Bikepacking on the Olympic Peninsula

Over the last year, I had only noticed 2 main mountain bike trails on the Olympic peninsula: the Dungeness/Gold Creek loop and Mt. Muller. Both seemed nice, but kind of short (20 miles, 5000 ft. and 10 miles, 3000 ft. el. gain) and are 50 miles apart. Add in the 3 hour drive from Seattle, and its a pretty poor ride-to-drive ratio. So, these trails have been on my backburner for a while.

Having long weekends this summer gives me some opportunity for bikepacking trips. So, the idea was to tie the 2 trails together with the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT). Their website is great and includes links to the GPX tracks on RideWithGPS. While the ODT is a paved trail, there is a parallel section west of Port Angeles called the Adventure Route of the ODT which is dirt. In the end, I didn’t make it to Mount Muller, but had a lot of fun on the 3 day mountain&road biking trip.

Google Earth view southwards over the Olympics.

175 miles, 18,000 ft. el. gain, 3 days.

My ride started on Friday evening from Sequim, heading east on the ODT. Perfect weather, smooth trail, just cruising along. The trail is usually far enough from the road that it’s pretty quiet.

Along the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Along the Olympic Discovery Trail.

From Sequim Bay state park, I headed up to Dungeness creek, but via a sort-of-maintained trail on an abandoned forest road (NF 2880) that goes past the supposed East Crossing campground. The trail was pretty easy to follow and nice in principle, but tons of spiders had put up residence and made it mucho myserable. I was so glad to be done with it. However, the elevation profile of this trail makes it a much better choice than taking the NF-2870.

Heading towards Dungeness Creek.

Heading towards Dungeness Creek.

Trail along NF-2880

Trail along NF-2880

And big spiders everywhere!

And big spiders everywhere!

The Lower Dungeness trail, however, was in perfect condition. Many sections were rideable up with full bikepacking gear. Very fun! I didn’t meet anyone, and with it getting late, I got some water from a creek, found a level spot away from the trail, and set up camp in the dark.

Lower Dungeness trail.

Lower Dungeness trail.

Morning came and after munching on an energy bar, I went right back to sleep. Finally, at 9 am I decide to pack up and actually ride by 10 am. No bugs, mild air, birds singing, no rush to anywhere. Just enjoying the journey.

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And today’s journey was still to be decided. First, I rode up to the upper trailhead parking lot – and saw a huge parking lot overflowing with cars. Odd, noone was on my trail. They must all be headed into the Olympic Wilderness, kind of ironic that there are way more people hiking in the official Wilderness than on the adjacent trails. I guess the title Wilderness really draws in the crowds.

Along the Lower Dungeness trail.

Along the Lower Dungeness trail.

River Campground, as it's called on my topomap.

River Campground, as it’s called on my topomap.

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After riding up a FS dirt road, I start down on the Gold Creek trail. What a beauty – trail and scenery are magnificent.

Gold Creek trail.

Gold Creek trail.

Gold Creek trail.

Gold Creek trail.

Probably Tyler Peak.

Probably Tyler Peak.

At the junction with Sleepy Hollow trail, I decided that I’d rather go adventuring towards Mt. Zion than finish this loop in another 20 minutes. So, off I go on the former forest road – now trail. Someone had done a pretty nice job clearing the Alder trees from the trail – though 4″ high sticks had been left that looked like lances for my tires! My tires made it unharmed, though.

Sleepy Hollow trail

Sleepy Hollow trail

For some reason, this trail really wore me down and soon I was wishing it’d be over. And when there’s nothing wrong with the trail, it means that I was pooped out. Just past Gold Creek, I took a half hour+ break, mainly consisting of coffee and gummy bears.

Gold Creek crossing.

Gold Creek crossing.

Feeling somewhat refreshed, I kept going up to the Mt. Zion trailhead. There I met a couple friendly hikers, and after some chatting, they filled up my ziplock feedback with trailmix. Yay – good chow, and I was now definitely set with enough food to make it through the night. The trail up Mt. Zion is incredibly nice. With lots of hikers letting me pass, I felt obliged to ride up some steep parts and steps. It’s hard not to show off when everyone’s watching – even if they are elderly hikers :). 45 minutes later, I was at the top and enjoying the view. Hazy – but beautiful in its own way.
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View from Mount Zion.

View from Mount Zion.

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… I did it my way …

The bike made short work of the downhill towards Dungeness Forks campground. I had laid out a route via forest roads towards Port Angeles, but after a while that got tiresome as the number of crazy drivers increased, who were out to shoot their big guns. Time to leave this madhouse and return to civilization: the ODT. I can’t say enough good things about the ODT. It’s paved: yes, it’s flat: yes, but sometimes that feels really good after mountain biking for a day.

Along the ODT near Port Angeles.

Along the ODT near Port Angeles.

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The next destination was the adventure route of the ODT. I didn’t expect more than one of those new-age 12 feet wide multi-use gravel trails. Boy was I wrong! The adventure route is first class single track. Almost 24 miles of it (3 miles towards the end are gravel FS road). Make that an out&back, and we’ve got 40 miles of single track, with only 6000 ft. el. gain on volunteer-maintained single track. All switchbacks were rideable, no overgrown trail, lots of flow. Truly a gem that I hadn’t expected. The motorized-vehicle barriers along the way were of a design I hadn’t seen before and found to be quite challenging to go through. (I forgot to take a picture of these things.)

Adventure route of the ODT.

Adventure route of the ODT.

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Interesting part about the

Interesting part about the “emergencies” one might have along the way… Has anyone read all those paragraphs?

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Devil's Point

Devil’s Point

Devil's point

See that guy up high? He's about to jump into the water below. 30 feet, easily.

See that guy up high? He’s about to jump into the water below. 30 feet, easily.

I had to turn around at this point and didn’t make it to Mount Muller. Maybe next time.

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Begin/end of the Adventure Route of the Olympic Discovery Trail near Port Angeles.

Stopped for some food at a gas station in Port Angeles and then munched on said food while enjoying the sunset at the ferry landing for a few minutes. The next 20 miles were mostly in the dark and had me back in Sequim in a couple of hours.

Sunset at Port Angeles.

Sunset at Port Angeles.

Fancy benches at the ferry landing. I guess it's windy here, often?

Fancy benches at the ferry landing. I guess it’s windy here, often?

GPX track

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11 Responses to Bikepacking on the Olympic Peninsula

  1. good work Martin,

    7 summits in Sept?

  2. Igor says:

    Always wanted to check out that mt Zion trail. Now I have to do it next time I ride Dungeness 🙂
    ODT adventure trail is indeed pretty awesome!

    • 2wheeltrails says:

      EMBA is out there this weekend doing trail maintenance on the Sleepy Hollow trail that connects to Mt. Zion trail. It will be a great way to extend the otherwise a bit too-short Dungeness/Gold Creek loop.

  3. Rod Farlee says:

    Impressive accompiishment for a weekend trip! Excellent choice of routes.
    Last weekend, ten volunteers from EMBA West Sound chapter cleared all the alder which had overgrown the Sleepy Hollow section of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, linking USFS Gold Creek and Mount Zion trails.
    Mount Muller loop, with its connecting Snyder Ridge and Olympic Discovery trails, are also extremely worthy rides, offering sweeping vistas of Lake Crescent, Vancouver Island and Mount Olympus.

    • 2wheeltrails says:

      Thank you very much for doing all the work out there! The 4″ stubs of previously cut-off alder looked pretty scary – and the overgrown sections were closing in fast. I saw the work event on the EMBA calendar but was weary of the long drive from Seattle. Lame excuse, I know.

      The Sleepy Hollow trail is sure a great connector trail to Mt. Zion – perhaps more people will add this as an out&back if they are already riding the Dungeness/Gold Creek loop.

      Do you know what/if there are plans to resurrect the trail along the abandoned NF-2880 between NF2909 and Gold Creek trail?

      • Rod Farlee says:

        Trail on the former FS2860 roadbed connects FS28 (at milepost 1, from its junction near the end of Palo Alto Road) 2 miles to East Crossing Camp on the Dungeness River, and 1 mile further south upriver where it connects to the Gold Creek Trail, 0.4 miles north of the Lower Dungeness Trailhead. This trail is eminently rideable, except for brief steep pitches at the Eddy Creek crossings. (I think that’s what your question refers to? Road numbers on some GPS maps are wrong.)
        East Crossing and Sleepy Hollow trails are both great rides to combine with Gold Creek.

      • 2wheeltrails says:

        Yes, that’s the one I meant. Thanks for clarification on road numbers and trail name. By “resurrect” I meant the washed out crossing, but also the general feel of that the trail doesn’t get enough use and seems to be disappearing in some places under the foliage.
        Regards!

  4. Rod Farlee says:

    Yes! WTA volunteers rebuilt the approach to the Eddy Creek crossing several years ago, Gray Wolf Trail Crew cleared it of alder two years ago, and EMBA is interested in improving it. USFS hasn’t included it in their official trail system, but have given volunteers approval to maintain it.

  5. Patrick Dowd says:

    Hey thanks for the write up! I was looking for something in the Olympic NF in about a month and about a three day trip! Do you have any .gpx tracks I can maybe toy with? I’m a big fan of making a line on my GPS or I get lost real easy!!!

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