Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway


Overview

Published: 02/21/2012

by Anne Erickson

Photos

Picture perfect day on the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway

About this byway

This is a get-away-from-it-all byway on which salt spray fills the air, trees grow so fast you can almost see it happening, and salmon fishermen congregate at boat launches before dawn. When you travel along the remote Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway SR-112 Scenic Byway, you will encounter the magnificent shoreline of the narrow body of water that connects Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean.

Follow a trail of shells along the tide line, hike, kayak and fish for flounder off the beach. Look up to see bald eagles, changing skies and old-growth Sitka spruce. Look out on the water to see container ships bound for Asia, surfers plying waves and gray whales migrating. Everywhere you look, you’ll see how the salt water shapes this place.

 

Heading west from Port Angeles

Driving east to west takes the traveler through Port Angeles, part of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway.  This inner harbor city is the entrance point from Victoria, BC for those traveling by ferry.  The William R. Fairchild International Airport is located in Port Angeles where rental cars are also available.

 

The Wilderness Information Center

A good first stop for tips about Olympic National Park, its trails and backcountry permits (required for overnight hikes in the park) is the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles. The WIC is located within the Olympic National Park visitor center at 3002 Mount Angeles Road. Call 360-565-3100 for information or visit www.nps.gov/olym.

 

Veteran Memorial Highway Designations

In a fitting tribute to our nation’s veterans, two stretches of the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway have been designated as “Veteran Memorial Highways.”  Directly after exiting US-101 west of Port Angeles, SR-112 has been designated the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Highway.  It meets the Korean Veterans’ Blue Star Memorial Highway when it intersects with SR-113 just southeast of Clallam Bay. Markers and flags pay tribute to those men and women who have served proudly when our nation needed them.

 

Olympic Discovery Trail—Adventure Route Segment

The Olympic Discovery Trail runs from east of Sequim to Lake Crescent, west of Port Angeles. It will eventually run from Port Townsend to La Push and be one of the longest trails without motor-vehicle access in the United States. Folks who want to work up a sweat should check out the Adventure Route segment of this trail.

Mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers will get views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Olympics and the Elwha River valley, if they’re willing to pay the price in switchbacks. This 25-mile stretch of unpaved single-track and old logging roads zigzags from the west side of the Elwha River to the east side of Lake Crescent, where it connects with the Spruce Railroad Trail.

From Port Angeles, head west on US-101 for about five miles, then take a right onto SR-112. The entrance and parking for the Adventure Route segment of the Olympic Discovery Trail (www.olympicpeninsula.org) are on the left soon after you cross the bridge over the Elwha River. 

 

Elwha Dam removal

While you’re here, say goodbye to the Elwha Dam. The biggest dam removal in U.S. history will provide visitors with the chance to watch this effort to restore what was once one of the most productive salmon runs in the Northwest. Built without fish ladders, the Elwha Dam blocks the migration of spawning salmon up the Elwha River, yet each fall they return and circle at the base of the dam in search of a way home.

The removal of the Elwha Dam and of the Glines Canyon Dam upriver is an opportunity for visitors to witness conservation in dramatic fashion over the next several years. Visit www.nps.gov and type “Elwha River” into the search field for more information.

 

Freshwater Bay County Park

Located west of milepost 57 on the right, this park includes saltwater beach access, a boat launch and picnic areas in a cedar forest or on the beach. The bull kelp beds to the west are a halibut fishing hot spot, and this 17-acre park is also the first of four Whale Trail observation spots along this byway (see www.thewhaletrail.org). This trail consists of a series of marked locations around northwest waters where people may glimpse marine mammals. Harbor seals, sea lions, otters, and gray whales may be seen from the shores of this byway.

 

Salt Creek County Park

Salt Creek Recreation Area County Park is a campground that’s counted among the best in the state by some camping guides. This 196-acre park is a wonderland of forests, world-renowned rocky tide pools, beaches and panoramic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island. Recreation includes scuba diving, surfing and kayaking. Some intrepid souls even snorkel here—in thick neoprene wet suits, of course.

Explore the remnants of Fort Hayden, built during World War II. The concrete bunkers that once defended the coast with cannons are now relics, commandeered by visitors who scramble to and fro throughout the fort’s mazes.

The park is a popular place to observe marine life (look for the Whale Trail marker), and it is also an important birding site on the Olympic Loop of the National Audubon Society's Greater Washington State Birding Trail (wa.audubon.org). Thrushes, black-headed grosbeaks, warblers and oystercatchers are among the birds found here. In the last week of September, hundreds of migrating turkey vultures soar overhead.

 

Historic Joyce Depot Museum

With its worn floorboards, tiny post office and vast selection of penny candy (yes, really a penny), tiny Joyce hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years. To experience this area’s history and lay in supplies for the road ahead, make an informative stop (milepost 51) at the Joyce General Store and Depot Museum.

The museum displays include railroad memorabilia and historical photos and artifacts from the small communities in the region. The depot was built of Alaska yellow cedar around 1915 and is the last remaining log depot from the Milwaukee line. Joyce also has a reputation for wild blackberry pie, so be sure to pick up a slice at a nearby diner.

 

Pillar Point County Park and Pysht
Still driving near the shoreline at milepost 30, stop at Pillar Point County Park for outstanding birding, with very good chances of seeing herons, black-bellied plovers, dunlins, sanderlings and whimbrels. From here the road heads inland, through a stand of massive old-growth Sitka spruce in the Pysht River drainage.

Trees logged here were once shipped out along the Spruce Railroad, which is now a recreational trail along nearby Lake Crescent. Sitka spruce thrives in wet coastal environments, and these trees are centuries-old examples of how life on land and water is intertwined along this remarkable byway.

 

Sekiu and Clallam Bay

Sekiu (pronounced SEA-que) and Clallam Bay are great spots along this route for fishing and bird watching. Charter services are available to take you out for deepwater fishing, and if you brought your own boat, Sekiu has a marina with several places to launch and tie up. If your exploration doesn’t involve a salmon rod, Clallam Bay Spit Community Beach County Park is an idyllic beachcombing, bird-watching and picnicking spot.

For birders, murrelets and murres are prized sightings, while shorebirds, ducks and gulls are plentiful. In the fall and spring, thousands of Canada geese, trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes migrate through this area. If you're more of a trail person, hike the Sekiu Trail, also known as the “one-mile beach trail.” The third Whale Trail marker is at the pullout overlooking Sekiu at milepost 15. Visit www.sekiu.com for more information.

 

Lake Ozette and the Sand Point/Cape Alava Loop Trail

Lake Ozette, part of Olympic National Park, is the third-largest natural lake in Washington State and can be accessed from SR-112 just west of Sekiu by taking the Hoko-Ozette road. The nine-mile Sand Point/Cape Alava Hiking Loop leads to the Ozette Indian Village Archeological Site, ancient Native American petroglyphs and the Flattery Rocks National Wildlife Refuge.

Thousands of the artifacts from the Ozette dig are now on display at the Makah Cultural and Research Museum in Neah Bay.  Traveling west from the Ozette area, stop at Shipwreck Point Natural Resources Conservation Area (milepost 6) to visit the last Whale Trail marker.

 

Neah Bay/Cape Flattery

The Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway ends at milepost 0 at its western terminus.  The road continuing to Neah Bay, the Makah Indian reservation and the most northwestern edge of the lower 48 states is the Cape Flattery Tribal Scenic Byway found on this site.

 

Getting there

From Seattle, follow US-101 west to Port Angeles. Allow three hours for this 85-mile leg, which includes a half-hour ferry crossing from either the Seattle-to-Bainbridge or the Edmonds-to-Kingston ferry terminal. The 61-mile Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway 112 trip officially begins a few miles west of Port Angeles on SR-112, along the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula, and runs west toward Neah Bay. (The scenic byway may also be accessed midway from US-101 by taking the SR-113 exit 11 miles north of Forks.) Extend your journey and continue exploring the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula via the 12-mile Cape Flattery Tribal Scenic Byway.

 

Gas, food and lodging

Motels, cabins and other accommodations can be found in Joyce, Clallam Bay, Sekiu, and Neah Bay.  Private campgrounds are located along the scenic byway in addition to campgrounds found in a few parks.  Most parks have public restrooms   Locally-owned restaurants and cafes are found in each town.  Gas and supplies are available at mini-marts in the small communities that dot the route.

 

Planning tips

Driving Distance: 61 miles from Port Angeles to Neah Bay on SR-112.

Driving Time: 90 minutes (one way), not including stops or scenic detours.

Actual Time: Plan a full day, or overnight, including stops for recreation and sightseeing.

Best Time to Travel: The route is open year-round.



Connected or nearby scenic byways

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway

Cape Flattery Tribal Scenic Byway

 

Local resources

Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway

Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission

Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce

Clallam Bay Sekiu Chamber of Commerce

Neah Bay Chamber of Commerce