During my huge multi-week trip into the Olympic National Park hike. I relied heavily on hitchhiking and the bus system for my resupply. Deciding after week 1 to only carry the maximum of 8 days worth of food at a time.
This would mean I would have to bus to Lake Quinault, Forks, Brinnon or Port Angeles. There is no shuttle system in place to get me from any of these towns to the trailheads. Meaning I would walk the road until a nice person picked me up.
A 20+ mile service road walk would be necessary if it weren't for kind people. Nobody wants to walk a road after they have been on the trail all day. Especially for someone in minimal shoes. Man made crushed rock roads aren't the kindest to tender feet.
Once out on the the main highway system that circles the Olympic Peninsula I catch various buses heading north or south. This came in handy when I was trying to 'leap frog' or go to bigger stores for more food variety. I also sometimes chose towns with a public library for communication purposes; since I do not own a cellphone.
The public library system is a very valuable resource for someone drifting in the mountains. The ability to check weather reports, look at tides, and talk to family are all pluses for a successful trip.
|Unloading my bike in Amanda Park while Bus Bikepacking|
Online as a Modern Tool
I found that one of the most valuable time saving tools is Google Maps. You can research the resources available in a certain town during trip planning prior to starting your adventure. Not only that but, in the last year or two bus routes have become available in Google Maps. Access that option by choosing - Maps> Get directions> by public transit icon> enter A and B> bingo!
Make sure you cross check the suggested route. Often this tries to put you on a private shuttle service; which would cost you a lot more money.
I also don't put my faith in Google. So always cross check the times on each transit website or a paper schedule.
Olympic Peninsula Pamphlet
Since my last post on this subject. The powers that be have came up with a physical tourist handout. This is available in most ranger stations around the Peninsula. Like to think I had a part in inspiring the creation of this public transportation brochure.
I however found it basic and leaving some things unclear to visitors. For example: If you bus down to Lake Quinault. That will still leave you 20 miles from any backpacking trailhead. One would have to hitch or bike in order to complete an overnight trip; without sleeping at a expensive campground or lodge.
|Map from the Olympic National Park Transit Guide|
Hitch a Ride to a Trail
Gypsying the Olympic Peninsula relies on the kindness of others. Keep in mind this is sometimes a slow process and not guaranteed in the winter months. During rain storms; I have walked the entire road to access a trail.
The peak tourist season also affects how quickly you will get a ride. More cars driving up and down the road increases your odds.
Tip: Always be walking to your destination with backpack on. Never stand around and expect someone to pick you up.
Be aware that it is prohibited to hitchhike in the Olympic National Park. Spoke to many rangers about this subject. As long as you don't stick out your thumb -- which is the known signal to others that you need a lift -- you are not breaking any laws and will not be ticketed.
Buspacking using Public Transportation
The possibilities are endless when using public transportation to visit the ONP. I cannot think of one route in the park that is not possible. Whether its thru-hiking the coastline or climbing Mt. Olympus.
I feel it is very important to plan your trip ahead of time. On average it takes an extra 24 hours to complete your adventure. More than likely you will have to wait until the next day to catch the bus once off the trail.
However the money savings and the increase in adventure makes it well worth your time.
|While Buspacking; I successfully completed my Solo Bailey Range Traverse. This route leads you from Sol Duc to Lake Quinault.|
|Riding the bus around Lake Crescent|
Bikepacking using Access Roads
There is no better way to see the roads in the ONP than on a bike seat. Something about being outside the bubble of an automobile to enhance your wilderness experience. I have personally seen olympic elk, bald eagles and black bear all while cycling.
Using a bike on your trip is also a great way to be self reliant. Not having to depend on a bus or hitching a ride to get you from 'point A to point B'. Easier to calculate travel time while trip planning; because you're not having to factor in the variable of waiting around for a hitch.
Your bicycle can also fit on every transit around the Olympic Peninsula. The only downside is that most only have 3 slots on the racks. On a 'first come - first serve' system; you are not always guaranteed a spot.
|Bikepacking the Elwha Valley|
|Ready to load my bike onto the bus back to Port Angeles, Wa|
Tribal Shuttle on Reservations
Not shown in the pamphlet listed above. This resource can be vary powerful, to enable you to connect the dots on your trip. The Quileute Bus will take you from Forks to La Push for no cost. The Makah Tribal Bus services the Neah Bay area. It can get you close to Shi Shi Beach hike or a North Olympic Coast backpacking trip.
Resupply with Food and Camping Supplies
When spending the summer in the ONP you are going to need to eat. So I found that using the bus to get me to bigger selection of food was a plus. Forks, Amanda Park, Quinault and Port Angeles are your best options. Plus its nice to grab pizza and beer on your way through town as well.
How Much will it Cost?
To save money; I tend to stay away from the Seattle side of the Peninsula whenever possible. The buses also tend to be very crowded in higher population areas. I also only carry $1 bills in order to save weight for bus fares.
One way fares can range from $9 to $20 or even $50+ if traveling by private shuttle.
|Cheapest and Best: Seattle to Forks via Olympia for $9 (one way)|
Seattle to Forks via Port Angeles is possible; even though Google Maps suggest other routes. I know this for a fact from first hand experience. However an overnight in Port Townsend, Wa or commando camping would be required.
There are no hostels available in PT; however a popular state park will charge you around $20 per night. I personally will always chose the commando camping option, but do so at your own risk.
|Seattle to Forks via Port Angeles pt. 1 costs $12.50|
|Seattle to Forks via Port Angeles pt. 2 costs $2.50|
|Seattle to Forks via Port Angeles pt. 3 costs $5|
Related Articles: Trails by Bus - - Bus Seatac to Quinault
It is important to cross check route changes and schedule updates. These things can be updated without notice. Currently you can not complete the Olympic Connection Route on Saturday or Sunday.
Updated March 2016 by Barefoot Jake