Seattle to the Pacific: A Dream Bike Route Gains Momentum

Riding my electric cargo bike is my favorite thing

Paul Tolmé

  • National and regional trail advocates are collaborating on plans to create a trail that would link the Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean via the Sound to Olympics Trail and Olympic Discovery Trail.
  • The Puget Sound to Pacific Collaborative has won a $16 million federal grant to fast track planning for this segment of the 3,700-mile Great American Rail-Trail.


Within a few minutes of beginning a group ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail it became apparent that Gov. Jay Inslee loves to bike. 

We pedaled hard to catch up as he sped off down the trail on a sunny weekday morning.

But Inslee was in a rush for good reason. He was scheduled to speak and receive a national trails award in two hours in Sequim, 30 miles away from our starting point in Port Angeles. 

I was among a lucky group of a dozen trail advocates offered the fun task of riding to the event with Inslee. How often do you get to draft the governor on a long bike ride?

The occasion was a two-day gathering in early June of regional and national trail advocates convened by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and including the Peninsula Trails Coalition, the Puget Sound to Pacific Collaborative, Cascade Bicycle Club/Washington Bikes, the Washington Trails Association, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, state officials from the Washington Department of Transportation, Washington State Parks, plus many local government officials.


Photo: Jesse Major/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

The goal of the gathering was to build momentum for completing a 200-mile multi-use trail that will connect Seattle to the Pacific coast. About 100 miles have already been completed. Now, supporters want to fast-track the remaining 100, which would tie together the Olympic Discovery Trail and the fledgling Sound to Olympics Trail for a continuous off-road route dubbed the Puget Sound to Pacific Trail.

PS2P route map

“Imagine being able to get on a ferry in downtown Seattle with your bike, enjoying a beautiful ferry trip across Puget Sound, disembarking on Bainbridge Island or in Kingston and then being able to ride to Port Townsend or all the way to the Pacific coast on a multi-use trail,” says Vicky Clarke, policy director for Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes. 

“It would be a world-class bike route with incredible economic, health, climate, and equity benefits that would attract people from around the nation and the world. This trail would also serve as a crucial transportation corridor for non-motorized travel linking many suburban, rural, and tribal communities to one another, as well as to our state’s economic center of Seattle,” Clarke says.

Federal Funding for Trail Planning

Supporters of this trail initiative recently received big news from the federal government.

On June 22, the Puget Sound to Pacific Collaborative learned that it has won a $16 million federal grant to fast-track plans for filling trail gaps and completing the remaining 100 miles.


The U.S Department of Transportation RAISE grant will fund the planning and design phase of the Puget Sound to Pacific Trail, which would connect the Olympic Discovery Trail in Jefferson and Clallam counties to the Sound to Olympics Trail in Kitsap County–creating a seamless ride from the Puget Sound ferry terminals to the Pacific.

Completing the Puget Sound to Pacific would fill a gap in the 12-state Great American Rail-Trail that is more than 50 percent completed from Washington, D.C., to the Pacific coast town of La Push. La Push is the “Western Gateway” to the Great American Rail-Trail and the westernmost location on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

The big vision is to eventually link these western Washington bike routes to the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail that travels from just outside of Seattle to the Idaho border, enabling people to travel by bike from the Pacific to Seattle, onward to Idaho, and beyond.

Winning the RAISE grant is a huge milestone for the Puget Sound to Pacific Collaborative. The City of Port Angeles was the lead applicant, and co-applicants include the Quileute and Suquamish Tribes; Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties; the cities of Forks, Sequim, Port Townsend, Poulsbo, and Bainbridge Island; the Port of Port Townsend, and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The Puget Sound to Pacific Trail will be “a huge resource and asset for our region that connects six cities and six tribes” says Steve Durrant, project director for the initiative. “Best of all it’s halfway done thanks to more than 35 years of work by trail advocates and government agencies.”


Inslee and Durrant share a laugh during a rest stop on the ride.
Drafting the Governor

Durrant was among the group of trail advocates who joined Inslee for the ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail. Inslee joked and chatted with other riders throughout the two hour ride. The scenery was spectacular: ocean views, fir forests, farmlands. 


Photo: Jesse Major/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

At 73 years old, Inslee remains fit due to his passion for riding bikes. He wore a green bike jersey with the Washington state seal and rode a large Specialized Allez. 

At the conclusion of our ride, Inslee quickly showered and changed into his suit to give a luncheon address and accept a national trails award in Sequim on Jamestown S’Klallam tribal lands. 

The Rails to Trails Conservancy named Inslee its 2023 trails champion thanks to his efforts to devote state funding for critical trail infrastructure such as the Beverly Bridge, as well as the monumental $1.3 billion in spending for bike infrastructure and youth bicycling education in the Move Ahead Washington program.

Inslee was the first governor to support the Great American Rail-Trail, and thanks in part to his efforts, Washington state has the largest amount of existing trail among the 12 states along the Great American Rail-Trail route.

In addition to their recreational benefits, trails are “a critical element of decarbonizing our economy,” Inslee says. “We have to beat climate change, and these trails are one mechanism for beating climate change.”  


Photo: Jesse Major/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Trails are more than recreational assets, they also serve as transportation corridors that allow people to bike, walk or roll rather than drive, Clarke says. The Washington Recreation and Conservation Office calculates that trails contribute more than $8.2 billion to Washington’s economy and support more than 81,000 jobs annually.

“Trails are a catalyst for many economic, health, and sustainability goals,” Clarke says. “They are active transportation highways, and once created they lead to more community investments in on-street biking and walking networks. The goal is to enable people to ride a bike to the doctor’s office, to school or the grocery store, or to travel to the next town, or across the state and beyond, by bike.”


Progress on the Olympic Discovery Trail

Even without the RAISE grant funding, some big new segments of the Olympic Discovery Trail will be completed in the next two years, according to Jeff Bohman, president of the Peninsula Trails Coalition. 

One new trail segment that has funding will connect the Larry Scott Trail and Four Corners near Port Townsend to and through Anderson Lake State Park. This trail segment should be completed within two years, Bohman says.

On the westernmost segment of the Olympic Discovery Trail, Clallam County and Olympic National Park are working to complete an 11-mile segment from Forks to La Push. A big segment of this trail will be completed in two years as well, Bohman says. 

Meantime, the Jamestown S'klallam Tribe is on the verge of completing several short segments on tribal lands along the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Cascade Bicycle Club is excited to see this progress and will continue to collaborate with national, state, and local agencies to complete the Puget Sound to Pacific route. “When finished, this route will be one of the most beautiful and exciting long distance bike trails in the world,” Clarke says. “A big thank you to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy for bringing all of these stakeholders together to unite behind a vision for a world-class trail that will benefit our region in so many ways.”

Check out more photos from Inslee's ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail below.







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