Routes: Tahuya-Hood CanalJan Heine
When we talk about wide tires and other bike tech, it’s for one reason only: so we can have more fun on our bikes. We have some amazing riding in the Pacific Northwest, and here we’re sharing some of our favorite routes. First in the series is a wonderful loop that is accessible from downtown Seattle, yet feels incredibly remote. You can ride the entire 129 km (80 miles) in one stretch, or you can stay at the wonderful Scenic State Park in Seabeck for a two-day bikepacking trip.
You’ll ride along the Hood Canal, a fjord carved by the glaciers of the last ice age. This keeps you at low elevation, so the route is rideable year-round. There are plenty of short, punchy climbs to give your legs a workout, and the gravel is some of the most challenging and technical you’ll find anywhere, with steep descents, loose gravel and sharp turns. And yet it’s rideable on 32 mm tires, if that’s all you have.
To get to the start, you take the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bremerton. It’s a spectacular boat ride across the Puget Sound that puts you in the mood for this great ride.
The route out of Bremerton takes you through quiet neighborhoods. It’s a good warmup, followed by a very gentle climb and descent as you traverse the shallow divide that separates the Puget Sound from the Hood Canal. Belfair is the last town on the route – a big grocery store and a Starbucks coffee shop provide the necessities, without inviting you to linger. Because the best riding is still ahead.
From here, you head along the Hood Canal. If you get an early morning start, you’ll probably see fog lifting off the water, and the Olympic Mountains appear on the other side.
Watch out for wildlife – not just deer, but also bald eagles that sometimes rest on the road.
Past Tahuya – not really a town, just a few houses – pavement gives way to gravel. The road climbs little ridges and drops into ravines. It makes for challenging and fun riding – and you rarely see a car here.
After this fun stretch, you’ll rejoin a paved road that drops down to the water before climbing into the hills again. You are slowly returning to civilization when you join a highway. Fortunately, there are many old sideroads that break up the monotony of the wide expanse of pavement. And even on the big road, there’s little traffic, because the highway dead-ends just down the road.
A fast descent drops you into Seabeck, where you can either make a quick stop at the general store, eat lunch at the little pizza shack, or stay overnight at the Scenic Beach State Park (which lives up to its name).
You’ll need the rest and sustenance for the fearsome Anderson Hill Road. This three-part, stair-step climb is incredibly steep. Tuck on the first descent, and you’ll coast up most of the first climb. Repeat on the second descent, and you’ll get at least a head start on the second hill. And then your legs will hopefully still be fresh enough to climb the third ascent. If not, there’s no shame in walking…
You enter Bremerton again, this time from the north. The route avoids most traffic and includes some nice stretches along the water. And then you’re at the ferry again, ready to return to Seattle. Your legs will be tired out of proportion to the distance and elevation, and your heart will be filled with beautiful sights and memories.
• Details and GPS tracks for this route