For the past couple of years I’d been imagining a bike tour circling the Olympic Peninsula. I’d never done any multi-day bike touring (mostly weekend bike-camping trips) so mid-June 2021 as a preparation for my “big ride” I decided to do a test-run around the hood canal. The results were a little disappointing. With my huge bike and being overweight, I found I could comfortably ride about 25 to 30 miles a day and still feel fine for the next day of riding. I didn’t want to turn my vacation into a road-race so I needed to change my plans. I needed to average about 50 miles a day in order to finish my vacation in time so I didn’t miss any work.
So I came up with a combination of bike touring and backpacking. I figured I knew my fitness levels well enough to make it a comfortable enough ride and hike. The general idea was to cycle from Tacoma to the Dosiwallips Campground in Olympic National Park, find a good spot to chain my bike up, and switch to backpacking. After a week, I would return to the bike again and ride home.
It worked out. The amount of gear I needed to carry on the bike was kind of insane, but it worked. I think next year I’ll stick to mostly weekend bike tours though. And on my vacation just backpack without the bike. Combining them was a bit much.
108.97 mi, range: 3’ to 1654’ gross: +10,194 -9114
My goal in planning the cycling portions of this trip was to try and average anywhere from 25 to 30 miles per day on the road (depending on elevation gain). To be honest, I probably could have extended that to 35 to 40 pretty easily. Most days I’d leave camp around 8 or 9am, and with a lunch break I’d still be early to the next campsite. Another 2 or 3 hours every day wouldn’t have hurt me much.
My bike was pretty heavy heading out. My “touring ring” is a fat-bike to begin with. I had 4 panniers crammed full of gear, a bear cannister stuffed with food (which was crammed inside a 65 liter backpack), a 4 liter hydration system, 2 more water bottles strapped to the front forks, and a handlebar bag crammed with misc stuff. It made for some pretty slow riding.
39.11 mi, range: 7’ to 493’ gross: +2666 -3033
Hiker/Biker Site: $12.00
Original plan was to cycle to Belfair State Park, but considering the good time I was making I continued on a for a few more miles to setup camp at Twanoh.
I’d never ridden south on HW-106 before, and with most of the housing and driveways up against the water gave me quite a bit more road shoulder to work with. Made the ride easier. That said, none of the riding or roads were unfamililar.
The hiker/biker site at Twanoh is across the highway from the other campsites, and nestled not too far from the boat launch right on the water. It’s an incredibly pretty spot and I was glad I chose this park instead of belfair.
28.01 mi, range: 7’ to 962’ gross: +2541 -1629
Tent Site: $20.00
The first portion of this ride was pretty familiar until I reached Potlatch State Park. Riding conditions were pretty much the same as the previous day, with more shoulder to ride on.
Next to the park there are two roads. The first which winded away with an open gate, and the other was ungated and headed due east and up away from the water. OSM showed them as roads I could use to get off of HW-101 and try something a little different. The gated road had a huge (newer) sign indicating it was a private road, and hikers were explicitly banned from using it. The ungated road simply had a construction warning, but the sign was a few years old so I ignored that warning completely and started up the incline.
After a little more than half-mile, the pavement ran out and the road conditions switched to “very rough”. There were warning signs on either side of the road indicating “No trespassing, Skykomish Indian Land”, alternating with BLM signage indicating mileages, road names, and road conditions. I decided to interpret that is meaning to stay on the road itself and not to veer off. A mile in, the trail/road leveled off and opened up due to the clear cuts for high-voltage transmission lines. I turned north. It was pretty much hike-a-bike for the next couple of miles as the road conditions continued to be pretty awful. The dust was inches thick in places, covering huge rocks which would have thrown me from my bike.
Eventually I reached a “normal” gravel road (Cushman-Potlatch Road), and quickly navigated the bike around a closed gate. The road didn’t seem to continue, so I rode through an “RV” neighborhood near Cushman Dam, and eventually connected with North Lake Cushman Road.
Lake Cushman road offered no real scenery, at least not like my hike-a-bike trek under the powerlines. There was a neat lookout around 3 miles from the Cushman-Potlatch Road turnoff to view Lake Cushman (pictured above). For the rest of the ride the fine-dust I had picked up had totally gunked up my drivetrain and as a result kept my chain jumping off the crankset. It was annoying.
The campgrounds were mostly empty when I got there. The parking lot for Day Hikers (probably heading up to Mt. Elenaor) was pretty busy but I doubt there were more than 5 groups camping. I was pleasantly suprised. I was alone in the back of the tent camping area.
By this time my drivetrain was getting creaky/scratchy and my front fork was getting super rattly. Turns out the QR skewer had worked its way loose. Easily fixed. A wipe and lube job on the chain fixed the other issues.
26.05 mi, range: 3’ to 1012’ gross: +1839 -2772
The ride from Big Creek started out on a gravel road. It was actually pretty easy riding with only a few potholes. NF-24 is well maintained. There were not a lot of awesome views, but the on exiting the Park, it looked like there were a lot of dispersed camping areas in the National Forest. I did not see much traffic, perhaps 3 or 4 cars on the entire way down to the highway.
On hitting HW-101, the ride remained pretty flat and level highway riding. The traffic picked up quite a bit. There was also some chip-seal work being done, which actually resulted in some fairly smooth riding. Eventually I arrived at Dosiwallips State Park.
I was sure would have open spots (they did). I talked with the ranger at the park and I would have have to pay full price ($30) for a campsite which would be out in the open without shade. I didn’t like that option much. I also could also have pushed on and ridden up the Dosiwallips road for a very long day in the saddle. Seal rock was only 3 miles down the road, so I just moved on.
I camped in the same spot I was in back in June. Like in Big Creek, there were only a few people there camping.
The entire place was fairly empty. It was pretty breezy, and I spent some time down by the shore firing up the cellphone and letting everyone know I would be out of cell service for the next week or so. It felt like rain so I tried to seal my stuff up as much as possible. Overnight it did rain quite a bit. By daybreak the rain had become a drizzle and it remained pretty wet for the next couple of hours.
15.80 mi, range: 16’ to 1654’ gross: +3148 -1680
I knew that this particular day would probably be the toughest on the bike in regards to elevation gain. I expected to do a lot of hike-a-biking. I was right. I had to step off the bike and push almost right away on turning onto Dosiwallips Road. It was fairly wet out at the start, which made the start of the ride less than ideal.
With the drizzle and fog, there wasn’t much to see really. Just a lot of slow uphill riding and frequently stepping off the bike to walk it. Traffic was infrequent, which made the trip quite nice actually.
At the border of the National Forest, the road became grave which I sort of expected. There were plenty of shallow potholes to navigate around. The weather dried up and I really started to enjoy the ride and the scenery was starting to become impressive.
Around 9 miles up the road, I arrived at the washout/trailhead. There were probably 30 cars parked approaching the end of the road. I chatted with a few backpackers heading over the washout and into the park for a few minutes, and then just pushed across the washout.
After a few minutes of easy flat riding on the old road, I stepped off the bike again and pushed the bike up over the switchbacks which routed around the original road washout. Pushing all that weight up over the hill was actually pretty brutal.
After the washout, the trail alternated between obvious gravel road to getting close to overgrown. There were frequent boulders in the road which were easy to route around and further washouts and landslides to push the bike up and over. Needless to say, most the trip up the trail was on my feet and I didn’t cycle much. The scenery was pretty enough that I didn’t mind much though.
Nearing the campground, there is a steep section of road to climb near the falls. It took me a bit more strenuous pushing to get the bike up it. A few minutes later I rode into the campgrounds and started hunting for a campsite next to the river.
Like most of the other campsites I’d visited on this trip, the place was mostly empty. I found a neat campsite right on the water, and pulled out my paracord and started hanging out my tent to dry. After getting setup, I spent an hour or two unpacking, repacking, and setting up for backpacking. I also had to fix a rear front tire.
I didn’t sleep well, as I was pretty excited to get up get to hiking.
35.8 mi, range: 1545’ to 4501’ gross: +13140 -7646
Backpacking in the Olympic backcountry requires a Wilderness permit, which can be purchased online at http://www.recreation.gov. Each night (campsite) costs about $8, and there is a $6 cost associated with the cost of the entire permit. If you plan on staying more than 5 days total (in a year), a yearly permit is available for $35 I think - which eliminates the $8 a night cost. You still need to register for a permit.
Camping at the Dosiwallips Campground is free and doesn’t require any permit or registration. It’s probably not considered wilderness (yet). The campsite is unmaintained.
4.99 mi, range: 1545’ to 2508’ gross: +2467 -1716
Camp Elev: 2307
I spent the first few hours of the morning packing up the backpack, and sorting out all the bike gear back into panniers and seperating out the food I wouldn’t need, etc. I chained the bike up to the ranger station, pulled the QR from the front wheel, and hid it near the bike in the grass. I then spent some time stomping around in the woods looking for a good spot to store 3 panniers (mostly empty or full of bike stuff) in a good hidden spot. I also stuffed a pannier full of the extra food and shoved it into the back of the bear locker. I got out the campground around 10:00am, which was a later than I would have liked.
For the most part, this first day of hiking was pretty easy. It was mostly all uphill, and it was mostly all hiking in the “green tunnel”.
After crossing the river at dose forks, there was a good stretch on the south bank of the river through a forest of rhoderdendrons. Crossing back across the river on the “white” bridge was pretty neat too, as it was so far up above the river.
I ran across a park ranger on the trail who asked to see my permit. She had been hiking for quite a few hours, and her uniform was absolutely neat and pristine. I was impressed. Friendly though and offered me some good advice on a great spot to camp when I got to Enchanted Valley. (I wasn’t very interested in camping next to the cottage).
I arrived at the Big Timber earlier than I expected. There was only 1 other backpacker when I arrived, a woman who looked like she was finishing up taking a backcountry bath in the river. I quickly moved to the other side of the campground. Didn’t want to appear to be a creeper. I could tell she was a bit embarassed and quickly packed up and moved on.
I explored the area a bit, and there is a privy in good repair. There were also several obvious catholes near the back of the campsite, which confused me a little. The privy wasn’t that gross.
The bear wire was up. Rather than stomp around the forest again and finding a spot to stash my food, I ended up just stuffing my paracord into the bear cannister with a loop, and hung the thing up.
The rest of the afternoon and evening I had the entire campground to myself. I selected a campsite right next to the water. I cooled my heels in the river for a while, and fell asleep to the sound of babbling water. The isolation was incredibly relaxing. I slept well.
6.23 mi, range: 2282’ to 3581’ gross: +2584 -1364
Camp Elev: 3533
The hike from Big Timber to Diamond Meadows was frankly a little boring. A lot of gentle climbing and a lot of stomping through mud on the trail. More green tunnel, which I’d seen the day before. On arriving at Diamon Meadows, I was a little bit un-impressed with the meadow. Maybe I missed something. The bear wire for the camp was up, and there appeared to be a few people still sleeping in there. The privy was absolutely brand new there. There were a ton of biting flies in the area though so I pretty quickly moved on.
Not long after Diamond Meadows, you cross the river by either fording it or crossing on a couple of planed logs. I forded, as the water wasn’t much more than 6 or 7 inches deep. After climbing through the forest some more, the forest began to open up and change a bit, and it was obvious that a previous windstorm had knocked a lot of timber down on the opposite bank and into the river. The trail was well maintained, but you could see where in serveral instances it had nearly washed out and had been repaired against the steep embankment.
Not long after I walked into the campground I’d be staying at for the day (Honeymoon Meadows). The campground is set in the forest on a hill, with good spots to throw a tent down in several spots scattered on it. The privy was in good repair, but was a bit of a hike up on the top of the hill. Before setting down camp, I hiked a bit further to see Diamond Meadows and maybe some scenery. I was suprised at how pretty the it was, even without any wildflowers.
Nobody was around so I stripped down and ended up soaking in the river (more of a creek at this point) and washed a bunch of the stink off me as well as my clothes. About a half-hour later a group of 5 or 6 hikers showed up and setup camp (making a bunch of noise). Followed by a couple of others over the next few hours. I ate my food, and settled down for the night early after taking a allergy pill to help me get to sleep. It worked great and I slept through straight until morning.
9.05 mi, range: 2034’ to 4501’ gross: +2251 -3620
Camp Elev: 2174
I woke up well rested and excited to get started. According to my maps, I’d have a bit of a climb and be walking downhill for the rest of the day. I hoped I would get to see some neat landscapes. Of course, it was pretty grey but at least it wasn’t raining as I got up, ate my oatmeal and coffee, and packed up. As the sun rose I ended up stopping for nearly 15 minutes and watching the sun evaporate the dew off the trees on the cliffs across from me and turn it into clouds. It almost looked like a fire slowly descending down the cliffs.
Hiking up towards Camp Siberia didn’t offer much in views. At about 4000 feet, the wind picked up and I pulled on my fleece for the first time during the trip. Not long after it was apparent I was in the clouds, as the air was getting really humid and I was getting damp. On arriving at Camp Siberia, there was one tent setup and all the water vapor had condensed onto the trees and it was in effect raining under them. It was a bit chilly. I stopped for a few minutes and watched the water vapor in the air blowing down over anderson pass. I don’t remember seeing anything quite like it. Sort of like a fast moving fog.
I didn’t really explore the camp, as I was getting cold so I got a move on and continued climbing. I did however notice that there was a bear wire up, and the privy had been knocked over at some point and propped back up. It was in sad shape.
Climbing past the camp I noticed the dosiwallips river was dry where the trail crossed it. I figured there would have been some run-off from the melting glacier that fed it above me. Nearing the pass I encountered a black bear about 30 feet off the trail eating blueberries. I made a bunch more noise and it just looked at me, snuffled a bit, and slowly walked off stopping to eat more berries on it’s way.
At the pass there was a stagnant pond with tadpools in it. I was kind of un-impressed. After crossing the pass (still no views), the trail conditions changed a bit. The trail wasn’t as well maintained and within a quarter mile of the pass I encountered a huge blowdown across the trail. Over the next mile downhill I encountered two more.
Eventually I began hiking down the switchbacks. I’m glad I had my pants legs on, as they and my shoes got really wet from all the dew clinging to brush next to the trail. At some points the trail had been overgrown. My shoes remained damp the rest of the day.
The descent evened out near the “largest hemlock in the world”. I began to see the other side of the valley and ocassionally a remote waterfall. The forest changed a couple of times, at time hiking through birch trees or meadows. I kept my eyes peeled for a good campsite, and marked a few down on my GPS as I continued to hike to the Chalet.
Eventually I started running across fellow backpackers, and made it to the chalet. I spent a few minutes resting, pulled my pack back on and hiked a mile back to camp sites I’d seen earlier. I like isolation, and I’d seen probably 15 or 20 hikers wandering around the chalet.
After about a mile of backtracking I re-found the camp I liked the best and setup. I loved the location. There was a hidden campring with “furniture” to eat at, and nearby behind some windfall were a couple of other tent sites. If I ever come back to this area, this is definately the campsite I’ll use.
4.9 mi, range: 2163’ to 4501’ gross: +3035 -946
Camp Elev: 4252
I figured this would be my toughest day hiking with all the elevation gain. It wasn’t as awful as I expected but it was a bit of a thigh-burner. The weather continued to be overcast and grey, but at least there were better views than when climbing down into the valley.
The hike otherwise was pretty similar to the previous one, only more up than down this time and better views. At the pass I ran across the same bear again, and it acted in the same fashion. Slowly moving off eating more berries. There were a couple of other hikers just standing around quietly looking at it - which I thought was a mistake. I didn’t want it closer to me, I wanted the thing to go away!
Climbing down into the campground it became apparent quickly that it was going to be a very cold night. I pulled my fleece on, then pulled my rainjacket over the top of that and I was still a bit chilled. The rest of the afternoon and evening continued to be pretty chilly, but at least it was dry unlike the day before.
I spent a minute looking at the half-destroyed privy. There was poop piled up under the seat almost up to the lid (gross!). I wandered around the campsite a bit, and across the creek neighboring the shelter, there is a short path leading to a meadow with some incredible views. I poked around the shelter a bit, and it looked a little sketchy for my tastes so I just pitched my tent.
Like most days, I arrived at the campsite before anyone else so I had my pick of spots to choose from. I ended up near the bear-wire under the trees uphill from the shelter. I liked my spot.
After getting camp established, a hiking couple wandered in and setup a tent away on the other side of the area. A half-hour later a group of 4 teenagers showed up in shorts and improperly fit backpacks. They ended up in the shelter and looked cold all night. At this elevation there are no campfires allowed. My malfunctioning therm-a-rest worried me a bit, so I threw an emergency blanket under it to help reflect heat and keep it from leeching into the ground. It worked great and I was warm enough to sleep well all night.
I got to sleep around 6pm and woke up early in order to get a early start hiking. My permit didn’t allow for any more nights in the backcountry. I figured I had a good 10 miles back down the Dosiwallips valley to the campground.
10.63 mi, range: 1586’ to 4246’ gross: +2803 -5463
Camp Elev: 1588
Woke up cold as expected but the sky was clear. For the first time in days. It would have been nice to have seen this weather in Enchanted Valley. Got an early start and was out of the camp by about 7:30am. There was frost pretty much everywhere. Honeymoon Meadows looked great (again) covered with frozen dew.
I didn’t stop often to take pictures, as I wanted to keep on moving. It was tiring and at times a little boring. I’d seen most of it before. My feet were pretty sore by the time I got to my destination.
As I was walking into the campground a string of donkeys and horses were beginning their own hike back up the trail to do some maintainence. I was a little suprised and it was neat seeing stock on the trail. I could tell the riders were a little annoyed at the fact that the rails set aside for stock to be tied up were packed with mountain bikes. Seriously, like 15 bikes were chained up to that thing.
I only saw 1 other couple camping in the campground though. I’ll bet most of those bikes belonged to backpackers who were here for an early start to the Labor Day weekend.
When I unchained my bike I found I had a rear flat tire on the bike I had to fix. Ugh. My panniers were where I put em and my spare food was still in the locker.
I fell asleep quickly and it was nice not having to worry about the cold. It felt pretty balmy compared to the freezing temps up at siberia the previous night.
106.14 mi, range: 3’ to 1649’ gross: +8333 -9502
Battery in phone and in external charger low, so no further pictures taken.
43.93 mi, range: 3’ to 1649’ gross: +4527 -6047
Hiker/Biker Site: $12.00
The ride out of campsite and down the old road was faily easy for the most part. Downhill for long stretches, and only doing the ol’ hike-a-bike on sections like the switchbacks and 1 or two hills that popped up while crusing down the paved portion of the dosiwallips road. That said, I still took it easy and enjoyed the scenery. I hit HW-101 about 11:00am. I stopped at a small grocery store in Brinnon, bought some junk food and re-attached the cleats to my cycling sandals.
The ride to Potlatch wasn’t anything special that I remember. I spent most of my time trying to be careful on the narrow shoulders and avoiding traffic. I pulled into Potlatch right at 2:30, and had a campsite reserved within a few minutes by using the yellow reservation phone attached to the ranger station. Like every other park I’ve cycled into, the place was pretty empty.
I took my first shower at the park in a week and a half. It felt heavenly. Around 4:00 another cyclist showed up at the other hiker/biker site. He was a day or two into a long tour starting from Bellingham and heading to San Franscisco. He had a very ultra-light setup and was riding a brompton folding bike. His third tour down the west coast. Pretty spry for a guy who said he was 75 years old.
Since the day-use area had been abandoned, I spent some time just sitting down by the water and watching the sunset. It was peaceful and I kept thinking that my tour was almost over. I was going to miss the backcountry, but I kinda missed work too.
I ate double portions of food that night, and slept great.
28.01 mi, range: 8’ to 85’ gross: +1017 -1033
Hiker/Biker Site: $12.00
I left camp pretty late as I took my time getting everything packed up. I think I rode out of there around 10:00am. The ride to Belfair was flat, and easy. HW-106 is a scenic and easy.
I made great time and pulled into Belfair itself around noon. I stopped at a subway and bought a footlong cheesesteak sub. Then swung by the Safeway nearby for chips and lemonade. While pulling out of Belfair, the road had absolutely zero shoulders and I could tell cars behind me were getting irriated. I had a couple of rednecks in Jeeps scream at me to get off the road, and one threw a beer can at my head. I wasn’t impressed with the Belfair natives.
Belfair State Park is a very urban park, with campsites really crammed together. There are 4 hiker/biker sites, which were the smallest campsites of any kind I’d ever seen. There was barely room for my tent/bike and the half-sized picnic table. I’m glad the park wasn’t stuffed full of people, but there were more than I’d seen the entire trip.
The crowd were obvious locals, with kids zooming around on scooters, the men drinking and throwing beercans around, teenagers making a racket until 10:00pm, etc. Belfair isn’t a park I’ll be returning to anytime in the near future.
I didn’t sleep great with all the noise.
34.2 mi, range: 7’ to 492’ gross: +2789 -2422
The ride home wasn’t anything special. I pulled out about 8:00am, trying to beat the local traffic. Once I got off of HW-3, the rest of the ride across the peninsula was just an uphill slog for the most part. I know this area really well, so I didn’t need to navigate much. I ignored the GPS’s directions and beeping the entire trip. I made it home and took another shower.