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ADV Rides8 Great Reasons to Ride Washington’s Olympic Peninsula

8 Great Reasons to Ride Washington’s Olympic Peninsula

 Explore ancient forests, glacial peaks and roaring falls of the great North West.

Published on 01.10.2020

6. Scenic Backroads

The Highway 101 loop around the Olympic Peninsula is considered one of America’s most scenic drives, and our route utilizes that renowned asphalt whenever equally spectacular dirt isn’t available. If that wasn’t epic enough, we put together a similarly stunning route that parallels this renowned asphalt in many places, offering more fabulous views or better twisties when possible. 

Ride Scenic Backroads on a motorcycle
Amazing roads of Washington.

The Peninsula is home to many peg scraping worthy forest service roads that take you through deep sections of dense forest and leave you wondering why they dedicated the time and resources to pave such remote stretches. This will only be a fleeting memory, though, as you lean hard into the next corner and take in the epic view. It’s rare to see regular traffic on many of these isolated roads, but always be aware of the possibility. The stretches of twisty road along Lake Crescent and Lake Quinault are particularly scenic and not to be skipped.

7. Idyllic Camping

Dry camping and established campgrounds with services are plentiful on the Olympic Peninsula, as well as in the National Park. All of the campgrounds within the park’s boundaries are first come first served, except for the wildly popular Kalaloch and Sol Duc sites along the coast. Fear not, there is certainly no shortage of scenic camping anywhere on the peninsula! 

Idyllic Motorcycle Camping destination.
Finding a great spot to camp in the Olympic Peninsula.

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Truth be told, some of the best spots are tucked away far from the large park run operations or private RV parks. If you don’t mind forgoing flush toilets and running water, then your options are nearly limitless. Primitive or dispersed camping is excellent for avoiding crowds and embracing the solitude that this region has to offer. Look for already established sites with fire rings or clearings, typically screened from roads and trails, and at least 200 feet from water. Some of the best examples of these sites can be found on the west side of the peninsula and feature fantastic views of the Pacific with no light pollution and no neighbors.

8. Historic Sights

Camp Hayden WWII Bunker

The Olympic Peninsula has a rich past that played an essential part in the Pacific Northwest’s heritage. It was one of the last unexplored places in the contiguous United States and turned out to be culturally significant and wealthy with natural resources. 

The park was initially known as the Olympic Forest Reserve established in 1897 by President Grover Cleveland, which is telling that officials saw the need to preserve this resource fertile land in a time when industry was king. Then in 1909, President Teddy Roosevelt took additional steps to protect the area by designating part of the reserve as Mount Olympus National Monument. Finally in 1937, after a visit to the area the previous year, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the act designating Olympic National Park. 

Camp Hayden WWII Bunker

A few of the National Parks gems include Quinault Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs, and Lake Crescent Lodge. The Quinault Lodge was built in 1926 and styled after Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone and Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho. Locals had been gathering on the shores of Lake Quinault since the 1880s before a fire claimed the site’s original log cabin structure that preceded the structure erected in the 1920s still in use today. Franklin Roosevelt stayed there nine months before signing the act designating Olympic National Park.

Similarly, Sol Duc Hot Springs is another place where people have been gathering since the 1880s except explicitly for the springs healing qualities. It was once the site of a 164-room, 5-star hotel, and resort that was unfortunately destroyed by a fire in 1916. Another gem is the Lake Crescent Lodge, originally opened in 1915 as Singer’s Tavern with just five rooms. FDR also stayed here on his 1937 “fact-finding” visit to the peninsula, prompting the owner to name lakeside cabins after him in the following decade.

Quinault Lodge
Quinault Lodge Totem Pole

During WWII, military installments at Fort Flagler, Fort Warden, and Fort Casey were utilized to establish the  “Triangle of Fire.” These were crucial coastal defense pieces during the war and are now state parks accessible to the public. Many military installments from this area dot the peninsula and can be fun to explore, such as Camp Hayden highlighted in our tracks.

Planning Your Trip 

Riding Terrain: By and large, most of the off-road riding on the Olympic Peninsula is more scenic than it is technical. The loop we’ve laid out is perfect for those with large displacement adventure bikes looking to get dirty, with enough challenging sections and obstacles to keep smaller dual sport riders entertained. The section east of Lake Quinault probably offers the most challenging riding, while segments near Hurricane Ridge and along the coast are arguably the most visually stunning.

Riding the Olympic Peninsula

The route is roughly 30% asphalt and 70% dirt with a total of about 650 miles. Fuel is not a significant concern with filling stations in Hoodsport, Brinnon, Quilcene, Blyn, Sequim, Port Angeles, Forks, Queets, and Quinault along the route. The longest off-road stretch is between Quinault and Hoodsport, but as long as you have close to a 100-mile range, it should be no problem.

Weather: Some areas of the Olympic Peninsula have an annual rainfall of up to 170 inches, that’s just over 14 feet! So, rain is something to consider even during the height of summer. It’s best to pack your rain fly and waterproof riding layer no matter what the forecast might say. The temperatures, on the other hand, are nearly perfect for adventures, rarely dipping into the ’30s and hardly ever cresting into the ’80s. Early spring through late fall is when you want to go with the only considerations other than rain being snow at higher elevations (Winter) and forest fires that have increased in recent years (Late Summer).

Riding Washington State

Camping/Lodging: The Olympic Peninsula is ripe with amazing places to stay, whether you are looking to rough camp or experience what the park’s historic lodges have to offer. Some of our favorite camping locations include Kalaloch Campground on the coast, Heart O’ The Hills Campground near Hurricane Ridge, and Dosewallips Campground on the sound. For those seeking more solitude, dispersed camping can be found nearly anywhere on the peninsula, but some of the most scenic spots are south of Forks on the coast and above Lake Cushman near the southeast corner of our loop.

Our favorite accommodations with turndown service include the Lake Crescent Lodge, Lake Quinault Lodge, and Kalaloch Cabins. These are all picturesque digs steeped in historical value and brimming with character. More mainstream motels and chain hotels are available in all the sizable towns as well. With any of these options (except dispersed camping), reservations are recommended. 

Gear We Used

Wheelie on an Adventure Bike

During our expedition through Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, we rode a variety of different terrain and weather conditions. We chose equipment for the trip we could feel confident would keep both our bikes and bodies protected..

Here’s a list of some of our favorite products we used during the trip:

You can read more about how these products performed during our expedition, on our Tumblr Page.

Maps and GPS Tracks

We’ve put together a route through the Olympic Peninsula that will allow you to visit all the places mentioned in this Ride Guide and more during a 4- to 5-day trip. Detailed GPX tracks and a larger interactive map are available for download free.

View Larger Map

Photos by Spencer Hill

Author: Spencer Hill

“The Gear Dude” has been fueling his motorcycle addiction with adventure since first swinging his leg over a bike in 2010. Whether he’s exploring his own backyard in the Pacific Northwest or crisscrossing the United States, Spencer is always in search of scenic off-road routes, epic camping locations and the best gear possible. He began writing shortly after taking up two-wheel travel to share his experiences and offer insight with his extensive backpacking, camping and overland background.
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Author: Spencer Hill
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Comments
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16 thoughts on “8 Great Reasons to Ride Washington’s Olympic Peninsula

  1. Roads not worth it. Views not worth it. Weather not worth it. Locals politically minded and not friendly. Heavily regulated and patrolled. High fines. Go somewhere else.

    • Don’t do anything illegal, and you don’t have to worry about getting fined…
      It sounds like you might have a bias or alternative motives, though.

  2. So here’s a question – where is the nearest major civilisation ………..that would allow for hire of an adventure bike ?

  3. Great report Spencer! We’ve ridden all paved up there but always wAnted to do a more backcountry route. Nice to see you riding KTM now. I have always wondered what you have been up to so i’m glad to see this. Cheers my fellow shipmate! ERIC

  4. While the riding season out here won’t be happening for a few months, Route 5 from Hoodsport to Quilcene still has part of it closed. FS 2441 from the intersection of FS 2464 to FS 2480, and the 2480 to FS 25 (Hamma Hamma road) are still closed due to the 2018 Maple Fire. The FS road closure document said it was to be closed until 30 OCT 18, yet it is still closed – confirmed that on a Xmas tree cutting trip up there in mid-December.

    Hopefully, they will be opened up again this spring – call and let them know, and ask them to get the washout fixed on FS 2510 – IMO, one of the best sections on Route 5 – before the washout blocked it!

    ONF Road conditions – https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/olympic/alerts-notices/?cid=stelprdb5293706

  5. This is an excellent write up Spencer! Thank you for this. I have been planning a trip here for summer ’20 and have been piecing things together through other sites. This article gives me all the info I needed, very much appreciated. I’m surprised to see negative comments on this.

  6. Excellent article and some absolutely Beautiful pics! This is what I’m looking for as I move from dirt bike racing into a little slower pace as well as taking the time to smell the roses. I learned years ago that Adventure riding is just that,…..An Adventure. You have to be ready for anything.
    Thanks for the ride report, AND the GRP files!