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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm really wanting to plan a trip to the San Juan Islands this Fall and am looking for any input, suggestions, etc. Sounds like a scenic place to ride without having to worry about cars! I'm not familiar with the area and with the info that I've seen online so far, it sounds like we'd have the option of camping or multiple lodging options. Has anybody ridden here and if so, any suggestions on planning a trip here?
Thanks!
 

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MJCBH said:
I'm really wanting to plan a trip to the San Juan Islands this Fall and am looking for any input, suggestions, etc. Sounds like a scenic place to ride without having to worry about cars! I'm not familiar with the area and with the info that I've seen online so far, it sounds like we'd have the option of camping or multiple lodging options. Has anybody ridden here and if so, any suggestions on planning a trip here?
Thanks!

My brother lives on the main island and I've taken my bike there once. Nice riding but after a couple of days...it all starts to look the same (which could be because I grew up in the general area and I'm not much of a seaside town sort of person, except to visit).

If you're looking for "nightlife" "fun" "hopping towns" you will not find it here. The only main town is Friday Harbor which is a mess in summer, and dead in Autumn...although a famous musician makes an improptu appearance here and then... it is the quiet life.

All of the islands are quite rolly/hilly. Many beautiful inlets/coves to explore. One of the islands (I forget which) has a substantial climb as well. If you are taking family/kids...I highly suggest taking them on a guided kayak tour. There are many in operation to choose from.

Here's a few pics to whet your whistle:

P.S. don't wait until after mid-october...you WILL be rained on...every day. My guess is, there are multiple RBR'rs from that side that have done far more extensive bike touring there than I have, and are privy to the better lodging facilities/campgrounds than I am (I stay with family when go so I have no clue as to the "Spots" to stay).

P.S. according to my brother,,,there is a colorful New Yorker there that makes fantastic pizza (and is speculated to be on the wittness protection program...:) ).

And google "Pig Wars" for some interesting Island history...
 

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Lopez Island has a nice, ~35 mile loop, fairly flat with a few rolling hills. Good for a day trip.
Orcas is hillier, lotsa nice steep hills, and it has Mt. Constitution, which is a great ~3500 ft climb, with a mile or so of 10% avg gradient and a section of switchbacks at about 13%. Do it in the early morning before traffic picks up. You could easily spend a week biking around Orcas without getting bored, exploring all the various and sundry harbors.
I haven't biked on San Juan Island, but it is also fairly flat, moderate rolling hills, lots of bucolic scenery.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I was thinking of staying at Orca because of the varied terrain . I was told by somebody that there are no cars on the islands but I guess they meant "less cars" since they had to be ferried over - is that right?
Anyway, thanks for the above replies and pics!
 

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There are cars on Orcas and all of the other islands you can get to via ferry. Traffic is light, except during periods right before and after a ferry arrives.
 

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I dunno, the times I have been riding there I found the traffic was similar to anywhere else but the roads have narrow or no shoulder and the sight-lines are often hindered by hills or trees. I encountered a few drivers who acted very 'posseive of "their" island's roads. I guess that comes of living in a tourist area and contending daily with cyclists on the road.

Still a very good bike trip..Unique, if you have not been on the ferry system. The Mt. Con climb is substantial...but take your ear plugs in summer...Harleys galore and noisy.
 

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Vinny the Pizza Guy

OldEndicottHiway said:
...P.S. according to my brother,,,there is a colorful New Yorker there that makes fantastic pizza (and is speculated to be on the wittness protection program...:) )..
You're talking about Vinny!




Good pizza!

I love biking San Juans. In fact, just so I don't take over this thread, I'll start a new one and post up some pics....
 

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Gnarly 928 said:
I dunno, the times I have been riding there I found the traffic was similar to anywhere else but the roads have narrow or no shoulder and the sight-lines are often hindered by hills or trees. I encountered a few drivers who acted very 'posseive of "their" island's roads. I guess that comes of living in a tourist area and contending daily with cyclists on the road.

Still a very good bike trip..Unique, if you have not been on the ferry system. The Mt. Con climb is substantial...but take your ear plugs in summer...Harleys galore and noisy.

Huh. When I rode there on the main island in late September/early October (when those pics above were taken) I think I saw... one car? I think only summer is bad for traffic.
 

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ChilliConCarnage said:
You're talking about Vinny!



Good pizza!

I love biking San Juans. In fact, just so I don't take over this thread, I'll start a new one and post up some pics....

Yes, that's the guy! My brother was yakking with him one day, and some guy made a petty complaint. I guess Vinny gave him a dose of New York hospitality. :D
 

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Orcas is actually great biking... and especially if you want a bit more of a work out.. there are some good hills to climb.. especially up to Moran Park from either East Sound or Olga (and for that matter up out of the ferry landing).. and definitely to the top of Mt Constitution.. We biked mid Aug.. and while there is traffic, it is quite manageable..
 

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i lead weeklong bike tours of the san juans this summer for a great local outfit. The islands arent flat, if they were theyd be under water.

after 4 trips, my conclusions. YMMV

Lopez - best island for bike / car relations. People wave, WAVE BACK and they will stop and ask how your day is going. The island has a decent loop of about ~35 miles depending how you do it. Spencer spit, Agate Beach, Shark Reef and the spit by the village are all good. Bay cafe has great food and views.

San Juan - busiest island. Only spot on the islands thats not chip and seal, if you like yachts Roche Harbor usually has some jaw droppers. Stop and see Mona the Camel. Island has a good loop of ~40 miles. Lime Kiln is the only designated whale watching park in the state. I had a 50%+ record of seeing whales. English camp has a good hike up a mountain. American Camp is pretty. Duck Soup is the best meal to be had on the islands, Coho Cafe is good if youre in Friday Harbor. Lakedale is a posh spot, Juniper House is great, Tucker House is splendid.

Orcas, deer harbor loop is fun. Constitution is a great climb, in 5.2 miles it goes up 2200 feet. Hike or bike, There is a pottery shop in the northwest corner of the island that is pretty cool. New Leaf is good food in 'downtown'
 

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Also on Orcas is (or used to be) a Mtn bike trail up Mt C, Oct -April
It was awesome, but thats been a few years.
As you probably know already, in Wa state, they cannot turn you away if you arrive on a bike at at state park. (I'm sure there some exceptions to the rule)
Its a great place but dont forget the Canadian San Juans ( they actually call them the Gulf Islands),
The ilsands are a great place to bike just be aware of no-sight tight corners.
 

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There are multiple mtb trails off of constitution, stop in to the bike shop by the grocery store for a map. The trails are open oct to april and are some of the best single track around washington.
 

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So, this isn't the San Juans, but I cycled 80 miles on Whidbey Island this past weekend with some folks, and had a great time. Whidbey island can be accessed by a ferry right outside of Everett, and only takes about 10 minutes to cross the water.

The whole island seemed pretty bike friendly, with the busy roads usually having wide shoulders, and plenty of low-traffic roads where we were passed by only a few cars.

Lots of rollers and hills... in 80 miles we did 5,000 ft. of elevation, with I think the largest hill we went up being about 300 ft. There are some small little towns spaced around the island, perfect for using the bathroom, getting a drink, buying food, etc. All the drivers seemed nice and we never had any issues. I'd certainly go out there again.
 

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So, this isn't the San Juans, but I cycled 80 miles on Whidbey Island this past weekend with some folks, and had a great time. Whidbey island can be accessed by a ferry right outside of Everett, and only takes about 10 minutes to cross the water.

The whole island seemed pretty bike friendly, with the busy roads usually having wide shoulders, and plenty of low-traffic roads where we were passed by only a few cars.

Lots of rollers and hills... in 80 miles we did 5,000 ft. of elevation, with I think the largest hill we went up being about 300 ft. There are some small little towns spaced around the island, perfect for using the bathroom, getting a drink, buying food, etc. All the drivers seemed nice and we never had any issues. I'd certainly go out there again.

Years ago I rode whidbey a lot. Nice day trip.

But if you're not from the PNW, the San Juans are tough to beat in terms of a unique PNW island experience.
 
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