Washington's San Juan Islands
This weeklong inn-to-inn tour weaves along the glorious northwestern coastline of Washington’s Puget Sound and through its famous San Juan Islands, offering an irresistible combination of manageable daily mileages and world-class scenery. Since we’ll leave our camping and cooking gear at home, it’s the perfect tour for cyclists who enjoy bicycling self-contained, but prefer sleeping in a bed rather than in a tent.
We’ll spend our days leisurely pedaling the waterfront, spinning inland through fertile farmlands and scenic villages full of interesting shops and top-notch seafood restaurants. On many days, our cycling will be broken up by ferry rides, from which you might glimpse orca whales, seals, or bald eagles! Grab your bike, your camera, and your sense of adventure — because you’re in for a week of Pacific Northwest bicycling that you’ll never forget!
"The combination of biking and ferry rides along with whale watching was exciting and relaxing."
Day 1. Anacortes, Washington, 0 miles
Our group will assemble this evening in the town of Anacortes, gateway to the San Juan Islands. In fact, our trailhead lodging is located right next to the Washington State Ferry terminal, the hub of most water travel in this area. Nearby we’ll enjoy dinner together and have our first map meeting before socializing a bit and resting up for our week of adventure.
Day 2. Anacortes to Port Townsend, 37 miles
Today we’ll ride an island-hopping excursion on part of Adventure Cycling’s Pacific Coast Bicycle Route. After leaving Anacortes and Fidalgo Island, we’ll travel to Whidbey Island by way of the high bridge spanning Deception Pass, from which we’ll look down on the swirling tidal flows in the narrow passage below. We’ll ride briefly through Deception Pass State Park and around the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, followed by a lovely spin along the western shoreline of the island. Next our route takes us along the shore of Penn Cove (famous for its mussels) to Coupeville, a picturesque small town that will surely tempt us to linger for some sightseeing and lunch. A short ride later brings us to the ferry terminal at Keystone for the 35-minute ferry ride to Port Townsend, a seafaring community noted for its gracious Victorian architecture, the Wooden Boat Foundation at the Northwest Maritime Center, and the ridiculously delicious confections at Pane d’Amore Artisan Bakery.
Day 3. Port Townsend to Friday Harbor, 22 miles
First thing in the morning, we’ll load ourselves and our bikes onto one of the Puget Sound Express boats for a three-hour whale-watching cruise to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Upon arrival at Friday Harbor, the “capital city” of the islands, we’ll have lunch, drop our bags, and set out for a loop trip around the northern half of the island. We’ll pass through the “English Camp” section of the San Juan Island National Historical Park and also visit the famous Roche Harbor Resort at the northern tip of the island. The final leg of the day’s ride will take us back to Friday Harbor, where we’ll spend the next two nights in true comfort.
Day 4. San Juan Island loop, 34 miles
Today’s journey will lead us along pastoral country lanes and the western coastal road of San Juan Island. We’ll visit the “American Camp” section of the San Juan Island National Historical Park and the Cattle Point Lighthouse at the island’s southern tip. Continuing our loop, we’ll arrive back in Friday Harbor for some lunch and sightseeing.
Day 5. San Juan Island to Eastsound, Orcas Island, 20 miles
Starting out, we’ll board the morning ferry for the short boat ride to nearby Orcas Island. We’ll ride across the entire arc of this horseshoe-shaped island, from the ferry landing at the southwest tip to the little village of Olga on the southeast tip. Along the way, we’ll ride past inland farms and shellfish farms on the shore. We’ll finish the day in the island’s main town, Eastsound, around lunchtime, and here we’ll spend the next two evenings.
Day 6. Orcas Island loop, 30 miles
Today is a relatively big day for this relaxed trip in terms of vertical feet gained. This trip’s most notable climb occurs early in the day: the 4.5-mile, 2,300-foot climb to the top of Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park. The magnificent views from the summit and the thrilling descent back down the biggest mountain in the San Juans will make this signature part of the tour worth the effort. Once at sea level, we’ll ride out to the town of Olga, returning to our home in Eastsound at the end of the day.
Day 7. Orcas Island to Lopez Island, 38 miles
We’ll start today with an eight-mile ride to the ferry landing, hopping aboard for the short ride to Lopez Island. Our counterclockwise loop around Lopez starts down the west side of the island, where we’ll quickly enter Lopez Village, location of the island’s only grocery, eateries, and other stores. After departing the village, we’ll ride through a pleasing mix of farmland and shoreline terrain. On the southwest corner of Lopez, we might stop at Shark Reef Sanctuary and hike to the shore, which is a prime location for viewing grey whales and orcas. At the southernmost point of the island, Agate Beach County Park offers beautiful picnicking and beachcombing for the variegated round rocks and pebbles that have been worn by the constant action of the ocean waves. We’ll then ride up the eastern side of Lopez to Spencer Spit State Park and back to Lopez Village, spending our final evening afield at the Lopez Islander Resort. We’ll also celebrate with a sumptuous farewell dinner.
Day 8. Lopez Island to Anacortes, 7 miles
We’ll begin our final day with a quick six-mile ride to the ferry landing at the northern tip of Lopez Island, where we’ll board the ferry for the ride back to the terminal in Anacortes. We will end our journey with a final lunch together after disembarking the ferry in Anacortes. Although this leg of the journey ends where we set out a week ago, the friendships forged and the memories we’ve made will leave us feeling fresh and renewed!