Get to Know the Olympic Discovery Trail

Stretching from the historic seaport of Port Townsend to the coastal village of La Push, the Olympic Discovery Trail is a 135-mile-long route in Washington State. So far, 92 miles of the route have been completed, taking in coastal rainforests, alpine meadows, roaring rivers, and wild beaches.

As a multi-use trail, the Olympic Discovery Trail is designed for hikers, horseback riders, and cyclists. It combines paved paths and quiet country roads that offer an insight into life in this breathtaking corner of the world. The trail offers a unique journey through the diverse ecosystems and rugged beauty of the Olympic Peninsula.

For those seeking adventure, the region offers it in spades, no matter your age or fitness level. With the launch of our new e-bike tour along this legendary route, discover what it is that makes the Olympic Discovery Trail such a standout.


Sign post for the Olympic Discovery Trail using the rule of thirds with a person biking away on the trial in the blurred two thirds of the image


History of the Olympic Discovery Trail

The Olympic Discovery Trail was the brainchild of three cycling aficionados, who established the Peninsula Trails Coalition (PTC). Their vision was to transform an abandoned railroad line into a scenic pathway for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy. Through dedicated collaboration with various agencies, the PTC has steadily brought this ambitious dream to life over the last 35 years.

With no funds to convert the entire stretch in one go, the PTC started small with isolated sections whenever resources allowed. As momentum built and individual sections were completed, attention turned to transforming them into a cohesive whole. Today, the trail continues to flourish thanks to the tireless efforts of the PTC and its devoted volunteers.

The Olympic Discovery Trail is now more than 75% complete, with 92 miles traversing the lowlands between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Additionally, it is being integrated into the larger Puget Sound to Pacific regional trail, which extends from Bainbridge Island to La Push. This expansive vision has brought with it major funding, including a $16 million grant to fill in the remaining gaps. Over time, this will enable more people to connect with the Olympic Peninsula's natural splendor.


Smooth paved bike path in the Olympic Peninsula


Olympic Discovery Trail route

The Olympic Discovery Trail can be divided into four sections - East, East Central, West Central, and West.


The Olympic Discovery Trail begins on Port Townsend's scenic waterfront where you'll be greeted by majestic wooden ships that reflect the area's rich maritime history. The trail winds approximately 27 miles from the shores of Puget Sound through forests and farmland to the community of Blyn on Sequim Bay. Along this section, around 7 miles are completed trails while roughly 20 miles follow paved rural roads.

From Port Townsend, the trail descends the Quimper Peninsula to the southern tip of Discovery Bay, which was named in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver after his ship, the HMS Discovery. From Discovery Bay, the route follows Old Gardiner Road to the heart of Blyn where you’ll find the headquarters of the Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe and the Longhouse Market & Deli.

East Central

The East Central section of the Olympic Discovery Trail winds 26 miles from Blyn to Port Angeles, passing through forests and across restored railroad trestles. It features nearly 25 miles of paved trail and a few short gravel connectors that link the area’s rural prairies and farmlands.

Along the way you will encounter four historic railroad bridges, which span the rivers and creeks flowing from the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. Gentle climbs and descents trace the path of the historic Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific railroad that once connected these communities. This section of the trail passes through the heart of Sequim, which is renowned for its friendly, small-town vibe.

West Central

The West Central section of the Olympic Discovery Trail takes in 31 miles between Port Angeles and Fairholm Hill. A spectacular, suspended bridge crosses the Elwha River, which was once dammed for hydropower and mills. Now left to run wild, the river provides a transport corridor for five species of salmon as they return to their spawning grounds.

Beyond the Elwha River, the route hugs the Strait of Juan de Fuca before heading inland to reach the shores of Lake Crescent. Over 600 feet deep and ringed by towering ridges, it is a sight to behold. The trail follows 8 miles of old railroad grade along the lake's north shore, passing through two restored tunnels before climbing into wooded high country en route to Fairholm Hill.


The westernmost stretch of the Olympic Discovery Trail spans 41 miles from Port Angeles to LaPush. Gradually descending through temperate rainforest, the trail drops 1,100 feet as you pedal from the mountains to the sea. Several rivers carve through the area, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, and Quillayute.

As you ride through Olympic National Park, keep an eye out for trails branching off to Second and Third Beaches before reaching First Beach. It’s here you’ll find the Quileute village of La Push, which marks the western end of the Olympic Discovery Trail. It forms part of the Quileute Tribe’s reservation and is renowned for its whale watching.


Dirt trail section of the Olympic Discovery trail


What makes the Olympic Discovery Trail a great biking route

Comprising an extensive network of public roads and off-trail paths, the Olympic Discovery Trail is ideal for cycling. The majority of this scenic trail runs alongside the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 101. For much of the journey, you’ll enjoy paved pathways, coupled with short stints along quiet neighborhood streets.

Backing the Olympic Discovery Trail is a lush, forested landscape, with the Olympic Mountains rising majestically to the south and the Strait of Juan de Fuca glimmering to the north. Much of the trail is shaded by a canopy of mature evergreen forests featuring fir, hemlock, and cedar trees. These are intermingled with deciduous maple and alder to create a verdant wonderland. As you travel west from the Elwha River, the trail passes through pristine state-managed wilderness before finally emerging at the Pacific Ocean.

As moist winds blow off the Pacific Ocean, they release their rainfall in the Olympic Mountains and blanket them in snow during the wintertime. Come spring, the melting snow feeds a network of streams that cascade down the mountains and cross the trail route. To traverse these waterways, a number of characterful bridges have been constructed. These include a high footbridge spanning the Elwha River and the historic truss bridge that stretches across the mighty Dungeness River.

It’s this combination of natural magnificence and cultural richness that makes the Olympic Discovery Trail so special. It allows users to immerse themselves in the wild landscapes of the Pacific Northwest while learning about the people, industries, and events that have shaped the region.


Pedal the Pacific Northwest

From glacier-capped mountains to misty ancient forests, the Olympic Peninsula shelters an incredible diversity of natural wonders. It protects one of the Pacific Northwest’s last remaining temperate rainforests and boasts one of the nation’s longest undeveloped stretches of coastline, making it hugely appealing to nature lovers.

There is no better way to soak up the natural and cultural history of the region than on the Olympic Discovery Trail, which allows you to explore its stunning landscapes at a leisurely pace. With its varied climates, the Olympic Peninsula is a truly unique corner of the world with so much to discover.

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