists encounter old growth forest, mountain vistas, rolling farmland, serene lakes, flowing rivers and ocean beaches, and even catch a glimpse of our Canadian neighbors to the north, all within a 130-mile radius?

Nowhere but on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula!

Olympic_Discovery_Trail--4The Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) traverses this most scenic region of the state from historic Port Townsend on the east side to the ocean beaches of La Push on the west side. With 69 miles of trail currently completed, the route is a mosaic of paved off-road trail, backcountry roads, restored railroad trestles and small town streets, with short stretches of highway shoulder. Multiple access points make it easy to enjoy one or more segments of the trail at a time, with attractions, restaurants and lodging facilities just a short detour away.

Interested riders can access an interactive online ODT route map created by the Peninsula Trails Coalition at www.olympicdiscoverytrail.com. The map divides the trail route into four sections: East End, East Central, West Central and West End. Viewers can use the map’s GPS feature to view locations and elevations, and can also download GPS coordinates into their own GPS from the Ride with GPS website.

East End

Enjoying the coastal scenery beneath blue skies

Heading east to west, the first section of the ODT is 27 miles long, from Port Townsend to the community of Blyn. The route begins with a 7.3 mile off-road stretch known as the Larry Scott Trail, and continues for another 20 miles along Hwy. 20, Hwy. 101, and peaceful Old Gardiner Road with its fantastic views of Discovery Bay.

Side Stop: Just off Hwy. 101 in the community of Gardiner near Blyn, Wild Birds Unlimited is worth a stop for birders and non-birders alike! Stroll through the beautiful public garden with a stunning view of Discovery Bay.  Pick-up a bag of Lavender Mocha Mix in the store, a local culinary delight, and a hint at what lies ahead as the next section of trail passes through Sequim, the Lavender Capital of North America!

The stretch from Gardiner to Blyn requires a 1.5 mile ride on the shoulder of Hwy. 101 before accessing a trail head at the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Center. Known as “the Strong People,” the S’Klallams have lived and prospered on the Olympic Peninsula for generations.

East Central

The ODT is popular with runners as well as cyclists
The ODT is popular with runners as well as cyclists

The East Central section of the trail connects Blyn to Port Angeles via the city of Sequim. It is 26.4 miles long with 24.4 miles paved and completed, and two miles of temporary connectors. Riders will peddle alongside heritage farmland, pass through Sequim Bay State Park, a 92-acre marine camping park on saltwater coast, set among huge fir and cedar trees, cross the Johnson Creek Trestle, which rises 85 feet above the creek, and wind through Carrie Blake Park before arriving at Sequim Avenue. Here is the best access to downtown Sequim with its thriving Farmers Market, restaurants featuring local cuisine, and a variety of lodging options. In July, ride amongst fragrant lavender fields at peak bloom and enjoy the annual three-day Sequim Lavender Weekend, July 17 – 19, 2015.

Agricultural Attraction:  Sequim Lavender Weekend  is a signature event, drawing visitors from across the country and abroad. Now in its 19th year, the celebratory long weekend features lavender farm tours, a world-class  street fair, myriad lavender products, lavender-infused food and beverages, and a host of community events including art shows, live music, wine tasting and much more.

Cycling Event: Pedal Power Weekend, August 1-2, 2015
Peddle Power weekend combines two diverse cycling events, Tour de Lavender and Ride the Hurricane.

Tour de Lavender comprises two events, the Metric Century Plus Ride on Saturday, Aug. 1 and the Family Fun Ride on Aug. 1 – 2. A journey along the pastoral rural roads of the Sequim Dungeness Valley, the Metric Century Ride takes in Sequim’s world-renowned lavender farms before heading west along ODT to the Port Angeles waterfront and looping back. Recreational riders of all ages and ability levels will enjoy peddling among the lavender farms on the Family Fun Ride. Registration and information at https://tourdelavender.wordpress.com/.

Ride the Hurricane   on Sunday, Aug. 2, is a unique event during which Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park will close to traffic from 7am – Noon. It is not a race but a recreational ride open to all abilities and ages. For registration information, visit www.portangeles.org and click on Ride the Hurricane.

Crossing the Dungeness River on the Railway Bridge Park Trestle
Crossing the Dungeness River on the Railway Bridge Park Trestle

Continuing west from Sequim toward Port Angeles, the trail passes through Railroad Bridge Park, crossing a 1915 Howe Truss Railroad Bridge listed on the National Historic Register. The bridge is currently closed, however, awaiting repairs to damage caused by a rise in the raging Dungeness River this past winter. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which owns the bridge, has begun the permitting process for a redesign of its support structure. In the meantime, a recommended detour route to the north has been established and posted.  From east to west, it exits the trail in Sequim at 5th Avenue, then heads north on 5th to the Old Olympic Highway. The route crosses the river via the highway bridge, continuing southward on Heath Road where it rejoins the trail.

A few miles beyond Railroad Bridge Park at Kitchen-Dick Road, riders can access the Dungeness Recreation Area and campground. A trail leads from there to the adjacent Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge. One of the world’s longest sand spits, Dungeness extends five miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Refuge was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1915 as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds. It is open to the public year-round for hiking, wildlife viewing, boating, fishing and shell fishing. Touring the New Dungeness Lighthouse at the end of the spit is a popular tourist activity. Bicycles are not permitted in the Refuge so as not to disturb the migrating birds.

Beyond Kitchen-Dick Road, ODT continues through Robin Hill Farm County Park with 195 acres of meadow and forest and several miles of trails open to bicycles and equestrians. Then it’s on to the shore of the Juan de Fuca Straits with many opportunities for beach access.

ODT enters the city of Port Angeles along the popular Waterfront Trail with its spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains. From City Pier, Victoria, B.C. is a mere 18 miles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Black Ball Ferry Line’s M.V. Coho provides opportunity for an international side trip – just a 90-minute crossing. The Coho departs Port Angeles four times daily during the summer months between June 18 and Sept. 8, 2015.

Port Angeles Attractions: Located on City Pier, the Feiro Marine Life Center enables visitors of all ages to experience the marine waters of the North Olympic Peninsula by showcasing sea life collected in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and through exhibits, a microscope station and educational programs for youth and adults.

Historic downtown Port Angeles is an easy ride from the Waterfront Trail. The former logging town has evolved over the years into a center for art and culture, with outdoor sculpture exhibits, unique shops and galleries, restaurants serving expertly prepared cuisine made with fresh local ingredients and paired with local wines, and a music scene that will have you dancing the night away.

Lodging options vary from waterfront inns to historic boutique hotels to luxurious B&Bs with excellent views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains.

West Central

The West Central section of the ODT is 31.7 miles long, running from Port Angeles across the Elwha River, and continuing to Lake Crescent. Approximately half of the distance is comprised of separated trail; the other half is roadway.

Pedestrian Bridge over the Elwha River
Pedestrian Bridge over the Elwha River

Beyond Port Angeles’ historic downtown, the trail continues out Ediz Hook, a three-mile long sand spit that extends northeasterly into the Strait of Juan de Fuca approximately 15 miles west of the Dungeness Spit, forming the natural harbor in Port Angeles. Orcas and Harbor Seals can be sighted to the north, depending on the time of year.

The end of the spit is occupied by the Coast Guard Air Station, which is closed to the public. The Ediz Hook Light, also located at the end of the spit, helps ships to safely maneuver the surrounding waters.

Retracing the path back to the mainland, the ODT traverses city streets and packed dirt railroad grade to the Elwha River. There it crosses a suspended bridge below a car deck with views of the river and flood plain below.

West beyond the bridge, the trail follows a temporary route toward Lake Crescent and the Pacific Ocean along Elwha River Road to State Hwy. 112.

The Adventure Bike Route
The Adventure Bike Route

Attraction: Mountain bike enthusiasts will be interested in the Olympic Adventure Route adjunct to the ODT, which can be accessed on the west side of Hwy. 112, one quarter mile past the Elwha River Bridge. The Adventure Route consists of 21 miles of single track and four miles of logging road running from the west side of the Elwha river to the east end of Lake Crescent, offering spectacular views. Intended for hikers and equestrians as well, the terrain is hilly and forested.

There are three additional access points with roadside parking along different segments of the Adventure Route. These include the Joyce Access Road crossing, the Joyce-Piedmont Road crossing and Olympic National Park East Beach Trailhead.

Continuing through the town of Joyce en route to Lake Crescent, the route crosses the Lyre River and enters Olympic National Park. This trail follows the route of the Spruce Railroad, which was originally built during World War 1 to carry spruce logs out of the forest for airplane manufacturing. It follows the north shore of serene Lake Crescent for about four miles, ending at the intersection with Hwy. 101.

Point of Interest: Historic Lake Crescent Lodge, formerly known as the Singer Tavern, is located on the lake’s south shore. Built in 1914 by Avery and Julia Singer, the lodge was purchased by the National Park Service in 1951. Five of the original rooms in the main lodge are still in use; additional lodging includes 10 cabins and modern motel-style units. The lodge restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner from early May to January 1st. Recreational activities include hiking, fishing and boating.

West End

Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent

The final 41.6 mile section of the ODT, which ends at the Pacific Ocean, is not yet constructed. Those who wish to cycle to the ocean beaches can follow a temporary route along U.S., State and County paved roads to the beaches.


For more information on the Olympic Discovery Trail, visit olympicdiscoverytrail.com or call the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce at 360.452.2363.

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