Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Bikepacking Trip—West Seattle to Manchester State Park

This trip has been on my summer bucket list for two years and when all the different family and friend schedules didn’t line up, I decided to take a small opening in my son’s schedule last week and go for it.

I had never done a bikepacking trip before but since we had all the pieces—bikes, backpacking camping gear and panniers—it was fairly easy to pull together, especially since we were only doing an overnight trip.

We left on a Monday afternoon, parking near the Fauntleroy ferry dock at a friend’s house, and hopped a boat to Southworth. Heartier riders than myself, like my husband, would have biked from our house but I opted for the less hilly option not having done this before. Bonus to the ferry ride across was spotting an orca.

From the Southworth ferry dock, the ride is along the road the whole way but there is a small shoulder and traffic was very light. The whole ride from Southworth to Manchester State Park is just over eight miles and about 450 feet feet of elevation gain, which was a series of ups and downs along with stretches of flat. Tween and teens should be fine on their own bikes but unless you are a biking family I think younger kiddos would do better on some sort of trailer bike.

There are several spots along the way to stop and a good part of the ride is along the water which was beautiful. Our only stop along the way was in downtown Manchester where we discovered a StoryWalk in qu'qad Stormwater Park, and the library just across the street. And if you read my
post about letterboxing and are ready to get looking make sure to check out this clue.There are also a couple of restaurants but since we had lunch before we left didn’t take the time to check out the menus.

It was then just over two more miles when we arrived at Manchester State Park hot and happy to see they had cold soft drinks we could purchase along with our $12 hiker/biker spot. We set up camp and then hiked to the beach along the outer trail where we saw some of the decommissioned military structures and read about the history of the park before taking one of the inner trails back to our site. After dinner and a few rounds of Uno, my son was happy to hang in his tent while I hiked the rest of the trails, including a cool little interpretive trail, and was wishing I would have asked a ranger about the Jr. Ranger Program materials they offer since I find they always add to the fun of learning about the park you’re visiting. 

We were up fairly early the next day so after breakfast we packed up, rode back the way we came—catching the departing ferry as we rode up which never happens when we drive on—and were back home less than 24 hours after we left. I’m sure if we were with family and friends we would have hung out longer at the park since checkout isn’t until 1PM, and we could have stopped back in town for lunch. Although, during the summer I would try and work around not riding in the mid to late afternoon because of the heat.

Overall, I’m so glad we finally got to do this but here are a few things I would do differently next time: 1) Do with another family or bring a kid friend/s, 2) Bring bug repellent since, while not that bad, there were a few mosquitoes at our campsite in the late afternoon and 3) If you want to do a bigger trip, consider having one adult drive a car over and booking a regular site so you could bring paddleboards/kayaks for the beach.

Things to know

Mileage: 8.1 miles and 450’ elevation per Stava (Google says 7.8 miles and 325’ elevation gain) from the Southworth Ferry dock to Manchester State Park.

Map: Here’s a
Google map I created for directions.

Riding the ferry with bikes
This was my first time riding a ferry with a bike and here’s what I learned. Leaving from Fauntleroy, if there are no cars unloading, you can ride your bike down the road to the bike loading area where there are usually some motorcycles as well. If there is traffic, you will need to walk along the sidewalk. You’ll then purchase tickets from one of the kiosks the same as you would if you were walking on but make sure to choose the ticket for bikes (it’s an extra dollar). You’ll then wait with your bike until they load the walk-on passengers. Returning from Southworth, you will not need to purchase tickets.

Places to stop

Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal
If you have a long wait before the next ferry or on your way back make sure to check out this little park just north of the ferry dock, Cove Park.

Between Southworth Ferry Terminal and Manchester State Park
  • Harper Hill Park
    3500 SE Southworth Drive / Port Orchard, WA
    Features: Park with baseball field, picnic area and trails.
    Notes: We didn’t stop here but if you are riding with younger kiddos it could make a nice spot for a rest. Also looks like it has some hiking trails.
  • Little Free Libraries
    We spotted a couple along our ride that always make a fun stop.
  • Downtown Manchester
    • StoryWalk at qa’quad Stormwater Park
      Updated May 2022—StoryWalk isn't there anymore but the park is still worth stopping at.
    • Manchester Library
      Updated May 2022—temporarily closed
    • Couple of restaurants
    • Notes: Little downtown area is worth a stop. I have been hearing about StoryWalks in different parks but had never seen one and was happy to stop and check it out so definitely stop here if you have younger kids. Also, if you happen to be there when the library across the street is open they have activity kits that go along with the StoryWalk, plus a letterbox.
Manchester State Park
7767 East Hilldale Road / Port Orchard

Features: Beach, hiking, decommissioned military features, Junior Ranger Program
Notes: This was our first time visiting and the day use area, beach, campground sites and bathrooms were clean and hot showers were an option with the purchase of a token. While it’s not the same experience as the parks with the big bunkers and cannons such as Fort Casey on Whidbey or Fort Flagler on the Olympic Peninsula it’s still a great park and good spot to visit. 

Other rides around West Seattle
Check out my post all about biking in West Seattle with several rides for different ages—from training wheels to ten speeds.