ODT West Central - Foothills and Lake Section
The West Central quarter of ODT runs from Port Angeles across the Elwha River, along the coastal lowlands and Lake Crescent, to end on Hwy 101 at the top of Fairholm Hill. It is 31.7 miles long, of which 15.7 miles is separated trail and 16 miles is temporary, on-road, route. Of the 15.7 miles of separated trail, 10.3 miles are paved and completed, and 5.4 miles are under construction with completion expected in 2012.
The route has 4 bridges including a 586 ft suspended trail bridge over the Elwha River and a small railroad trestle along Lake Crescent. There are also two former railroad tunnels along the lake. About 10 miles of the route along Lake Crescent are within Olympic National Park. About 65% of the separated route is on former railroad grade, which provides a very uniform grade ascending Fairholm Hill at the west end of the route. The elevation starts near sea level and climbs to about 1140 ft at the end, which is the highest point on ODT.
There are seven supported or planned access points along this section of ODT:
1) Port Angeles City Pier. Lincoln St at W. Front St. Parking, toilets, water, tourist info center, shopping and restaurants, transportation center.
2) 10th St Parking. 10th St at Milwaukee Dr (planned).
3) 18th St Trailhead. (planned).
4) Lower Elwha Road. (planned).
5) Elwha River. At end of Crown Z Water Rd under the bridge. Parking only.
6) East Beach Trailhead. Near end of E. Beach Rd in Olympic National Park. Parking, toilets, water.
7) Sol Duc Road. On Hwy 101 opposite Sol Duc Rd. Limited parking.
See detail maps for locations.
If Sequim is the queen city of the prairie and farming regions, then Port Angeles is the queen city of timber production and the forested regions of the North Olympic Peninsula. Founded in the 1850ís and built with timber mills and shipping, Port Angeles is the largest city on the north Olympic Peninsula with a population of nearly 20,000 residents. It is also the headquarters and gateway to Olympic National Park.
Hurricane Ridge, about 19 miles south of the start of this section (City Pier), is the only place where cars and bikes can get into the inner Olympic Mountains. (see Attractions and Side Trips /Hurricane Ridge). West of Port Angeles the trail crosses the Elwha River on a spectacular suspended bridge. Long a source of hydropower and water for mills, the Elwha dams were removed in September 2011, and the largest river flowing out of the Olympics returned to breeding all 5 salmon species, including the giant 100 pound Chinook salmon of earlier years.
Beyond the river, the route parallels the Strait of Juan de Fuca coast line with side roads to beaches and resorts. At the town of Joyce, the trail cuts south over coastal hills to Lake Crescent, a large, deep (600 ft+) glacial lake nestled between towering mountain ridges. The trail hugs the lake's north shore on 8 miles of former railroad grade, bypassing 2 tunnels, then rises into a heavily forested plateau that continues through the next section.