By Diane Rudholm
Photo at right: Publisher Carolyn Price cruises beside the water on the Olympic Discovery Trail. Photo by Carol Achtmeyer
The Peninsula Trails Coalition and dedicated volunteers have been working for decades to develop the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT)—also known as 128 miles of pure cycling bliss.
Upon completion, the multi-use trail will connect Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean via Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Angeles and La Push, Wash.
While much of the ODT remains to be built, the 50-plus miles of paved trail segments that are in place have opened up phenomenal overnight and day-trip options for cyclists, including access to stunning views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains, along with plentiful bike-camping options and easy access to other activities like kayaking and wine tours.
Pedaling the whole stretch of the proposed Olympic Discovery Trail route from Port Townsend to La Push might not be for everyone, but even today, it is something that can be done with some good planning and level-headed caution.
“Someone cycling the [full 128 miles] would pass by about 20 campgrounds within easy reach of the trail,” says Rich James, Clallam County Transportation Program Manager. “About 10 of those are right on the trail.”
Among the campgrounds where cyclists can rest their weary legs on the ODT route are Fort Worden State Park, Sequim Bay State Park and Salt Creek Recreation Area—that’s just for starters. There are other less rustic options right on the trail, too, like the Red Lion in Port Angeles.
One important note: If you do plan to cycle the full 128-mile route while portions of it are still on highway shoulders, James strongly suggests that you take Hwy 112 instead of Hwy 101 past the Elwah River. This is to avoid getting trapped on shoulder-less bridges and tunnels.
James also notes that the ODT is often accessed (and easy to access) via local busses.
Daytrippin’ near Port Angeles
If you don’t have the luxury of spending more than a day or two on the ODT, there are still several ways to enjoy the views and attractions that the trail has to offer.
“The most well-known part of the trail goes from Sequim Bay to Port Angeles,” says Russ Veenema, the executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, adding that the popular segment goes through the Dungeness Valley.
Cycling from Sequim to Port Angeles (or vise versa) makes for a 22-mile adventure—or 44 miles if you’d like to go out and back. In either case, you’ll want to have your camera handy. It’s gorgeous.
“The section west of Port Angeles [to the Elwah River] may be new to many people,” says James. “There are some spots [in that section] where people will want to ride on roads … but maps are really clear and lots of people are willing to help.”
This section of trail provides a respectable out-and-back trip of about 14 miles and allows for easy detours into town. As long as it’s not windy out, an extra trip out to Ediz Hook for some bird watching can add about five miles to your ride along with even more stunning views.
Other areas worth exploring on the trail include the area near Lake Crescent; head to Sol Duc Hot Springs from there if you fancy.
Or, bring your mountain bike and pedal over to the Adventure Route near Log Cabin Resort (also on Lake Crescent) at the West End. To access the Adventure Route from the East End, look for the trailhead a quarter mile past the Elwha River Bridge on the west side. The trail includes 25 miles of double- and single-track riding over hilly, forested terrain.
More ways to extend your trip
Regardless of where you start on the trail—or which towns, beaches and forests you choose to explore along the way—there are countless opportunities for side quests. Two of our favorites are wine tasting and whale watching.
Four of the nine wineries on the Olympic Peninsula are right along the ODT from Port Townsend to just beyond Port Angeles, and the other five wineries aren’t too far out of the way for the ambitious connoisseur.
And, you can give your legs a break and let your arms do the exploring with a kayaking tour in Freshwater Bay, less than 10 miles west of Port Angeles. While there’s never a promise of seeing whales, this spot is right on The Whale Trail. Sounds pretty good to us.
Official Olympic Discovery Trail website: www.olympicdiscoverytrail.com
Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission: www.olympicpeninsula.org
Peninsula Trails Coalition: www.peninsulatrailscoalition.org
Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce: www.portangeles.org
Port Townsend: www.cityofpt.us
Rails to Trails Conservancy: www.railstotrails.org
Sequim Tourism: www.visitsunnysequim.com
The Whale Trail: http://thewhaletrail.org
Clallam County Parks: www.clallam.net/parks
Fort Worden State Park: www.parks.wa.gov/511/Fort-Worden
Point Hudson Marina & RV Park: www.portofpt.com
Salt Creek Recreation Area: www.clallam.net/Parks/SaltCreek.html
Sequim Bay State Park: www.parks.wa.gov/582/Sequim-Bay
Adventure Bike Tours & Adventures through Kayaking: www.atkayaking.com
Mike’s Bikes: www.mikes-bikes.net
Olympic Peninsula Adventures: http://bit.ly/1pYOuTt
Olympic Raft and Kayak: www.raftandkayak.com
Sound Bikes and Kayaks: www.soundbikeskayaks.com
Good Eats, Good Drinks
Oct. 10 –12, Crab Fest: www.crabfestival.org
June 7, 2015, North Olympic Discovery Trail Marathon: www.nodm.com/marathon
Aug. 1–2, 2015, Tour de Lavender: tourdelavender.wordpress.com
Aug. 2, 2015, Ride the Hurricane: www.portangeles.org/pages/RideTheHurricane
Diane Rudholm is the managing editor and social media manager of OutdoorsNW magazine. Send your letters here or @OutdoorsNWmag