Olympic Peninsula – 6 to 8 days

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Overview

This is a nice loop ride that takes you to some beautiful campgrounds and that is full of lovely sunsets. You can do the ride in six or seven days, depending on how interested you are in visiting Lake Quinault. Or you can spend one more night on the peninsula before taking the ferry back to Seattle, making the trip eight days. As an added advantage, almost the entire route follows the Adventure Cycling Washington Parks Section 1 map.

This would be a good ride for someone new to bike touring. You’re never too far from civilization, traffic is relatively light, and there are no mountain passes, or even particularly large hills. The people I met were generally friendly, and the cars always gave me plenty of room on the roads. Though this route lacks the pizzaz of the Oregon coast, it’s much less crowded, and you spend less time on busy roads. The Olympic Peninsula naturally lends itself to a loop ride, which makes getting to and from the start and end points much easier.

This route also benefits from the coastal climate, so you could do the ride any time from May to October, depending how comfortable you are with rain. The heat won’t get too bad in the middle of the summer, and the chance of rain drops considerably. I did the ride in early June. It rained a few of the days but never very hard, and the temperature never got particularly cold. Doing the ride before school let out for the summer also made for emptier campgrounds, which allowed me to snag great spots overlooking the ocean.

Itinerary

Day 1: Seattle to Port Townsend via the Kitsap Peninsula

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Today’s ride is a great way to start a trip. Less than 20 miles in, the route goes through Port Gamble, an adorable town with lovely views of the sound. It’s also a great place to get lunch. Once you leave the Kitsap Peninsula, you cross a gorgeous bridge that takes you onto the Olympic Peninsula. The ride into Port Townsend is lovely, with a trail that goes through a small woods and then takes you along the water as you approach the town. Because the mileage today is relatively low, you don’t have to stress about catching an early ferry.

Distance

Approx. 45 miles

Logistics

Ferry

If you start in Seattle, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island.

  • Common departure times: 8:55 AM, 9:35 AM, 10:40 AM
  • But check the schedule!

Food

  • Lunch: Butcher and Baker Provisions is a fantastic restaurant in Port Gamble that shouldn’t be missed.
  • Dinner: You can eat in Port Townsend, or buy food there to cook at camp. The Old Fort Townsend campground is a little before Port Townsend, and the Fort Worden campground is a couple miles outside of Port Townsend.

Camping

This first day, you have a couple of good camping options. Fort Townsend is closer, but Fort Worden is quite impressive. In addition to the hiker/biker sites in the woods, they have reservable campsites right on the water. When I was showed up, many beach sites were still available.

If you decide that you want a longer day, the next nice campground is the Dungeness Recreation Area outside of Sequim. Ending the day there would add about 27 miles. If you do stay there, and you still have enough energy, you can visit the Dungeness Spit.

Route

Bainbridge Island Ferry to Olympic Peninsula

  1. Head northwest toward WA-305 N Ferry Dock Olympic Dr SE
  2. R onto WA-305 N Ferry Dock Olympic Dr SE – 7.1 miles
  3. R onto Suquamish Way NE – 1.3 miles
  4. L onto Division Ave NE – 0.4 miles
  5. L NE Columbia St – 1.7 miles
    • Continue straight: Port Gamble Rd NE – 3.3 miles
  6. R WA-307/Bond Rd NE – 243 feet (really, you just need to cross the road to continue on Port Gamble Rd NE)
  7. L Port Gamble Rd NE – 1.1 miles
  8. L WA-104 W – follow to the bridge to the Olympic Peninsula, and then follow the Adventure Cycling Washington Parks Section 1 route map.

Day 2: Port Townsend to Salt Creek Recreation Area

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The Salt Creek Recreation Area was a pleasant surprise, and I highly recommend camping there. The Clallum County parks are impressively well-maintained. Because I did this trip before school let out for the summer, the campgrounds were relatively empty, and I was easily able to get a campsite on the bluff overlooking the ocean.

Distance

Approx. 68 miles

Food

  • You can buy food for lunch in Blyn (approx. 24 miles) or Sequim (approx. 32 miles). Sequim is a bigger town, and possibly a better place to find food.
  • You pass through Port Angeles before getting to Salt Creek Recreation Area. You can either eat dinner there before heading to the campground, or buy food to cook at camp.
  • While in Port Angeles, you should stock up on food for Day 3, where there won’t be anywhere to buy food until you get to Forks.

Camping

Salt Creek Recreation Area

Day 3: Salt Creek Recreation Area to Forks

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Today takes you to Forks, which is probably still famous because, well, vampires. The town has embraced its reputation, and you’ll see Twilight-themed things around town. If you want to detour about 15 miles off route, you can bike to Rialto Beach and camp at Mora Campground, which is probably nicer than Bogachiel, though it does not have showers.

Distance

Approx. 60 miles

Food

There is basically nowhere to buy food today until you get to Forks, so be sure to stock up when you’re in Port Angeles. You can have dinner in Forks, or buy food to cook at camp. When in Forks, be sure to buy food for lunch for Day 4.

Camping

Bogachiel State Park

Technically, Bogachiel has showers, but when I was there, the shower just drizzled cold water. That didn’t stop me from showering, but it wasn’t pleasant. The description of the campground makes the campground sound much nicer than I thought it was.

If I were going to do this trip again, I would probably take the detour to Rialto Beach to check out that area, which I’ve heard is really beautiful. If you want to bike to Rialto Beach, you can camp at Mora Campground, though it does not have showers. Staying at Mora Campground would add about 18 miles to Day 4, but Day 4 is pretty short, so that shouldn’t be a problem and might even be a welcome addition.

Day 4: Forks to Kalaloch

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Kalaloch is one of my favorite places in Washington State. I might do this trip again just to visit Kalaloch. Because I did this trip in early June before school let out, it was easy to get a campsite on the bluff overlooking the ocean. If you want to splurge, you could spend the night at the Kalaloch Lodge which, unlike the campground, has showers. It also has a restaurant, which is where you should plan to eat dinner, unless you bring food from Forks to cook at camp.

You might be tempted to skip this night and bike straight to Lake Quinault. In general, I find 30 mile days much too short, and I usually end up combining them with the next day to have more mileage. This is my one exception. In fact, if you do end up skipping one night, it should be Lake Quinault, not Kalaloch. Kalaloch is so beautiful that it’s easy to fill an afternoon.

Distance

Approx. 30 miles, unless you camp at Mora Campground, in which case it might be closer to 48 miles. Though the ride today is short, it’s nice to be able to spend an afternoon at Kalaloch.

Food

For lunch, pick up food the day before in Forks. For dinner, you can eat at the Creekside Restaurant at the Kalaloch Lodge. The food is not particularly exciting, but the restaurant has beautiful views and is a nice place to spend some time. The Kalaloch Lodge also has a small store, the Kalaloch Mercantile, where you can buy some, but not many, groceries.

Camping/Lodging

Kalaloch Campground *no showers*

If you want to splurge, you could spend the night at the Kalaloch Lodge.

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Day 5: Kalaloch to Lake Quinault

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Lake Quinault is a nice little resort spot that I think people visit so that they can go on hikes in the nearby rain forest. It also has bears. As we biked into town, a guy started telling us about how he had just seen a bunch of bears. I asked how close they were, because, as I explained to him, we were planning to camp, and I don’t like the idea of sharing a campsite with bears. He said they were about twelve miles away. The next person we talked to said the bears were about six miles away. Given that the campground didn’t have bear-proof garbage cans, I didn’t think we would have to worry about bears, even as the car campers had a big cookout. I thought that surely if a bear did come to the campground, he would go to the campsites where the cookouts had happened.

It turns out that those people all packed their food into their cars, so when the bear turned up at 1 AM, our campsite was the only one with accessible food. We were also conveniently located right by the lake, so after the bear had a few mouthfuls of Gardettos, he could walk across the street and get a drink of water from the lake. This continued until 6 AM. The moral of the story is: bring a bear bin or stay in a lodge when you visit Lake Quinault. Or skip Lake Quinault altogether. It’s a nice place, but the campgrounds don’t have showers (they have bears instead), and I’m not sure what to do there if you aren’t planning to visit the rain forest. There is a very large tree that you can visit, and the Amanda Park library has pretty interesting architecture.

Distance

30 miles, plus however far to your campground or lodge

You can skip this night if you don’t want to have two short days in a row. You can also take it as an opportunity to get some laundry done while in Lake Quinault, where there is a laundromat that also has showers.

Food

Pick up food at the Kalaloch Mercantile before you leave Kalaloch. After that, there isn’t anywhere to get food until you get to Amanda Park. There’s also not much food in Amanda Park. It looks like the Amanda Park Mercantile is still open.

There are a couple of restaurants by Lake Quinault. I had dinner at the Salmon House Restaurant and breakfast at the Roosevelt Dining Room. The Salmon House Restaurant was definitely better.

Camping/Lodging

There are three US Forest Service campground along the lake. I stayed at the Falls Creek Campground, but they all seemed kind of similar. The other two campgrounds are:

None of the campgrounds have showers, but there were showers in “town” that you could use.

There are also a couple of non-camping options. If you are averse to sharing a campsite with a bear, you might want to consider one of these. I guess what I’m saying is, if I were to stay at Lake Quinault again, I would consider one of these.

Day 6: Lake Quinault to Montesano or Elma

This day is a total haze for me, because I was completely sleep deprived due to the previous night’s bear visit. Also, I stayed at a hotel in Elma instead of at Lake Sylvia State Park, because I felt the need to stay indoors, where any bears would be safely on the other side of an actual wall.

Distance

  • 47 miles to Montesano
  • 56 miles to Elma

Food

There are a few small “grocery” stores along the way, but really not much until you get to Montesano. You might want to pick something up to eat for lunch before you leave Amanda Park.

Camping/Lodging

Lake Sylvia State Park

If you want to stay indoors, you’ll have to go past Montesano to Elma. I mean, there are places to stay in Montesano, but after biking past them, I can say with some certainty that you probably shouldn’t stay in those places.

The Stay Beyond Inn & Suites in Elma is so clean that I was convinced there was a pool. There is not a pool. Elma is 9 miles past Montesano. If you do stay in Elma, you can eat at the Rusty Tractor. It’s not good, per se, but it is an experience.

Day 7: Montesano or Elma to Bremerton

Today takes you back to civilization. The route leaves rural Washington and becomes increasingly suburban until you reach Bremerton, where you can catch the ferry back to Seattle.

Distance

  • 79 miles from Montesano
  • 70 miles from Elma

If you want to spend another night on the Olympic Peninsula before heading back to Bremerton and then Seattle, you can spend the last night at Belfair State Park, just over 15 miles prior to Bremerton.

Food

Shelton is a pretty good place to get lunch. The Strip Steakhouse is actually good. The Thai restaurant is terrible. Don’t believe the reviews.

You can get dinner in either Belfair or Bremerton. My husband’s rule of thumb when choosing restaurants is never eat at a restaurant that advertises that it hosts children’s parties.

Camping/Lodging

Belfair State Park if you want to spend one more night on the peninsula. Otherwise, head home.