With its quaint Victorian towns, its natural scenery and the blessings of the Olympic Rain Shadow, the northeastern corner of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula makes for a superb cycle touring destination — especially so for any bike-loving Vancouverites suffering with the sterile glass architecture and wet weather of Lotusland. By comparison, Port Townsend seems fixed in time as if it had been preserved in formol with charming buildings and sleepy streets. Additionally, just a short ferry ride away on the shores of Whidbey Island, the appeal of the small town of Coupeville doesn’t fall very far behind. Coupeville is, after all, the second oldest town in all of Washington state. This past Easter, we took advantage of the unseasonably great weather, strapped an overnighter load to the bikes and rode south to check them both out.
We wanted this early season, four-day trip to be a favorably paced, multi-modal journey to break up riding. In addition to keeping the pace relaxed we wanted to stay away from heavy traffic and were interested exploring the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The ODT is a system of trails targeted to cyclists, hikers and equestrians that spans almost 130 miles across the peninsula, from the Pacific Ocean to Port Townsend. As of April 2013, only 53 miles of the trail are paved pathway, with the rest of the route temporarily taking place on roads — mainly on quiet back roads, but with some sections along highway with ample shoulders but heavy traffic.
Our itinerary took form as follows: Day 1 – 42km riding bookending the ferry for the first night in Victoria. Day 2 – The Black Ball Ferry to Port Angeles followed by 42km of the ODT to the Sequim Bay Lodge – a convenient motel just meters off the trail. Day 3 – 52km of the remaining east portion of the ODT to our destination of Port Townsend and then a ferry and a short ride to Coupeville for the night at the Tyee Motel. Day 4 – Highway 20 over Whidbey Island, getting to the mainland through Deception Pass. We end the bike portion of the trip in Mount Vernon, where we close the loop back to Vancouver on the Amtrak after 71km of riding.
New to us was the ODT which is a quiet, relaxing path that winds up and down and snakes its way through farm fields and thick, green forests. The highway sections on the 101 make for a lot of traffic, noise and some “head-down and hammer” sections.
Whidbey Island, provides all highway riding, with nice scenery and camping potential at Deception Pass followed later by some unpleasant sections rejoining the mainland. After that, it’s flat and monotonous through to Mt. Vernon, but the Easter season provides the opportunity to take in the local tulip festival. Port Townsend and Coupeville are charming destinations, and getting to them with the Olympic Discovery Trail is great fun. The entire trip was suitable for road bikes with skinny tires and the Amtrak home was convenient, affordable and the wait provided time to sample the local craft beer at happy hour before the late train headed North.
Getting to Port Angeles:
- BC Ferries schedule (Vancouver/Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay)
- Lochside Trail (Swartz Bay to Victoria)
- Black Ball Ferry schedule (Victoria to Port Angeles)
Getting Back to Vancouver:
- Route 2149222 – Bikemap.net
- Olympic Discovery Trail Official Site
- WSDOT Ferry schedule (Pt. Townsend to Whidbey Island)