Author Topic: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?  (Read 2124 times)

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Offline Woodel

Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« on: October 29, 2019, 06:08:38 pm »
Hi, I've been dreaming and planning a biking&hiking trip along the Oregon coast, but as I've never even visited USA before, I thought it might be wise to ask some tips from more experienced bikers and validate if my current plan even makes any sense at all:)

SOME BACKGROUND:
-I would start the trip on mid April 2020.
-estimated start & end locations: Prairie creek redwoods park --> Astoria (and maybe from there still to Portland)
-i could spend 3-4 weeks on the road

1st problem might be that I was planning to do the route from south to north because that would fit my other travel plan without any extra twists.
Then again I just noticed from one source that it would be highly recommended to travel the route exactly the opposite way from north to south due to winds. I was just thinking how bad the winds really are in general. Would those kill all the fun? What about the elevations - which direction has more hills to climb or does it really matter?

2nd is safety (maybe should have put this on top:). I've noticed many people complaining about too narrow cycling sections on the side of the highways. Then again, I read that the route is said to be constantly improved. Has anyone done the route lately? Of course, I would avoid highway always when there is an alternative option going to the correct direction along the coast, but it looks to me that there's still plenty of sections where it's impossible to avoid riding on the side of the highway. Maybe it might be good idea to schedule longest highway parts during quiet times (middle of the day during weekdays, but maybe trucks will be on the road pretty much all the time...)

3rd problem might be packing. Because i would like to do hiking and camping on the route, I would have to carry some extra baggage like tent. I guess it might be possible to pack the stuff mostly on both sides of the back tire to avoid carrying everything on my back for 400 miles. Then again, if the bike routes are dead-narrow at times, it might be out of question to pack anything on the sides to avoid making me even easier object to get hit by trucks etc.?

4th and maybe the biggest issue is where could I get a good bike for rent somewhere in California and return it in Astoria or Portland? That kind of service would sound almost too good to be true and if exists probably astronomically expensive, but any hints on that one? Maybe some bike shop chain that operates in Portland and close to Prairie creek redwoods state park, might be able to help? Or maybe i just have to buy a bike somewhere and sell it in Portland. Any good bike shop close to Oregon border on California side?

5th I read that it might be bit rainy at times in april. As Finland native i'm pretty used to that and I'm not afraid of cold either:) Then again maybe Pacific rain is bit heavier than the showers I'm getting here:) Of course if it would get below zero (or below 32 in fahrenheits), that would not be good when sweating on a bike and trying to sleep in a freezing tent, but I guess mid april, especially if starting trip from California, things should be warm enough for a Finn?:)

6th of course, I'm open for any tips on must-see locations on the way. My current rough plan would be to explore following areas:

         -prairie creek redwoods state park: redwoods, ferdn canyon, gold bluffs beach
         -crescent: howland hill etc.
         -oregon redwoods trail          
         -samuel boardman state scenic corridor
         -cape sebastian state scenic corridor
         -battle rock beach
         -bandon
         -coos bay
         -oregon dunes national recreation area
         -thor's well/cape perpetua scenic area
         -new port/depoe bay
         -cape kiwanda
         -cannon beach
         -astoria
         -portland

7th of course, last but not least, I'm open for having travel companion if this story excites anyone.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2019, 06:19:41 pm by Woodel »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2019, 08:56:31 pm »
1st problem might be that I was planning to do the route from south to north because that would fit my other travel plan without any extra twists.

It is highly, highly recommended to go north to south, and not just because of the wind. I'm sure you can deal with the wind. And the hills aren't a factor either. But there are important reasons:
  • The Oregon Department of Transportation assumes that cyclist will be going north to south. Because of that, they have nice wide shoulders on most of southbound travel. Not so much for northbound travel.
  • Drivers will be admiring the beautiful view, and they will be looking towards the sea. You want to be in their line of sight, not on the other side out of their view.
  • You will want to pull over frequently to admire the view yourself. All the pullouts are on the ocean side. It's better if you don't have to cross the highway to use them.

2nd is safety (maybe should have put this on top:). I've noticed many people complaining about too narrow cycling sections on the side of the highways.

As I said above, the shoulders are better on the southbound lanes. In most places, they are pretty good. I don't think it's a problem.

3rd problem might be packing. Because i would like to do hiking and camping on the route, I would have to carry some extra baggage like tent. I guess it might be possible to pack the stuff mostly on both sides of the back tire to avoid carrying everything on my back for 400 miles. Then again, if the bike routes are dead-narrow at times, it might be out of question to pack anything on the sides to avoid making me even easier object to get hit by trucks etc.?

Use panniers. There are no places that are too narrow for bags. Any vehicle passing close enough to hit your bags will hit you anyway. And you don't want that much weight on your back.

Or maybe i just have to buy a bike somewhere and sell it in Portland. Any good bike shop close to Oregon border on California side?

I don't think so. There aren't even any decent sized cities near there.

Of course if it would get below zero

It's not going to get below freezing. It never freezes on the coast. There's a giant body of water to your west that won't allow it. I hope you know how to research normal temperatures of places you will be when you will be there. It's a very valuable skill.

I'm open for any tips

Get the Oregon Coast Bike Route Map. It's free. You can see it online, but you're going to want a paper copy. You can pick one up when you get there.

Oregon coast hiker/biker campsites are absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend Cape Lookout State Park, but it's not the only great park.

Have fun on the Coos Bay Bridge. It's a very exciting ten minutes trying not to let somebody run you over. A lot is written about it, and there are ways to avoid it, but I wouldn't change my plans for ten minutes.

Most important of all: GO NORTH TO SOUTH!!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2019, 06:56:47 am »
What John said is good stuff that I might have said myself so I won't repeat it all.  I'll modify or expand on a few points...

I have not ridden or been there in April, but have ridden the coast there.  So while I have first hand experience with the coast I do not with riding there in April.

If you do go northbound, I found that early morning winds hadn't kicked up yet most days when I was there, so ride early if you do ride northbound.  I think NW winds are a pattern that sets in after the wet winter pattern is gone.  Also in stormy times it is often not in effect.  Not sure if you will experience them or not in April.  Maybe someone with more experience with that time of year there can weigh in.  Either way, I still think S-N riding, while possible, is not optimum.

Another problem, is that there is often fog, thick fog at times year round.  It can blow in at any time even in summer, but I am guessing you might be likely to get a lot of it in April.  In my experience it can just blow in in the middle of a clear morning.  I'd guess you might be faced with a lot of it in April.  Again maybe someone with more experience with April in the area will weigh in.

Personally, I'd make an effort to ride south.  My preference would be to start in Astoria, but riding from Seattle or Portland could work as well (I wasn't crazy about the Seattle to Astoria section).  You can probably find a rental in Seattle, Portland, or Astoria.  You can probably get yourself and your bike back to the start with a rental car.  Renting a car one way can be tricky.  They tend to try to either refuse to let them go out one way or charge a large one way fee, but booking online through an aggregator like kayak I have never had much trouble.  Also I have found it sometimes helps to book airport to airport.  Walking up to the rental desk has usually been a disaster often resulting in them not wanting to let a car go out one way.

You might check on whether all of the wonderful hiker biker sites are open in April. 

It is a beautiful coast and an absolutely lovely ride.  Do be prepared for it to be much more hilly at times than one might expect a coastal ride to be.  There are some very steep climbs.  Also some pretty remote sections, at least much more so than I expected.

If possible I'd go at a drier time.

Offline Woodel

Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2019, 12:41:47 pm »
Thank you. Really valuable and inspiring information. It's definitely clear to me now that I should do the trip from north to south. I really hate being on the way of cars and trucks on motorways, so if the wider shoulder is only on the other side (and now that I read your posts and started to imagine the trip more concretely it really makes sense that it's on coast's side), then there's a major risk I could not enjoy the trip if doing it from south to north. I saw some pictures on the Oregon-California border on the coast and it seemed that the nice wide shoulders continue at least in the beginning of the California as well.

After starting to think about doing the trip from north to south, I probably discovered a solution for the bike-problem as well as I remembered I might have one connection in Portland who could help me renting a bike. So Portland would be the starting point. Some Portland bike store could have been the most convenient place to start anyway. Then I realized that I could use f.e. Amtrak express service to send the bike back to Portland after I have finished the trip. Seems like busses on California side can carry bikes as well so I could even reach the closest train station in Redding without riding a bike there from the coast - at first glimpse those roads between Aracata and Redding seemed bit bad for biking... Maybe I could post the bike back directly from Arcata or nearby as well avoiding the need to reach amtrak station, but anyway it seems there should a solution to avoid situation I would have to bike or travel back to Portland just to return that bike:) And yes, hiring a car for returning the bike could be one option too.

I also checked that it seems that most of the camping sites were either open year round or opening at first of April, so that should be ok. Many sites seem to be recommending bookings beforehands. Of course, the way I've been planning to do the trip, pre-booking is not a good option as it's really hard and kills a lot of the fun to make a strict plan for each day beforehands as it's impossible to say which sites I would like to explore more and by bike it's harder to make estimations on how fast I'm able to proceed. I think that now that I would be doing the trip from north to south my start date will be postponed until late April. What do you think how big of a risk would it be that all camping sites on specific areas would be so packed up that not even a solo biker with a small tent could not fit in during late April - mid May without reserving well beforehands?

I did not find too much new info about the April/May weather related to coast biking, but all sources I've seen so far seemed ok enough. Traveloregon.com's Coast expert even described the weather like this: "April is a great time for traveling the Oregon Coast. Spring in general is known for lush growth, blooming plants and shrubs, abundant wildlife and great bird watching. High temperatures in April average in the mid to high 50s and low temperatures average mostly in the low 40s. Our maritime climate is unpredictable, so you will want to be prepared for unseasonably warm or cooler temperatures. You should always be prepared for showers as April rainfall totals up to five or six-plus inches for the month. That’s downright dry compared to our real rainy season between November and February!". And anyway, most of the trip I probably would anyway do during May, so I guess even less rain and more sunshine would be expected. Anyway, I guess I don't have the luxury of postponing the trip any further from end of April so I'm trying to reserve enough time so that i could stop even for days due to thick fogs or heavy rains. Anyway, I prefer little rain compared to scorching nonstop sun.

Yes, I think I read about the Coos bay ridge too and no, I will not give up on the 3-week plan for 10-minutes of pain.:) I think I can schedule crossing the bridge during a time that would be the most convenient one to make it less painful...

Thanks once more!

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2019, 04:16:07 pm »
Regarding wind on the Oregon Coast:
  • The predominant direction of the wind in summer is from the north.
  • The predominant direction of the wind in winter is from the south.

Most sources are going to tell you to bike north to south on the coast because they assume you'll be biking in summer.
April is right in between summer and winter.

According to this source: https://weatherspark.com/m/420/4/Average-Weather-in-April-in-Cannon-Beach-Oregon-United-States
The wind direction in Cannon Beach during April is predominantly out of the south from April 1 to April 22, the west from April 22 to April 28, and the north from April 28 to April 30.

So it looks like if you wanted to travel from south to north on the Oregon Coast, the earlier in April the better. However, there's going to be more chances of stormy weather in the earlier part of the month. And be prepared for headwinds no matter which direction you bike.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2019, 04:29:46 pm »
Then I realized that I could use f.e. Amtrak express service to send the bike back to Portland after I have finished the trip.

Please note that Amtrak Express is not like UPS/FedEx/DHL etc. You have to drop the box off at a train station that offers Express service, and pick it up from a train station that has Express service. There's not going to be anywhere on the Oregon (or California) Coast that you'll be able to do that. And I doubt a bike shop is going to want to go down to Portland Union Station to pick up a returned bike.

Seems like busses on California side can carry bikes as well so I could even reach the closest train station in Redding without riding a bike there from the coast - at first glimpse those roads between Aracata and Redding seemed bit bad for biking...

As far as I know, there's no Arcata/Eureka to Redding transit. You can take a bus south to the Bay Area and get on a train in Oakland or maybe Martinez.

Maybe I could post the bike back directly from Arcata or nearby as well avoiding the need to reach amtrak station, but anyway it seems there should a solution to avoid situation I would have to bike or travel back to Portland just to return that bike:)
There are some bike shops in Arcata/Eureka that could probably pack your bike up in a box and ship it via UPS back to Portland for a fee. But it might be wiser to NOT try to rent and return a bike. A good touring-ready bike to rent would at least set you back $350 for a month, and that's not including shipping it back:
https://www.pdxbikerentals.com/bicycle-rentals-portland#bike-rentals-portland

If you got to Portland in March, you could probably find a used (80's-90's) steel rigid mountain bike or early hybrid for $200 or less, then spend a bit of money to put a rack on and tune it up. Then when you are done you can either sell the bike or donate.

I also checked that it seems that most of the camping sites were either open year round or opening at first of April, so that should be ok. Many sites seem to be recommending bookings beforehands...What do you think how big of a risk would it be that all camping sites on specific areas would be so packed up that not even a solo biker with a small tent could not fit in during late April - mid May without reserving well beforehands?

Pretty much all of Oregon state parks on the coast with campgrounds are open year-round. Pretty much all of Oregon state parks on the coast with campgrounds have hiker-biker sites which are exclusively reserved for people arriving on their own power. They usually run $6-8 a night per person. Even if the site doesn't have a hiker-biker spot, use on the Coast is pretty light in April. So I would not worry about reserving spots.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2019, 12:02:49 am »
The general rule is that the regular prevailing wind direction reverses on bad weather days. I found this to be fairly true.

Hiker/biker site do not require reservations, and in most places, reservations are not even possible. But not all Oregon parks have hiker/biker sites. Which ones do is easily seen on the web, so you can plan which ones to use. I avoided all parks that did not have H/B sites.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2019, 12:23:20 am »
But not all Oregon parks have hiker/biker sites. Which ones do is easily seen on the web, so you can plan which ones to use. I avoided all parks that did not have H/B sites.

It is true that not all Oregon camping state parks have hiker/biker. But I don't think there's any Oregon camping state park on the coast that doesn't have a hiker/biker. The only exception in the past was Oswald West, but that's been closed to all camping for many years.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2019, 06:12:02 am »
By the way of the three resources for mapping planning the route, if I had to choose one it would be the free bike map for the coast from the Oregon Department of Transportation, followed by the Adventure Cycling maps, followed by the book "Bicycling The Pacific Coast".  You can do well with only it.  Supplement with google maps on a cell phone when/if you want more detail in town.

Each has its own advantages.  The ODOT map is especially nice to follow while riding and has all the necessary info to ride from state park to state park.  The AC maps had more details about the area and services, but i didn't like the actual maps as well for actually following while riding.  Plus the ODOT map was free and adequate for the task at hand.  The book wasn't good at all for use while riding IMO and was generally kind of confusing for navigating IMO.  It was kind of nice for reading before the trip to get a feel for the area, but I really found it much less useful than either of the other two options.  Maybe that is because it just didn't click well for me though.

Offline Woodel

Re: Tips for Oregon coast biking&hiking route?
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2019, 11:36:26 am »
Thanks once again for all for the great information!

I also started to think that maybe buying a bike might be the best option. I had already checked one rental place, and noticed the high rental prices too: starting from 350$ a week would be definitely overkill in my case - even a car rental could become cheaper! I just have to think more what kind of a bike would be best. Financially it might even be reasonable to buy new #1 bike from Oregon and ship it to Europe - some great US bikes would probably cost a lot more if bought from Europe and seems like my preferred airline could accept bikes with quite reasonable fee something around 100$.

Probably a whole new post should be created for this, but any recommendations for ideal bike for Oregon coast trip? It's hard to imagine the budget for that now, but maybe I could even think of something up to 2000$ even more, but of course would prefer cheaper one if a great alternative is available. Could be used one as well especially if there is a chance to get something practically equally good as new 1000-2000$ bike with just few hundred dollars+tuning costs. I've been pretty happy with my current very basic Kona-bike so that's probably only gear-reference I'm able to give at this point without knowing if there was clearly something better and even though there's probably a lot of variations between different Kona models. I'm not that interested in driving in very heavy "off-road"-conditions, but surely I would be interested in driving to state parks and I would guess the road surface would then be switching between concrete and gravel. Surely mostly concrete on Oregon coast trip.

I googled a bit yesterday and to me it looked like it should be possible to take bus from Arcata to Redding. Then again it looked like it was not possible to do it in one day and there would be 1-2 switches and two local bus lines: trinity transit and redwood transit system. One should probably have to spend one night in Weaverville too, but the place looked nice so no problem with that:) Anyway, that's just one of the options and if buying the #1 bike, the best option would clearly be to ship the bike from Arcata to airport city, if just such service can be found from Arcata or close by. I think shipping bike directly to Europe would be more costly than carrying with me to airplane. Anyway, seems like there will be a way.