Quiet, tree-lined roads wind around lakeshores and cow pastures. They skim rocky beaches and crest mountain tops. This is Orcas Island. The largest in the San Juans, it’s roughly 57-square miles. With a horseshoe shape and the archipelago’s tallest peak (Mount Constitution), the remote gem offers a geographically diverse wonderland of view and nature.
While the thigh-burning challenge of exploring on two wheels might make you think twice, an e-bike can turn a grueling trek into a fun-filled adventure. So gather ye’ helmets and favorite adventure buddies. The road is calling.
Mount Constitution Climb
Standing at 2,398 feet, riding to the top of Mount Constitution is the ultimate trip for most cyclists. And the reward is breathtaking indeed. At its peak, a stone tower offers 360-degree view of the surrounding area, including Mount Baker, the North Cascades, and the surrounding islands.
Start by heading east out of Eastsound on Crescent Beach Drive for just under a mile. At Olga Road, take a sharp right south. You’ll stay on Olga Road for 4.5 miles. This initial stretch includes some medium slopes and takes you under the concrete arch that marks the entrance to Moran State Park.
Olga Road winds along Cascade Lake, eventually Y-ing into Mount Constitution Road. Here’s where the climb really begins, as the road switchbacks up the mountain to the very top.
Distance: 20.2 miles (round trip)
For those who like to pair their pedaling with some snacking, waterfront views, and a clothing-optional dip — the eastern side of Orcas offers more than just a big mountain.
The path to Doe Bay will take you past Rosario Resort, the small town of Olga, and Obstruction Pass. Each of these beautiful destinations are delightful, but would add a little milage and a few extra hill-climbs to your ride.
Like your trip to Mount Constitution, you’ll take Olga Road into Moran State Park. But instead of veering up the steep mountain climb, you’ll continue on Olga Road (also known as Horseshoe Highway). The two-lane highway will take you to the town of Olga, where you’ll turn left on Point Lawrence Road you’ll turn left.
Winding through farmland and forests for 3.3 miles, you’ll come to Doe Bay Road. It’s a serene jaunt to Doe Bay Resort, where their birthday suit-friendly spa and farm-to-table restaurant are as rave-worthy as the views.
Distance: 28.4 miles (round trip)
The western side of Orcas is not to be ignored. While the ferry landing rightfully attracts a lot of attention, trekking farther west takes you Deer Harbor to a more remote section of the island. Considered a boaters’ paradise, it features one of the largest marinas on Orcas and more than one decadent dining destinations.
You’ll follow Orcas Road southwest out of town. For the flattest route, you’ll stay on Orcas Road until it turns into Dolphin Bay Road. But for those who prefer a little less traffic, you’ll take a slight right just 1.1 miles out of Eastsound onto Crow Walley Road.
Winding past pasture lands and under tree canopies, you’ll come to West Sound, where you’ll find a cute town and marina. As you reach the water, you’ll turn right on Deer Harbor Road, heading west along the waterfront. This scenic ride hugs the waterfront before taking a slight inland veer along a fairly steep grade. Veering south again, the final stretch takes you through an open area with a rolling field.
Distance: 18.2 miles (round trip)
Electric Bike Rentals
Purists like to poo-poo the electric bike. But in fact, many a pedal enthusiast has found they enhance their riding experience.
In fact, hilly terrain and physical limitations, like knee pain or exercise-induced asthma, are some of the most common reasons folks forgo a pedal adventure. Yet the electric revolution is breathing new life into the outdoor sport that lets you explore solo or with a chosen group of friends.
- E-bikes make pedaling easier, but they don’t typically eliminate it. The battery-powered assist uses a small motor to give you a little boost for things like summiting a hill. This means you’ll still get a workout when you ride an e-bike, you’ll just likely get to go farther and see more.
- They only go so fast. The motors are governed, so when you hit a specific miles-per-hour (typically between 20 and 28 mph) it stops offering a propelled assist.
- The battery only lasts for so many miles. This mileage is referred to as an e-bike’s ‘range,’ which can vary based on a variety of factors such as the speed at which you’re riding, your weight, and the terrain.
Renting Bikes on Orcas Island
Located in Eastsound, Wildlife Cycles offers e-bike rentals. Their fleet features Trek bikes equipped with Bosh Motors, giving you roughly 40 miles of range on Orcas’ hilly terrain.