Washington Parks

Washington Parks
Sedro-Woolley, WA to Sedro-Woolley, WA
2 Map Set (861.0 mi.)
GPS | Overview | Buy
1. Sedro-Woolley, WA to Elma, WA (308 mi.) Detail |Addenda
2. Elma, WA to Sedro-Woolley, WA (553 mi.) Detail |Addenda

Double loop route packed with parks, mountains, ocean views.

This double loop, two map section route showcases the diversity of the state of Washington, from its ocean and sound views in the west to the fertile orchards of the central Columbia Valley while traversing three national parks. The beginning and end points are technically Sedro-Woolley and Elma, though the abundance of ferries in and around Seattle allow great flexibility in planning.

Section one of the Washington Parks Bicycle Route begins by heading west out of Sedro-Woolley where the route provides the first opportunity to board a ferry. From Anacortes, the San Juan Islands (Lopez, Orcas and San Juan) are easily accessed through a frequent ferry schedule. The islands are a "must see" for many bicycle tourers, each bearing its own flavor with mostly low-trafficked roads and hilly riding. Back on the main route, the next stop is Port Townsend, a historic seaport with a host of tourist activities from galleries and shopping to dining and quaint bed and breakfasts. Continuing along the coast the route follows the Olympic Discovery Trail from Sequim to Port Angeles, the gateway to Olympic National Park, which is the first of three national parks on this route. Be sure to leave yourself time to visit the park's visitor center in town and stretch your legs on one of the many day hike options.

From Port Angeles to Elma it is mostly rural riding with light traffic. South of Forks is one of the most scenic areas of the route, with incredible views and ample opportunities to explore the shorelines from the beach parking lots. Once in Elma, you have two options, to head north and finish the loop in Port Townsend via the 111-mile Sound Alternate or continue east on section two toward Mt. Rainier National Park for the larger loop across central Washington.

The Sound Alternate is a mostly rural connection back to Port Townsend that includes a spur to Bremerton, with an option for a ferry to  downtown Seattle. The Kitsap Peninsula has an active naval base just north of Silverdale. Off route several miles east is the town of Poulsbo. They proudly celebrate their rich, Norwegian heritage from the vibrant waterfront park to the shopping district with a wide array of delicious baked goods.

Section two of the Washington Parks Bicycle Route begins in Elma and heads east into the foothills of the Cascades. Eatonville has its roots in the lumber industry. In spite of the closure of the mill in 1942, it continues to grow as a residential community and recreational jumping off spot for the region. Traffic volume increases as you approach Mt. Rainier National Park, especially June through August. As you leave the park, you will crest two mountain passes in rapid succession, Cayuse Pass and Chinook Pass. The grade of these ascents is roughly a steady 5-8%. From here it is mostly downhill to Selah, just north of Yakima, to the Yakima River.

The environment on the eastern side of the Cascades is markedly drier as you follow the Yakima River north to Ellensburg. Continuing north, Blewett Pass (4,102') is just ahead before reaching U.S. 2/97. Entering the off route mountain town of Leavenworth is like riding into an alpine village. All businesses are dressed up in a Swiss-themed motif. North Cascades National Park provides another opportunity to get off the bike and try a day hike. The route continues on State Route 20 until Marblemount where local roads are used to avoid heavy traffic and they generally follow the Skagit River to Sedro-Woolley and section one.

Photo by Gregg Bleakney

Leaving Sedro-Woolley headed west the route is rolling down to Sequim where it flattens out along the Straight of Juan De Fuca. Heading south from the coast the route will start to roll again with smaller hills. From Elma, the Sound Alternate headed back north starts with a small climb, and then is rolling again back to where it rejoins the main route south of Port Townsend. From Elma headed east on section two, the route gradually starts to climb, culminating in two mountain passes in Mt. Rainier National Park. The route then descends mostly to the Yakima area, before starting to climb along the Yakima River, culminating with Blewett Pass south of Cashmere. After a slow descent, the road starts to slowly climb as it follows the Columbia and Methow rivers, topping out at the 5,477 foot Washington Pass west of Mazama, before slowly descending back down to Sedro-Woolly.

This route is best ridden late spring to mid-fall. Due to heavy snow falls, the highway in North Cascades National Park is usually closed mid-November to mid-April though the park remains open with limited access. For an opening date call the Park at (360) 856-5700.

From Port Angeles to Elma, with the exceptions of Forks, Amanda Park and Montesano, services are sparse so be prepared with food and water. Some longer days will also be required if you desire to stay in hotels along this section. Be sure to plan ahead around Mt. Rainier National Park during the summer tourist season. The crowds pick up and reservations are recommended for campgrounds and motels. As a full service town, Ellensburg is a good spot to replenish your supplies and perhaps pick up a spare tube at the bike shop.

Some campgrounds will charge a cyclist traveling by himself less if they have hiker/biker sites, but often they will charge the price of a regular tent or RV site, and that can easily be $10-$30/night. If you're friendly and ask around, you can often get yourself invited to camp in a yard. Our routes sometimes go through national forests (moreso in the west) and you are allowed to camp anywhere on national forest land as long as you "pack it in, pack it out." Many city parks are free to camp in.

You may also wish to sign up with Warmshowers, a reciprocal hospitality site for bicycle travelers, for other overnight options.

  • Olympic National Park, Section 1
  • San Juan Islands, Section 1
  • Leavenworth, Washington, Section 2
  • Mt. Rainier National Park, Section 2
  • North Cascades National Park, Section 2

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