North Cascades Loop
Distance: 422 miles
Time to complete: 10+ hours with lunch stop
A long but rewarding day ride through the North Cascades National Park over Washington Pass, then along the Methow and Columbia Rivers, and back to Seattle via Leavenworth and Stevens Pass.
If you love the mountains, want to visit the Cascades and can travel a 400+ mile day, this is a great ride for you. Good roads, great scenery, a varied geography, quaint towns are all found on this route.
Winthrop is a great stop for lunch. This Western-themed town has at least a dozen food options and is popular with bikers and ‘cagers’ (folks in cars) alike.
- This ride covers a variety of distinct geographies and the weather may be quite varied. Eastern Washington will be drier and less temperate than the Seattle area, the mountains can be cold at higher elevations. Be prepared.
- In the early Spring and late Fall, check road conditions prior to departure.
Circumnavigating the Olympic National Park
Distance: 392 miles
Time to complete: 9+ hrs
This ride takes all day, especially if it includes a ride to the top of Hurricane Ridge. The route’s total distance is 392 miles from Seattle (including a detour to Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center) and there’s a ferry ride. I find riding the ferry at the end of a ride to be relaxing and so travel this route in a clockwise direction. Hurricane Ridge, which is breathtaking on a clear day, requires a park pass.
- Motorcycles get priority boarding on Seattle ferries. You will be instructed to bypass the line and wait close to the boarding gate. Ferry crossing from Bainbridge to Seattle takes about 30 minutes.
- Hurricane Ridge is not open during winter months. A day pass or annual pass is required to enter. Check for occasional free access days. There are bathrooms and snack bar at the Visitor’s Center. Watch for gravel, but in general the roads are in great shape.
- A shorter trip is possible by traveling north on 101 through Shelton and along the eastern side of the Olympic Mountains. Trip time is reduced to 5+ hrs with one stop and distance decreased to about 190 miles.
Seattle to Cape Flattery
Distance: 320 Miles
Time to Complete: 10+ hours
Another all-day ride, this one to Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point in the lower 48 states. The route shown begins and ends with a ferry ride between Bainbridge Island and Seattle. It takes Hwy 305 north, then Hwy 104 west, Hwy 101 north, and Hwy 112 west to Neah Bay. Then one follows Cape Flattery Road and travels along Makah Bay to the end.
Highway 112 is a sometimes-twisty two lane road next to the Juan de Fuca Strait. You’re likely to find surfers as well as fisherman parked along the road. On this day, we found road debris (leaves, needles, and small branches) still on parts of the road from recent storms.
There were also some areas of recently repaired roadway that could use additional attention, though the problem areas are generally well marked by traffic signs and the speed limits are conservatively reduced.
There are a few places to eat in Neah Bay, depending on the time of day. We had some wood-fired pizza at Linda’s. Recommended if you’re in the area and craving some pizza.
The weather wasn’t quite as sunny or warm as expected, but the day was pleasant. We saw some clearing of the sky on our return trip.
(1) The trail at Cape Flattery from the parking lot is about 1/2 mile in length. No pass required.
Seattle to Westport Loop
Distance: 291 miles
Time to complete: 8+ hrs
My regular riding partner Will and I traveled to the coast this last Sunday. Since it is winter, I planned a route that could be shortened if either of us found it to be too cold. The temperatures ranged from mid 30’s at 9am to the low 50’s. The ride started in some heavier than usual fog (fog this heavy is not common in Seattle).
The route takes I-5 south from Seattle to Hwy 6 and west to Raymond. Then we follow the coast along Hwy 105 to Aberdeen, then return to Seattle via the Bremerton ferry. Hwy 6 and 105 are well maintained, non-technical two lane roads passing through small communities like Pe Ell, Tokeland, Grayland, and Westport. We stopped at Evey’s Cafe in Pe Ell for breakfast. This is my second visit to Evey’s – I like it (breakfast served until 11am).
The fog burned off before 11am and it was sunny along the coast. We saw only two other motorcycles while riding along Hwy 105. They were headed south and both riders waved as they passed. For readers that don’t ride, it is common (and expected) to acknowledge other bikers, though bikers tend to ignore those on scooters / mopeds.
Westport is home to Grays Harbor lighthouse, Washington’s tallest at 107 feet. It was first lit in 1891. Tours are available, though I haven’t taken one. More info on the lighthouse is available here.
With a stop for breakfast, fuel, and some photos, we arrived in Bremerton about 7 hours after leaving Seattle. The ferry back takes about an hour and it was an opportunity to grab some hot cocoa and warm up. It was dark when we arrived downtown and the Seahawks just finished beating the 49’s, continuing their drive to the playoffs.
Stevens and Snoqualmie Pass Loop
Distance: 260 miles
Time to complete: 5 hrs
Two Cascade passes, both beautiful. I prefer traveling clockwise as I-90 is generally less congested in the late afternoon hours than the roads north of Seattle, including I-5. Riding along the Wenatchee River is very beautiful. Plan to stop in Leavenworth for lunch and, optionally, Cle Elum for some Dairy Queen if it’s hot. There is often construction along Hwy 2 and I-90. Check road conditions in advance.
(1) Both passes will be impassible to motorcycles during winter months.
(2) During colder and snowier times of the year, one can turn south on Hwy 203 at Monroe and stay in the foothills west of the mountains. This will reduce total distance to about 92 miles.
Mt. Rainier (Sunrise Road)
Distance: 220 miles
Time to complete: 5+ hrs depending on stops
This route is unusual for me in that it is not a loop but instead backtracks to Seattle using the same roads. The narrow, twisty 14-mile road from this entrance is well paved and offers spectacular views on clear days. Plan on taking a camera if the skies are clear.
A nice variation would be to also include a ride up to the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center in the Paradise area of Mt.Ranier, and then returning to Seattle from the southern direction. This increases the distance to about 285 miles.
- Sunrise Road is closed during winter.
- Day pass or annual pass required.
Chuckanut Drive & Deception Pass
Distance: 204 miles
Travel time: 5+ hours depending on ferry schedule
This is a fun ride as Chuckanut Drive (Hwy 11) has some curvy sections. Watch out for local bicyclists – they are a common site here. Check the weather for excessive winds (ferries will be impacted) or excessive fog along the coast. Plan to stop at Deception Pass as it is a beautiful area, despite the congestion that is common on nice days.
As I find ferries very relaxing, and this ferry crossing is under 30 minutes.
I like to have lunch in Bellingham, usually somewhere in the historic downtown section when doing this loop.
I have added a video from this loop below that provides a sense of Chuckanut Drive. Enjoy!
- The State Park at Deception Pass requires a permit to park and use the bathrooms.
- Motorcycles get priority boarding on ferries. You’ll be instructed to drive to the front of the line.
Anacortes – Port Townsend Loop
Distance: 177 miles
Time to complete: 6+ hrs
This loop is a variation of the Chuckanut Drive and Deception Pass day ride. However, this one involves traveling on two ferries, so the time it takes is dependent somewhat on the ferry schedule and stops for fuel and food.
I like to eat at the Country Corner Inn near Anacortes when I’m in the area and this ride starts by taking I-5 north to Hwy 20.
When riding in cold weather, it is important to plan frequent stops to avoid getting too cold. The ferry is a chance to get warm and to meet other motorcyclists 🙂
Anacortes is a small town and, since we had some time before the next ferry to Port Townsend, we took a short opportunity to cruise around, stopping at the marina after our meal.
This loop takes you over Deception Pass Bridge, connecting Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island. Later in the day, one will take the Agate Pass Bridge to Bainbridge Island.
- A park pass is required for vehicles in any of the state park facilities located near the bridge.
- There are trails from the bridge down to the water for those interested in exploring on foot.
Distance: 80 miles
Time to complete: 5+ hours
If you have the desire to spend a leisurely day riding and sightseeing, eating good food and taking some ferries, this is a great, low mileage day ride.
Grab the Vashon ferry in West Seattle, at the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal. Once on the island, there are numerous parks and scenic roads to ride. Speed limits are generally low, with 50 mph the highest on the island.
I like to eat at the Hardware Store Restaurant. The food is always good. It is located at the corner of Vashon Hwy SW and SW Bank Rd.
Many folks would simply take Vashon Hwy SW from the ferry dock. A fun route for motorcycles is to turn onto Burma Road SW, then turn onto SW Cedarhurst Rd, then onto Westside Hwy SW to SW Bank Rd to Vashon Hwy SW. It only takes about 10 minutes longer but is much more fun and scenic.
Riders have a few options when it is time to leave the island. From the northern ferry terminal, one can travel back to West Seattle, or to the peninsula. From the southern ferry terminal, one can visit Point Defiance on Tacoma’s waterfront. The map shows a route through Point Defiance and back to Seattle.
(1) There is no charge to take the ferry off the island.
(2) Only one ferry boat services the Point Defiance run, so wait times can be longer than expected.