Nestled on the Southern end of the Olympic Peninsula is the atmospheric Quinault Rain Forest. Home of moss-covered trees, formidable peaks and the pristine Lake Quinault, this is a classic coastal destination for locals and visitors alike. The rainforest offers a myriad of possibilities for recreation, but a bike ride around Lake Quinault Loop Road allows you to experience the area in a way that you will remember for years to come.
The entire loop is about 30 miles with 1,600 feet of elevation gain. This makes it achievable for beginners, though cyclists of all experience levels will find something to appreciate in the beauty of Quinault. A good portion of the route is gravel road, so make sure your bike tires are prepared for different terrains. If you approach the rainforest from the south, La Vogue Bicycle and Apparel in Hoquiam is a great place to stock up on any last-minute cycling gear you may need.
Riding Lake Quinault Loop Road
The loop can be ridden in whichever direction you desire, but locals tend to ride counter-clockwise, starting from the parking lot at the Lake Quinault Lodge. From the lodge, you will be riding down the South Shore Road. This first section of road will take you past cabins, campgrounds and the occasional glimpse of the clear waters of Lake Quinault. After only two miles of riding, you will enter an open area of road surrounded by fields. Take some time to appreciate the peaks of Colonel Bob Wilderness looming above you and make sure to keep an eye out for the magnificent Roosevelt Elk that frequent the area.
Only two more miles of riding brings you to Merriman Falls, the most accessible waterfall in the area. Spend some time enjoying the 40-foot cascade and the mossy clearing it sits in before riding five more miles along the Quinault River to Bunch Falls. Bunch Falls marks the entrance to Olympic National Park, leaving only one more mile to ride before crossing the river via the North Shore Road Bridge. On a clear day, you may be able to get a glimpse of the Olympic Mountains as you cross the bridge.
This first section of the North Shore Road will provide more views of the impressive peaks in Colonel Bob Wilderness. You may even be able to see Colonel Bob itself; a worthy summit challenge for another day. This stretch of road will take you through glades of moss-laden trees surrounded by massive ferns that carpet the forest floor. The scenic forest views make the next eight miles to the historic Kestner Homestead go by quickly.
The Kestner Homestead
The Kestner Homestead boasts a still-standing house, barn and rusting farm equipment from the late 19th century. The property is open for exploring and a brief walk will take you to the short Maple Glade Loop trail; a classic rainforest scene that rivals the Hoh Rainforest’s Hall of Mosses in lush beauty. The Kestner Homestead is a great place to take a break and stretch your legs before tackling the next stretch of your ride.
You have a few hills to conquer before reaching Amanda Park. This section of the loop is the steepest part of your ride. Luckily the verdant rainforest scenery provides plenty of reason to stop and take breaks as needed. Once you make it over the hills, the rest of the trip is smooth sailing.
As you reach the end of the North Shore Road, turn left. Here the route will take you a few miles along Highway 101 and through the small town of Amanda Park. Remember to keep an eye out for the occasional views of Lake Quinault as you ride through town. Here you have a choice between cutting through Amanda Park on Route 9 or riding a few extra miles to the official turn back onto the South Shore Road.
Once you make your final left turn there is only one remaining push to complete the loop. The road follows the lakeshore in these last few miles. Enjoy the arboreal sounds of the rainforest and keep an eye out for the small but scenic Willaby Creek Falls on your right as you cross the bridge of the same name.
Returning to Lake Quinault
Conveniently, your ride ends at one of the most acclaimed dining establishments on the Peninsula: the Lake Quinault Lodge’s Roosevelt Dining Room. The menu boasts a plethora of mouthwatering dishes inspired by the area. Consider rewarding yourself with some takeout and finishing your day with a short walk to the “World’s Largest Spruce Tree,” which is located just down the road from the Lodge. The impressive 1,000-year-old tree measures 58 feet around and is about 200 feet tall, making it well worth the detour.
Quinault is an area that takes a good amount of time to explore in full, but the Lake Quinault Road Loop is a singularly unique place to start. Though it can easily be driven, cycling allows visitors to experience the area in a truly intimate way unlike any other.