Although I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1994, I’d never been to Hurricane Ridge via any mode of transport let alone on a bike. It had been on my cycling hit list for years, but it took me until last September to finally make the pilgrimage. The climb is one of Washington state’s most compelling cycling objectives in that it rises 5,200’+ in ~18+ miles from Port Angeles.
The idea for a mid-week adventure came from High Performance Cycling teammate Tobias Holgers. I extended an invitation to Garage Racing‘s Ed Rosenberg to make it a threesome. After research and deliberation about route details, we settled on an out and back from Sequim Bay State Park. Although a basic out and back from Port Angeles is popular, this ~40-miler was not long enough to be interesting our trio. Another popular option is to loop out to the west from Port Angeles then back to do the climb, but that route includes Hwy 101, which we wanted to avoid. As we explored the options, the Olympic Discovery Trail looked interesting to all of us and gave us a way to connect Sequim with Port Angeles and eliminate any time on Hwy 101.
As we debriefed after the ride we agreed that Sequim Bay State Park was not the best start point, and we’d recommend a start at Carrie Blake Park or possibly Dungeness River Audubon Center. The few miles between Sequim and the State Park didn’t add to this particular route, and they charge a fee to park vehicles.
Any way you do it, a trip to the Olympic Peninsula is an all-day project, with a ferry ride to and from Bainbridge Island, and a bit of a drive to and from Sequim. It was a tad chilly when we started pedaling in Sequim, but it turned out to be a perfect day weather-wise and we all agreed it was one of the most memorable cycling days any of us could remember.
Although the hill profile between Sequim and Port Angeles is relatively flat, there are quite a number of short, steep dips along the way that add another ~2,000′ of climbing, and I ended up with about 7,000+’ total. We didn’t know what to expect on the Olympic Discovery Trail, but it is a splendid combination of coastal woodlands, farmlands, and seashore all punctuated with views of Hurricane Ridge on the approach, and powered by a tailwind on the return trip. We did have some very minor route-finding issues on the approach to Port Angeles, but the return to Sequim was uneventful.
After a leisurely ride from Sequim to Port Angeles we made an obligatory stop for coffee and baked goods at the Blackbird Coffeehouse. After the snack, the almost immediate ascent out of Port Angeles was a challenge at first. As we settled into the climb I mentioned to Ed (who races for Garage) that he was not allowed to recruit Tobias to his team. Ed didn’t quite understand what I was getting at, since he had never ridden with Tobias before, but when I got to the top (well behind the both of them) Tobias’ climbing ability had indeed impressed Ed, and the recruiting had commenced. (In fact, for 2014, Tobias is riding with both High Performance Cycling and Garage, and has already delivered enviable results at Tour de Dung and Mason Lake.)
Although legendary, I have to say that compared to other climbs in Washington State, Hurricane Ridge is unremarkable until the final turn at the end of the road. Artist Point, the climbs around Mt. Rainier, Rainy and Washington Passes on Hwy 20, and the climb to the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mt. St. Helens all have significantly better scenery.
However, the Discovery Trail-Hurricane Ridge combination IS a fantastic ride and worthy of adding to your summer cycling hit list.