Here's some of what the Foothills Trails do not provide: sweeping vistas, rushing rivers, peaceful lakes, cascading waterfalls, and majestic stands of 400-year-old cedars and pines.
Here's what the Foothills Trails do provide: fun, roller-coaster, intermediate-level mountain biking with swooping turns and a mile-long fast final descent, all close to town.
In other words, don't do this for the views; do it for the riding—this is mountain biking for mountain biking's sake. (The best view, in fact, comes before you ever touch trail, off the gravel road to the left shortly before the trailhead. Wander up that trenched-and-mounded road for looks down into Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.)
The trails are in second-growth woods with some fern- and salal-covered forest floor. They're hard-packed with some roots and ruts to negotiate. Motorcycle usage is apparent in spots, but the trails are in good shape overall.
The 6.8-mile loop won't take a lot of time—maybe an hour to an hour and a half—but if you want to extend the ride, do it again in another configuration. An even longer option is to ride from town on the road, play around on the trails, and descend back to town via the eastern extension of the trail system (not researched for this ride) that leads back to Heart O' the Hills Parkway.
Would I plan an entire weekend around this ride? No. Would I ride here if I was in the area? You bet!
Finding the trail: Driving westbound in Port Angeles, turn south (left) on Race Street from US 101. Veer right onto Heart O' the Hills Parkway, toward the Olympic National Park entrance, where Mt. Angeles Road goes left, just after the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. In 5.1 miles turn right onto Lake Dawn Road (if you come to the Olympic National Park entrance you went 0.2 mile too far). Continue straight as Lake Dawn Road veers left in 0.3 mile, putting you on gravel Little River Road. Stay on Little River Road, past junctions, for 3.3 miles. Just after a descent on Little River Road, turn up to the right on H-1000 where a small sign nailed to a tree points you toward the trailhead (if you go too far on Little River Road you'll come to Black Diamond Road in about a mile). Drive up H-1000 for 0.4 mile and park at a small pullout to the left, across from where the trail comes down on your right at the 4 o'clock position. More parking is available about 0.2 mile past the trail after you go left at the Y junction.
Coming from the west, go straight onto East Lauridsen Boulevard off of US 101 as US 101 turns north toward town. In about 10 blocks, turn right on Race Street and proceed as above.
Notes on the trail: From the parking pullout across from the trail, continue up the steep 1-mile road. Stay right at the Y intersection (if you turned left here to park, come back and climb). Pass a road to the left before the trailhead parking, or stop and climb up it for a view. Quickly reach the trailhead parking area at 1 mile, and take the trail to the left. After a stair-step initial climb, you twist and swoop and climb and descend to a T intersection after 1.9 miles on the trail. Two big firs mark the right side; go left to continue the loop. After a roller-coaster climb, come to a junction in another 1.9 miles. If you go straight, you will eventually drop onto Heart O' the Hills Parkway using your map-reading skills (it's not a direct route); but ride to the right to continue the loop as it snakes its way around. In 0.9 mile from the last junction, continue straight when a connector trail takes off to the right. In 0.7 mile more, the trail dumps into a gravel road. Descend it for 0.2 mile until the trail picks up again to the right. Use your momentum on the road section for the short, steep, rocky 0.1-mile climb that begins this section of trail. In another 0.2 mile, the trail to the right connects to the trailhead on which you started; veer left and reap the fast reward for your hard climbing at the start. The trail dumps out onto the road, and your vehicle, at 6.8 miles. Got time for another lap?
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication