The Tops in Touring: Road Cycling's Best Spots

Northwest Cycling Odyssey: Touring the San Juan Islands

The San Juans, located west of Seattle, may well be the premier coastal touring destination in North America. The San Juans offer just about everything you could ask for: moderate scenic terrain, plentiful parks and campgrounds, charming country inns, boat rides, and easy access to major cities and tourist centers. Whether you're planning on touring for two days or 20, the San Juans and nearby Gulf Islands won't disappoint even the most demanding cycle tourist.

If you're planning to include Canada's Gulf Islands in your trip, take the ferry across Puget Sound to Sidney. From there it's an easy ride to Victoria to the south, or you can catch another boat to Salt Spring, Galiano, and other Gulf Islands to the north. If you stay on the American side, hop off the ferry at Shaw Island in the middle of the sound. There's a nice campground here, but mainly it's a good base to explore nearby San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas Islands. Orcas probably has the nicest scenery, Lopez the easiest peddling, and San Juan the best restaurants and facilities.
On Orcas, don't miss Mt. Constitution. From its 2,4000-foot peak, you get a great view of the entire area. San Juan's Friday Harbor has many interesting little shops, and the west-side road offers nice, open views most of the way (elsewhere in the San Juans you will ride between thick stands of trees most of the time).

Practically Speaking
A good starting point is Port Townsend, about an hour's drive west from Seattle by car. From Port Townsend, cross Admiral Inlet by ferry to Whidbey Island. There are many resorts on Whidbey where you can book lodging, as well as excellent campgrounds at Fort Casey, Fort Ebey, Oak Harbor, and Deception Pass State Parks. It can be crowded in the summertime, so you'll probably want to move on after a day or two. Cross the bridge at the north end to Fidalgo Island, and head north along Burrows Bay to the campground at Washington Park. An island loop, including the town of Anacortes, makes a nice day-trip.

Because the San Juans are so popular, we strongly advise that you make reservations well in advance. If you can travel in May, September, or October, do so. The weather is pleasant, roads and campgrounds will be much less crowded, and you may find prices in the inns and resorts to be a bit lower.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 1 Feb 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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