Olympic Peninsula climbing ranks in USA Today's online contest for best scenic fall drive
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Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
Anglers framed by fall foliage try their luck at the Sol Duc River’s Shuwah Hole just off U.S. Highway 101 north of Forks in 2014.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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The Olympic Peninsula is in the running for yet another superlative: America's favorite scenic autumn drive.

The USA Today newspaper website selected the Olympic Peninsula as one of 20 autumn color drives across the U.S. and is asking readers to vote for their favorite.

On Tuesday, the Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive was ranked fifth in the contest, behind M-22 in Michigan, Kancamagus Scenic Byway in New Hampshire, Upper Delaware Scenic Byway in New York and Hocking Hills Scenic Byway in Ohio.

Those who want to participate in the contest can vote once daily per device until 9 a.m. Sept. 28 at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-drive.

Ten winners will be featured in the travel section as the best autumn drives in the USA Today 10 Best Readers' Choice contest.

It was not clear Tuesday when the winners would be announced.

Leslie Kidwell Robertson, founder of Revitalize Port Angeles, posted the information to the group's Facebook page.

On Saturday, supporters found the loop around the Olympics was in sixth place and by Monday had boosted it to fifth place.

Robertson said she had no idea how USA Today selected the various driving trips but isn't complaining.

“It's an amazing marketing opportunity,” she said.

The Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive circles the Olympic Mountains and can begin at any point on the loop, which follows U.S. Highway 101 north from Olympia through Brinnon, Quilcene, Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks; south to Aberdeen; and completes the loop east on U.S. Highway 12 and state Highway 8.

The USA Today introduction to the drive says, “Seattle is the starting point for this 350-mile drive, which takes visitors from the lowlands, through forests, past lakes, rivers and the ocean, and up to Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent.

“With so many different backdrops and vantage points, it's no surprise that leaf-lovers flock to the Olympic Peninsula every fall.”

The drive takes about eight hours without featured side trips to locations along the way, such as Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rain Forest and the Sol Duc River, and USA Today's short feature on the Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive recommends taking two or three days.

In May, Robertson led Revitalize Port Angeles members through a campaign that rallied Port Angeles supporters through five rounds in Outside magazine's “Best Town Ever” 2015 contest, catapulting the city into the final round against Chattanooga, Tenn.

Port Angeles narrowly lost to Chattanooga but received a generous writeup in the August issue of Outside magazine.

Robertson said she had no intention of organizing a major campaign, as she did for the magazine contest, but is hoping the community responds to the contest.

“This isn't for a four-page spread in Outside magazine, but it is USA Today,” she said.

She noted that this summer's traffic was heavier than usual, lines in stores were longer and the city was busier.

“I think it's great. Stores are selling stuff,” she said.

Numbers for this summer's tourist boom aren't available yet, but Robertson said she expects to find the summer visitor numbers provided a big boost to the local economy.

She said it was not clear if the contest would conclude and be published in time to bring in autumn visitors while trees such as the vine maples are still ablaze in color.

“The weather has been so different, it will be difficult to predict [when fall leaves are at their peak],” she said.

The majority of the drive routes featured in the contest are in the eastern portion of the U.S.

Three other western drives were included: the Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon, West Elk Loop in Colorado and Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 15. 2015 7:12PM
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