Author Topic: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?  (Read 1700 times)

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Offline wyomingmeadowlark

Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« on: January 16, 2014, 10:15:22 am »
I'm planning a ride from San Diego to Missoula, MT in early June.  This will be my first tour, and I'm going solo.  I can't decide between riding the Pacific Coast or the Sierra Cascades route.  Any thoughts or suggestions?

Offline Itinerant Harper

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2014, 11:37:59 am »
If you are going south to north I'd take the Sierra-Cascades. But it's a tougher route which might be a factor for one's first tour.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2014, 11:49:26 am »
I would not ride the coast south to north in the summer.  The headwinds are horrendous that way, whereas they are tailwinds for one travelling south.

The coast will be cooler, but is often foggy.  The SC route will have longer, bigger hills.  The coast is not, as one would expect, flat.  It is almost constantly rolling, which I found to be tiresome. The coast has very frequent, cheap camping all through Oregon and Calif.  This is a bonus.

I think there are reasons to ride both routes, but, again, I would take the SC in June, due to wind.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2014, 03:29:14 pm »
A number of issues to consider...
Snow in the Sierras may not be cleared out in time.  Some years Tioga pass might be still closed into July.  Yosemite did not have facilities open in June outside the valley the year we were on the SC.

The SC is extremely difficult.  At least the southern half that we did was.  There is an extremely large amount of tough climbing.  So be in shape if you go that way.

The Pacific Coast is also hilly but not compared to the SC.

Camping is cheap and readily available on the coast, less so on the SC.

Both are absolutely beautiful, but in different ways.  Both are great trips.

As was said already, conventional wisdom says to never do the coast northbound in summer.  That said when I did the coast, I actually had headwinds going south a number of days, but mostly the wind wasn't bad either way.  Not sure if that was because I rode early in the day or because I just was there during an unusual weather pattern.

Personally I'd just use the train or bus and do the coast North to South.

Offline BikingBrian

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2014, 04:44:00 pm »
All good observations above, though it has been a very low snowfall winter so far. That said, winter is not over yet...

Offline staehpj1

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2014, 05:04:45 pm »
All good observations above, though it has been a very low snowfall winter so far. That said, winter is not over yet...

Yeah, if the decision can be put off until close to departure, the snow may be a non-issue or not.

Offline Cyclesafe

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2014, 05:53:46 pm »
I have done the Pacific route N to S three times and S to N once.  I have done the Sierra Cascades N to S.

I would agree with all of the comments so far.

The Pacific route is better N to S because the scenery is on your side of the road and you won't be having to make a left into a vista point and a left exiting a vista point.  Wind can blow either way I have experienced strong head winds while going either way.

The Pacific route is MUCH easier than the Sierra Cascades and is more bicycle friendly - even S to N.  For me, San Diego to Camas took three weeks, but Camas south on the Sierra Cascades took 6 weeks.  It wouldn't be any easier going north.  The route in northern California takes you for many miles on a shoulderless logging truck infested highway and the route in southern California challenges the rider with many difficult steep, dry, and hot passes with no services for many miles.  If you are looking for a definitive answer, I'd strongly recommend S to N on the Pacific route and save the Sierra Cascades for when you are sick and tired of riding along the ocean.  The latter has several beautiful scenic areas, but other than the stretch going through LA, the Pacific Route, on average, is better IMHO. 
Hoping to do the North Star with ACA in 2014.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2014, 07:31:29 pm »
[quote author=Cyclesafe link=topic=  If you are looking for a definitive answer, I'd strongly recommend S to N on the Pacific route and save the Sierra Cascades for when you are sick and tired of riding along the ocean.  The latter has several beautiful scenic areas, but other than the stretch going through LA, the Pacific Route, on average, is better IMHO.
[/quote]

I could not agree with this recommendation.  I don't think, under normal conditions (i.e. serious predominance of northerly winds), the south to north option makes any sense. These are not just gentle breezes! They are consistently 10-25 mph winds which for most can be very demoralizing and flat out exhausting. And they really do blow N to S much more in summer than the other way.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline BikingBrian

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2014, 02:42:53 am »
Well, I would agree with Cyclesafe is saying: that the Pacific Coast south to north in the summer even with the consistent headwinds would still be an easier ride compared to all the climbing on the Sierra Cascades in either direction. Though if it were me, I would rearrange my plans in order to be able to ride the coast north to south, but we don't know if that is possible for the original poster.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2014, 05:48:47 am »
Well, I would agree with Cyclesafe is saying: that the Pacific Coast south to north in the summer even with the consistent headwinds would still be an easier ride compared to all the climbing on the Sierra Cascades in either direction. Though if it were me, I would rearrange my plans in order to be able to ride the coast north to south, but we don't know if that is possible for the original poster.
My experience with the two routes, while less than Cyclesafe's, agrees with this.  The Sierra Cascades route is exceedingly difficult in a number of ways including an insane amount of climbing, hot and dry sections, and longish distances between services at times.

I did not find the winds that bad when I rode the coast and did not find the prevailing N-S bias to be as absolute as folks typically say it is.  That may have been because I was in camp by early afternoon every day.  Still, why not just ride the route in the direction that has the best chance for tailwinds, the best chance for making friends and riding/camping with them, the wider shoulder, and the best views from the road?  Logistics are easy enough with train and bus services available.  I will ride it again and will definitely go N-S.

Offline marciero

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2014, 09:26:23 am »
A little off topic... Is southern portion of SC passable in mid March? I am looking at, say from where it intersects Southern Tier, to where it gets close to LA, near San Bernadino or Burbank.

Mike

Offline Cyclesafe

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2014, 10:26:59 am »
A little off topic... Is southern portion of SC passable in mid March? I am looking at, say from where it intersects Southern Tier, to where it gets close to LA, near San Bernadino or Burbank.

Mike

There is little to no chance of snow accumulation on the part of the route you describe.  But I wouldn't characterize the scenery as particularly great either.
Hoping to do the North Star with ACA in 2014.

Offline BikingBrian

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2014, 11:35:30 am »
A little off topic... Is southern portion of SC passable in mid March? I am looking at, say from where it intersects Southern Tier, to where it gets close to LA, near San Bernadino or Burbank.

Mike

There is little to no chance of snow accumulation on the part of the route you describe.  But I wouldn't characterize the scenery as particularly great either.

Agreed, with one exception: a 10 mile section of Highway 2 about 10 miles west of Wrightwood (in the mountains north of LA) is closed after the first major snowfall, as it is not plowed. That section of road usually does not reopen until around Memorial Day weekend in May, although it is often passable by cyclists well before then. Though this has been an extremely dry winter and it may still be open now.

Offline mcmoonter

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2014, 03:31:55 pm »
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/pacificcoastandcascadescircuit

I did half of both a couple of years ago.

I rode the coast route south from Anacortes via the Olympic Peninsula to San Francisco, then I caught the train from there to Klammath Falls and rode north.

I'd say there was more climbing on the coast route with the proviso that the climbs there were generally shorter and steeper. In the Cascades the grades are easier but the climbs are much longer. Remember for every climb there is a downhill.

Riding south on the coast the shoulders are wider on the southbound carriageway closest to the Ocean.

I went late in the year. September was great for the coast, October was pushing it in the Cascades. I had a couple of -10C nights near Crater Lake and I got caught in a blizzard crossing the Blewett Pass in Washington, an experience I don't want to repeat.

Both routes are different in character. You'll see many riders on the coast, you may be lucky to see even a single cyclist in the Cascades on a touring bike.

I loved them both.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2014, 07:59:05 am »
I'd say there was more climbing on the coast route with the proviso that the climbs there were generally shorter and steeper. In the Cascades the grades are easier but the climbs are much longer.

In my experience at least, the Sierrras portion of the SC that was not the case.  The climbs there were long and steep