Olympic Peninsula Backroad Adventures

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Deer Park Road Olympic National Park.JPG

After getting my Jeep back together, I wanted to get a multi-day camping/road trip in. I wanted to see how my newly built cargo box was going to work and experiment with stowing camping gear for a 3-day mini-expedition plus a dog.

My goals for this trip weren’t to go wheeling, especially since I was traveling solo. I wanted to hit the back roads and travel as much gravel and/or primitive roads as possible, carrying all my supplies, stopping only for fuel as needed (since I don’t have a gas can carrier yet).

After looking through the book Washington Byways: Backcountry Drives For The Whole Family, I decided upon driving an Olympic Peninsula route. The book lists several routes that could be connected together with no backtracking. Perfect for a loop around peninsula.

See the photos of this trip at Olympic Peninsula Backroad Adventures Photos

Day One.

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After finalizing everything for the trip, I was off (much later than desired). From my home near Puyallup (WA), I headed west towards the Olympic Peninsula via Hood Canal.

Near Key Center, I passed a Renaissance Fair and saw a guy dress like Peter Pan directing traffic. No visible wenches to report.

I also found out that when a dog sits behind you in the cargo area of a Jeep, dog slobber has a tendency to float forward in strings and land on everything in the passenger area, including me, the windshield etc.

Once I got to Quilcene, I made several stops to purchase a Forest Service map. Unfortunately, none of the local stores carry them and I missed the closing time of the ranger station by fifteen minutes. I fueled up, backtracked a mile or so to Penney Creek Road and headed off into the hills with only a guidebook.

(NOTE: I don’t list any distances because my speedometer is off by a good 10 percent or more and I don’t have a GPS)

Olympic National Forest Rd 27-210 Campsite.JPG

The first leg of my journey (Tour 5 in the book Washington Byways) was to take Olympic National Forest Rd. 27 up and over Bon Jon Pass and down to Sequim via FS Rd. 28.

Most of the way up FS 27 was a typical single lane, winding mountain road with turnouts. I had to watch out for the hikers hurrying back to civilization on a Sunday night. It’s funny how people don’t realize the potential for a collision with other vehicles on blind corners (not to mention cliffs).

Just prior to reaching the summit of Bon Jon Pass, I had approximately two hours to dark so I started looking for a camping spot. I spotted a hilltop that was clear-cut to the summit. I found the double track (the road wasn’t marked but I believe it was FS Rd. 212) that led to a landing near the top. This site provided a perfect place to camp for the night with awesome views. From the campsite, I could see Mt. Baker, the North Cascades, the San Juan Islands, and Mt. Rainier.

Olympic National Forest Rd 27-210 Quilcene Range.JPG

By time I had a few beers, set up camp and finished with dinner, night had fallen. Luckily a slight breeze started blowing and the mosquitoes disappeared.

At night, the moon was full nearly full. The moon provided excellent visibility, no need for a lantern. The hills and mountains were well lit up. The city lights of the Puget Sound lowlands were quite visible, all the way from Bellingham to Tacoma.

Later that night, the wind picked up and was blowing quite steady for several hours. The flapping of the tent made the dog a little nervous. Luckily, the winds passed and it remained calm the rest of the night.

Day Two.

Deer Park Road Olympic National Park.JPG

The next morning, I awoke to clear blue skies and surprisingly warm temperatures. The first thing I did was take the dog for a short walk down to the roads end and snapped a few photos.

Just off the road, I noticed a bird flopping around like it was injured (to divert me from it’s nest). So what do I do, I look for the nest. I found two small birds huddled down motionless in their nest.

After breakfast and packing up camp, I was on the road again. Up and over Bon Jon Pass and FS Rd. 27 links up with FS Rd. 28. FS 28 slowly winds down with occasional views of the Olympic Mountains, then connects with Highway 101 near Sequim. According to the guidebook, this route is approximately 40 miles one way.

Kloshe Nanitch Lookout.JPG

Once back on the highway, I headed west towards Port Angeles. Just prior to reaching town, I headed south on Deer Park Road (Washington Byways Tour 3). Look for the Toyota dealership. The road steadily climbs, first on pavement then turning to gravel upon entering the Olympic National Park. The further up the road climbs, the better the views become. The road ends at a trailhead at the base of Blue Mountain with excellent views of the Olympic Mountains, Port Angeles lowlands, the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island.

From Highway 101, there is no sign mentioning the Olympic National Park. Because of this, there is probably a lot less traffic to this point than to Hurricane Ridge.

Once again after photos and a brief break from driving, it was time to head back to Highway 101. The out and back from Highway 101 is approximately 34 miles.

After fueling up in Port Angeles (the Safeway had the best fuel price in town), I headed west on Highway 101 then west on Highway 112 towards Joyce. I had to wait 30 minutes for a repaving project.

Klahowya Campground.JPG

Once past the Lyre River, I started looking for the East Twin River Road (FS Rd. 3040). I took a left (south) and started climbing steadily for approximately 16 miles (according to the guidebook) with occasional views of the Straight and Vancouver Island. The guidebook lists an alternate side trip to Pyramid Mountain, which I didn’t take.

Once I reached the ridge top, I followed the signs to the Kloshe Nanitch lookout. According to the guidebook, this is a replica of a lookout that was located nearby. There is a balcony that offers excellent views of the Sol Duc River valley below and the Olympic Mountains. After more pictures, I headed down the steep, winding road to Highway 101.

Once back on the highway, I headed east a short distance and found a campsite at the Klahowya Campground. Since it was a Monday, I had my choice of campsites so I found one right on the Sol Duc River. I set up camp and settled in for the night. Since it was a designated campground, that evening I was able to have a legal campfire.

Day Three.

Ruby Beach Olympic National Park.JPG

I woke up a to a cool, cloudy morning. I broke camp and headed west on Highway 101 and found out that it was raining. The campsite in the trees kept me dry all night. Since it was wet and only about 50 something degrees, with my upper doors and side curtains for my Jeep at home, I donned my raincoat for the next leg of the journey (good thing I came prepared for rain).

I made a stop in Forks, got a warm coffee and fuel (be sure to top off here because the prices are outrageous between Forks and Aberdeen). I stopped at the ranger station in town and purchased a forest service map.

After Forks, I had a choice to do an inland route or follow Highway 101 to the coast. I decided upon the coastal route because Washington State has some of the most beautiful coastlines, especially those portions in the Olympic National Park.

I made a brief stop at Ruby Beach for a short hike to the beach and for some cool pictures.

Wynoochee Lake.JPG

Back on the road again, I traveled south on Highway 101 past Lake Quinalt.

The next portion of my journey was one I located on the forest service map I purchased. Basically the route I chose would take me from Highway 101 (near the coast) overland and meet up with Highway 101 (on the Hood Canal side).

I located Donkey Creed Road (FS Rd. 22) and headed east toward the Wynoochee Recreation area. The road starts out as a paved two lane and then narrows to a single lane with turnouts. At about nine miles from the highway it turns to gravel and winds through clear cuts and replanted forest. Watch out for logging truck traffic in this area.

Olympic National Forest Rd 23.JPG

At about 22 miles from Highway 101, I reached the Wynoochee Dam. There is a good viewing area of the dam. There are several campgrounds and of course Wynoochee Lake if you want to spend some time here.

Just past the dam turnoff, at the junction for the town Montesano (where most of the log truck traffic follows), I stayed to the left, and then I took an immediate right on FS Rd. 23. At the next junction, I followed the signs to Spider Lake (FS Rd. 23).

On the way to Spider Lake, the road climbs and descends through several drainages and saddles. At about 16 miles from the dam is Spider Lake. I briefly saw the lake through the trees but wasn’t able to locate the access. There were no signs in the area that noted the location of the lake. I found some cool camp spots that require a 4×4 to get to though. I assume there must be a trail that leads to the lake.

After a few miles past Spider Lake, the road widens to two lanes and is a combination of gravel and pavement. Finally FS Rd. 23 ends at the Skokomish Valley Road and follows the river valley through farmland back to Highway 101 (about 20 miles from Spider Lake) where it was back home via the highways.

Summary.

It would be easy to spend a week’s time touring the Olympic Peninsula. There are many side roads and attractions a tour could include, even more if you included some hiking in your itinerary.

Areas that I would have liked to visit included Hurricane Ridge/Obstruction Point and Cape Flattery.

If I had properly prepared and actually had a Olympic National Forest map that listed the forest service roads and numbers, I may have chosen some alternative routes.

After looking over the forest service map, I noted some possible routes to include in an extended expedition to the Olympic Peninsula.

1. From Highway 101 (near Hood Canal) follow signs to Lake Cushman. From the lake, there are forest service roads that lead to the Hamma Hamma River (FS Rd 25) and back to Highway 101.

2. It appears that from the Bon Jon Pass Road (see day one and two), I may have been able to follow forest service roads and exit to Highway 101 west of Sequim.

3. From Highway 101, just west of Lake Crescent, it appears that you can drive from the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road all the way to Forks by linking up with FS Rd. 29.

4. From Highway 112, there are several possible routes to take to Ozette Lake, including one from Neah Bay (unknown if open because its on the Makah Indian Reservation), and one that follows the Sekiu River. From Ozette Lake, it appears that one can travel south to near La Push, and then to the Hoh River, then back to Highway 101.

5. From Highway 101 (coastal section south of Forks), follow the signs to the Olympic Corrections Center, then back to Highway 101. This bypasses the coast portion of Highway 101.

All of the routes I listed can be done in a two-wheel drive vehicle with reasonable clearance. Of course, I can’t attest to the road conditions of the other possible routes.

If you have traveled or know the condition of these other routes, post up in the comments sections.

See you on the trails.