A major attraction for cruisers along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, hidden in the forests of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, is the 130-mile-long Olympic Discovery Trail. This extensive trail system runs between Port Townsend to La Push and includes original railroad trestles, tunnels, and several river crossings, terminating at the Pacific with beautiful ocean views.
Boaters in the know, bring their fold-up bicycles or rent bicycles to access the trail system at Port Townsend, Sequim, or Port Angeles. The trail passes in front of Port Angeles Boat Haven and at the City Pier, making Port Angeles the most convenient stop for boaters to access the trail. The Olympic Discovery Trail can also be accessed from Sequim Bay State Park and John Wayne Marina near Sequim; it’s only a 3/4-mile walk or ride from the marina up the hill on Whitefeather Way, where you will find signs for the trail.
Here is where you will find the Johnson Creek Railroad Trestle, which was built in 1914 by the Western Railway Company. This trestle bridge is 410 feet long and 86 feet above the creek. The two platforms on the side of the trestle were used to hold barrels of water for use in the event of a fire. What might appear as a scary curve and banked angle in the trestle is by design, intended for strength and stability. The last time a train traveled over this trestle bridge was in 1983. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of the Peninsula Trails Coalition, assisted by the City of Sequim and other organizations, the trestle was converted for pedestrian use in 2002.
The Olympic Discovery Trail system is defined in four different sections: the East Sound & Bay section, the East Central River & Prairie section, the West Central Foothills & Lakes section, and the West Forest & Ocean section. Sequim and Port Angeles lie within the East Central section. This section is just over 26 miles, connecting Blyn through Sequim to Port Angeles, along a gentle railroad grade. West of Sequim, the trail passes through Railroad Bridge Park, site of the Audubon Center with wildlife exhibits, and the restored Dungeness River timber railroad bridge.
If you have moored your boat in Port Angeles, you may want to bike west through the West Central section, where the trail crosses the Elwha River on a spectacular suspended bridge. Dams on the Elwha were removed in 2011, leaving the Elwha as the largest river flowing out of the Olympics to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This route parallels the Strait, with side roads to beaches and resorts. At the town of Joyce, the trail turns south over coastal hills to Lake Crescent. On the lake’s north shore, the trail follows a former railroad bed through the restored McPhee and Dailey-Rankin tunnels. Don’t forget to bring you headlamps!
For more information and maps of the trail, see the Olympic Discovery Trail website.