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The Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) will one day stretch 138 miles from Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean. Traversing ancestral lands of the Coast Salish and S’Klallam People, the trail is an ideal way to experience the scenic beauty of the north Olympic Peninsula.
In 1887, Port Townsend residents formed the Port Townsend & Southern Railroad to Quilcene, and passenger and freight service began in 1890. Passenger rail service between Port Townsend and Port Angeles did not come until the early 1900s, after logging work was well under way. The regional movement to create the Olympic Discovery Trail began after railroad service was discontinued in 1985. The Peninsula Trails Coalition, formed in 1988, has spearheaded the complex effort to achieve the vision of the ODT ever since.
Port Townsend to Blyn
The Port Townsend waterfront marks the eastern endpoint of the Olympic Discovery Trail. This section of trail is named in memory of Larry Scott, one of the founders of the Peninsula Trails Coalition.
The waterfront trailhead offers a view of the marina and beyond. The intermittent, separated horse trail begins just beyond the trailhead, along with map and history kiosks. (Note that this east section of the ODT is unpaved and features grades that might be challenging to some users, including wheelchair users). A little climb to two road crossings introduces you to this peaceful community trail among maples, alders, firs, and ferns.
The crushed stone path ascends some small inclines here and there and briefly parallels State Route 20. Pass under the road at mile 2.6, as the railroad once did, and bear left. As you head up toward the road, a sign directs you to go straight to the roadside shoulder and then right to the trail. (Signs are placed on the road, inviting road riders and pedestrians to pass under SR 20 rather than cross the bridge.)
At 3 miles, you'll pass under Discovery Road and relax into rural countryside, crossing small roads every now and then. Here, an equestrian trail reappears and heads up the side of the hill. This pretty wooded section, separated from Cape George Road, meets the Cape George trailhead at 3.6 miles.
Signs direct you to cross the rural Edwards Road. You'll pass horses and a golf course hidden by trees before crossing S. Discovery Road at 6.1 miles. Use caution. On the other side, you'll notice benches strategically placed atop the short hill just where the grade approaches 10%. Wind through the trees, again on the original railroad grade, and up to the Milo Curry trailhead at mile 7.3.
In addition to enjoying the trail, you may want to spend some time in Port Townsend, home of good food, great views, Victorian homes, artist shops, film festivals, and loads of natural beachfront at Fort Worden State Park.
Several smaller sections of trail exist, including a brief section at the southern tip of Discovery Bay and another east from the Clallam/Jefferson county line.
Blyn to Elwha River
The roughly 35-mile section of the Olympic Discovery Trail extending between Diamond Point Road (just east of Sequim Bay) and the Elwha River is considered one of the trail’s crown jewels. Bounded by a sparkling tidal estuary to the east and a recently undammed river to the west, the rail-trail passes through the towns of Sequim and Port Angeles as it traverses lowlands along the base of the Olympic Mountains.
The route generally follows the corridor of the Seattle, Port Angeles & Western Railway, constructed between Port Angeles and Discovery Bay from 1914 to 1915. The railway linked with the Port Townsend & Southern Railroad but didn't connect to a main line. The railroad solved the problem by using barges to transport railroad cars across Puget Sound to Seattle. The railway had the distinction of being the only one in the nation whose schedule was determined by the tides. By 1931, the railroad had discontinued passenger service, and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad had acquired the line to haul freight and timber. The Seattle & North Coast Railroad bought the railway in 1981 and reinstituted passenger service between Port Angeles and Port Townsend. It didn't take hold, however, and crews began removing track in 1985. After community attempts were unsuccessful in having the rail corridor repurposed into a full-length trail, the Peninsula Trails Coalition formed to begin and sustain the long-term campaign to build the trail.
The trail is now largely complete between Blyn and the Elwha River. At Blyn, the trail begins at the Jamestown S’Klallam Reservation and skirts Sequim Bay through a forested state park, ending in the town of Sequim (pronounced “skwim”). From Sequim to Port Angeles, the five-mile-long Waterfront Trail segment travels along the shoreline is considered the first completed piece of the Olympic Discovery Trail. The trail climbs to views overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and ends at the Elwha River, site of the biggest dam removal project in US history.
Elwha River to La Push (including the Spruce Railroad Trail)
From the Elwha River, a short, completed section connects the area of Coville and Ramapo. At Joyce, the trail heads south towards Lake Crescent and enters Olympic National Park. This section of the Olympic Discovery Trail, possibly the foremost of the ODT’s showpieces, offers scenic views along the north shore of Lake Crescent, in Olympic National Park, which was established in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The park offers over 922,000 acres of rain forest, old-growth forest, glacier-topped peaks and alpine meadows. Its forests are home to cougars, bears, deer, woodpeckers, golden eagles, and mountain goats. Trail users might even see peregrine falcons nesting above the trail on Pyramid Mountain.
Sitka spruce is unique to these temperate rain forests of the coastal Pacific Northwest. Its strong, light wood was found to be particularly useful for World War I–era airplanes, so the U.S. Army built the Spruce Railroad to transport this strategic lumber from the coastal forests to Port Angeles. However, World War I ended just 19 days after completion of the railroad, so commercial logging companies took over the rail line and used it until 1954. In honor of its railroad past, this section of the Olympic Discovery Trail is commonly known as the Spruce Railroad Trail.
This section of the Olympic Discovery Trail currently ends at the western end of Sol Duc State Park. The Peninsula Trails Coalition has plans to extend the trail west through Forks, best known in modern times for the Twilight series of books and movies, to the coastal town of La Push. Home to the Quileute Tribe, the brief section of open trail in La Push is the western terminus of the Olympic Discovery Trail and the Great American Rail-Trail.
Port Townsend to Blyn
To reach the waterfront trailhead from the intersection of SR 20 and US 101 near Port Townsend, take SR 20 E for 7.7 miles to Port Townsend. Turn left to stay on SR 20. Go 3.8 miles (SR 20 will become W. Sims Way). Turn right at the Haines Place traffic light, and go straight into the boatyard, toward the water. Park near the restroom.
To reach the Milo Curry trailhead from the intersection of SR 20 and US 101 near Port Townsend, take SR 20 E for 6.2 miles. Turn left onto S. Discovery Road. In 0.3 mile, turn right onto Milo Curry Road. Fork left to the trailhead.
Horse trailer turnarounds and portable toilets are available at Milo Curry and Cape George.
Blyn to Elwha River
To reach Blyn, from the intersection of State Route 20 and US 101 near Port Townsend, take US 101 W for 11.3 miles. Turn right onto Blyn Crossing (opposite Snow Creek Road), and then turn right again at the T-intersection onto Old Blyn Highway. Pass by the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal Headquarters. In 0.4 mile, park at the library on the right at the end of the complex.
To reach Carrie Blake Park in Sequim, from the intersection of SR 20 and US 101 near Port Townsend, take US 101 W for 15.9 miles. Exit onto E. Washington Street. After traveling approximately 0.9 mile, turn right onto S. Blake Avenue. In 0.3 mile, access the trail, parking, and restrooms at E. Fir Street and N. Blake Avenue. Clallam County Transit buses carry bike racks. Schedule and routes are available online.
For trail access at Port Angeles City Pier, from Sequim, take US 101 W about 16 miles. Turn right onto N. Lincoln Street in Port Angeles. Turn right for parking at City Pier.
For Elwha River bridge parking, take US 101 W from Port Angeles about 4.5 miles. Turn right onto Laird Road. In 0.7 mile, turn left onto Elwha River Road. In another 0.7 mile, turn left onto Crown Z Water Road, which leads to a water treatment plant beneath the bridge.
Elwha River to La Push (including the Spruce Railroad Trail)
To reach the E. Beach Road (Lyre River) trailhead, head west from Port Angeles on US 101, and go approximately 15 miles. Turn right onto paved E. Beach Road, following signs for "Log Cabin Resort." After 3.1 miles, pass the resort and follow a sign to the left marked "Spruce Railroad Trail." Reach the trailhead in 0.8 mile.
To reach the Sol Duc Road parking lot, take US 101 W from Port Angeles for approximately 28 miles. After passing Lake Crescent, look for an Olympic National Park sign that reads "Sol Duc Valley Hot Springs Resort." Turn right into a roadside parking lot across from Sol Duc Road.
To reach the Camp Creek trailhead, from Port Angeles, take US 101 W for 35 miles. Turn left at mile marker 211 onto Cooper Ranch Road (Klahowya Campground is on the right), and turn left into the trailhead. From Forks, travel northeast on US 101 for 20 miles, and turn right onto Cooper Ranch Road.
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