Public (2019) Transportation to Olympic National Park

  For the last several years I have used the bus system to get me around the Olympic Peninsula.   Choosing not to drive, public transportation is my primary source of travel when not walking or cycling.  I wrote previously on this topic, but want to shine more light on the topic in hopes that it will be valuable to travelers.

  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. Free Wifi in town is always good for checking those resources.

Looking for a ride (car shuttle)? Let's get you to the trailhead!

Olympic National Park bus
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 the 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.  

Olympic National Park bus guide
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, and your overnight wilderness camping permit visible.  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.

Olympic Mountains by bus
 While Buspacking; I successfully completed my Solo Bailey Range Traverse.  This route leads you from Sol Duc to Lake Quinault.

Olympic National Park bus
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.

Olympic National Park bike
Bikepacking the Elwha Valley

Olympic National Park bike
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. Read my guide on resupplying on the Olympic Peninsula!

Port Angeles to Seatac (Seattle) on Public Transportation

The fastest way to use public transportation to Olympic National Park, is using the Strait Shot Bus from Bainbridge Island to Port Angeles. This is a new service as of June 18th 2017, it is a direct bus from Port Angeles and to Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal daily. This public bus runs both directions (east and west). Then you can walk onto the ferry for free going to Seattle (eastbound) and pay a small fee leaving the city (westbound).

Bus to Olympic National Park
The Strait Shot Bus Route from Port Angeles to Bainbridge Island

Downtown Seattle (Public Ferry) to Seatac Airport

Once you make land on the Bainbridge to Seattle Ferry, you can walk (over 10 blocks) to catch the Link Light Rail in downtown, to take you to Seatac Airport.  This is the simplest way to use public transportation to get from Seatac (Seattle) to Olympic National Park. Using this route is way cheaper than renting a car!

Seatac to Bainbridge Ferry
Walk a short distance from the Seattle Ferry Terminal, to catch the Link Light Rail, which takes you to Seatac Airport

Port Angeles to Olympic National Park or Forks, Wa

You have two choices once in downtown Port Angeles, hitch into Olympic up the Hurricane Ridge Road or explore other options on the Forks bus out of town. The Forks bus give you hiking options of the Elwha area, Lake Crescent, Sol Duc and the Olympic coast. There are stops along Highway 101, but you still need to hitch up Park access roads, if you wish to go into the interior; with the exception of Lake Crescent and select coast hikes.

Olympic National Park bus
Seattle to Forks via Port Angeles pt. 3 costs $5

Related Articles: Trails by Bus - - Bus Seatac to Quinault

In Conclusion

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. Need more? Using Olympic National Forest Service Lands are more easy accessible.

Updated January 2019 by Barefoot Jake