How to Bike the Olympic Discovery Trail in Washington
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The Olympic Discovery Trail is a 130-mile bike route spanning the ruggedly beautiful northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. The paved path stretches across the entire peninsula and traverses through a wide range of landscapes.
From dense forests and sparkling lakes to bustling seaside towns with breathtaking coastal vistas, the ODT is a fun and unique way to explore the Olympic Peninsula on two wheels.
I biked the majority of this picturesque trail on my Cross-Washington bikepacking trip and it was by and far one of the most memorable stretches of the whole route.
In this post, I share everything you need to know about biking the Olympic Discovery Trail including the best day rides, tips for bikepacking the ODT, what to checkout off the path, and more.
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Olympic Discovery Trail Map
The Olympic Discovery Trail is still a work in progress. The ultimate goal is to have a continuous off-road route that stretches from La Push on the Pacific coast to the town of Port Townsend on the Puget Sound.
Currently, about 66% of the multi-use path is completed with roughly 35% still following main roads.
Olympic Discovery Trail At At Glance
Best Sections of the ODT
The Olympic Discovery Trail is officially divided up into four sections:
- East Sound and Bay – Port Townsend to Blyn
- East Central River and Prairie– Blyn to Port Angeles
- West Central Foothills and Lakes – Port Angeles to the west end of Lake Crescent
- West Forest and Ocean – Lake Crescent to La Push
The best stretch of the whole paved ODT is the ~20 miles along the northern edge of Lake Crescent (see West Central Foothills and Lakes map above or recommended ride #3 below).
3 Great Olympic Discovery Trail Day Rides
Just want to explore the ODT for a day or prefer to ride the route in sections? Here are my top three recommendations for day rides:
day ride recommendation #1
>> From Port Townsend
The ODT trailhead in Port Townsend is located on 8th/Washington Street on the water.
This 7-mile stretch is on crushed gravel and is a nice way to ride along the coast and explore farmland outside of Port Townsend.
If you need a bike rental, Broken Spoke in Port Townsend rents road and electric bikes.
day ride recommendation #2
>> From Port Angeles or BLYN (or Sequim)
Between the towns of Blyn and Port Angeles, the Olympic Discovery Trail is almost entirely on paved multi-use path.
You can start at either end – Port Angeles or Blyn – or start in the middle in the town of Sequim.
Parking is available at:
- Port Angeles: Old Rayonier Trailhead
- Sequim: Railroad Bridge Park
- Blyn: S’Klallam Tribe Library
day ride recommendation #3
>> The North shore of Lake Crescent
The stretch along the north shore of Lake Crescent is the most scenic and worthwhile section if you only have one day to explore the trail.
This section follows the shores of the lake and passes through several tunnels and sandy beaches that can only be accessed by foot or bike.
There are two parking areas on either side of the lake:
- Off the Olympic Highway on the western end
- Spruce Railroad Trailhead on the eastern end
Bikepacking Or Bike touring the ODT
Riding the Olympic Discovery Trail as an overnight bikepacking or bike touring trip is a great way to really embrace everything this route has to offer.
The 130 miles can be done in a 2-4 night trip depending on how many miles you want to pedal each day and whether you want to mix in hiking or side trips (see ‘off the Olympic Discovery Trail’ below.).
Campgrounds are located at pretty regular intervals along the Olympic Discovery Trail. Because the Olympic Peninsula is a popular destination, though, I highly recommend making your campground reservations ahead of time.
If you’re not into camping or you don’t want to carry camping gear, it is possible to stay in hotels, inns, or Airbnbs along the ODT. Again, you’ll want to book your accommodations ahead of time.
You won’t need to carry a lot of food since there are stores, restaurants, and food options located pretty frequently along the route. You won’t go more than 20 miles without having someplace to resupply or eat (although the quality of those options will definitely vary).
If you’re camping, it is a good idea to plan out your meals and know exactly where you can get ingredients along the route.
Of course, the easiest option is always dehydrated meals.
Fresh water is plentiful on the Olympic Peninsula. You’ll be able to fill up at drinking fountains, campgrounds, restaurants, hotels, etc… Be able to carry 2.5-3 liters of water (more if the temperatures are very hot).
I do recommend bringing a water filter or a filter bottle as well. There are lots of opportunities to filter water from streams and lakes.
Bike and gear
The Olympic Discovery Trail is fully paved aside from a 7-mile stretch of gravel trail outside of Port Townsend.
If you plan on staying on pavement, a road, gravel, or touring bike is ideal. Panniers will also work well for carrying gear.
There are options to get off the paved trail and onto dirt, mainly on the Olympic Adventure Trail, which I go into more detail about below. If you opt to go off-road, a hardtail mountain bike or wider-tire gravel bike would work great. A short-travel full suspension mountain bike would also be fine, but wouldn’t be ideal unless you really plan on deviating from paved surfaces.
If you do a one-way bikepacking or bike touring trip, you’ll need to arrange transportation to/from your starting point.
To get onto the Olympic Peninsula I definitely recommend taking the ferry to either Kingston or Port Townsend. The ride across the Sound is stunning!
The Kingston Ferry leaves from Edmonds. If you choose this option, you’ll need to drive your car to Port Townsend where the ODT ends. If you don’t want to take your car on the ferry, you’ll need to alter your ODT route so you end your ride back in Kingston so you can take the ferry back across.
The Port Townsend Ferry leaves from Whidbey Island. It would be challenging to get to this ferry on public transportation, so you’ll need to either drive or add a few days to do it by bike (the shoulders on Whidbey Island roads aren’t great, though).
Once you’re on the Peninsula, the easiest option is to do a self-shuttle if you have two cars, although this is definitely not the most environmental-friendly way, unfortunately.
You should be able to park your cars overnight at any trailhead, but you may want to contact the trailhead authorities to make sure.
It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from either Kingston or Port Townsend to La Push.
If you do self-shuttle, consider using the drive back to retrieve the first car as a way to explore more of the Olympic Peninsula!
Clallam Transit does have buses that go to La Push, but you’ll need to change buses in Port Angeles and in Forks and the bus schedule isn’t very frequent, unfortunately. When I mapped it, it said the trip would take 9 hours 🙁
When I biked the Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route, we booked a private shuttle with Olympic Hiking Co. Our driver met us at the Kingston ferry dock and shuttled my friend and me and our two bikes to La Push, about 2 hours away.
It was expensive but worth not having to wait for public transportation.
need help planning your trip?
Download my 3-Day ODT Itinerary!
For $5.99 get a detailed Olympic Discovery Trail itinerary complete with:
The Olympic Adventure Trail
If you’re a mountain biker or enjoy taking your gravel bike off-road, the Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure Route is an awesome addition to the ODT.
This 23-mile stretch of singletrack trail cuts off the busy highway section between Lake Crescent and Port Angeles.
It’s not a technical mountain biking trail, so if you have wide tires and a spirit of adventure, definitely add the Olympic Adventure Trail to your bikepacking route or do an out-and-back day ride. It was one of the main highlights of my Cross-Washington trips!
If you want to plan a more adventurous ride across the Olympic Peninsula, check out my Olympic Adventure Trail Adventure Route.
Off the Olympic Discovery Trail
The Olympic Discovery Trail is awesome in and of itself, but there are so many other great things to do off the Trail on the Olympic Peninsula if you have time to explore further.
Here are 6 side trips on the Olympic Peninsula:
- Second Beach: if you have time in La Push before starting your ride, definitely check out Second Beach. It’s beautiful!
- Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort: A bit touristy, but worth it for the hot springs.
- Hoh Rainforest: You won’t be able to bike to here, but if you have a car and time to explore pre- or post-ride the Hoh Rainforest is magical.
- Dungeness Spit: A long skinny spit outside of Port Angeles. Bring a lock for your bikes if you want to hike out to the lighthouse.
- Hurricane Ridge: One of the most popular destinations in Olympic National Parks, but for good reason. You can drive to the top for epic views and hiking trails.
- Port Townsend Farmer’s Market: An awesome local farmer’s market that takes place every Sunday in the summer from 9-2 to 2.
Whether you ride the full Olympic Discovery Trail or just the best section along Lake Crescent, you’re guaranteed to have an awesome time. The ODT is an amazing undertaking (that is still in the works) and provides a unique opportunity to see the Olympic Peninsula from the seat of a bike.
Help finish the ODT: Make a donation to the Peninsula Trails Organization to help finish the Olympic Discovery Trail. Donations also go to maintaining the trail.
Looking for more two-wheeled adventures in the Pacific Northwest? Check out these related blog posts:
Have you biked the Olympic Discovery Trail? What are your favorite sections or things to do along the route? What questions do you still have? Leave a comment below!
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