The Tops in Touring: Road Cycling's Best Spots

Oregon and California: Biking the Pacific Coast Highway
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A trip down the Pacific Coast Highway is truly one of America's ultimate cycling adventures. Unfortunately traffic is increasing along the coastal roadway every year, but there is still plenty of stunning scenery once you get away from the big cities. Virtually all cyclers run the route north to south to have the prevailing winds at their backs. You can start as far north as Vancouver if you're ambitious, but a more reasonable starting point is Portland, Oregon. Take Highway 6 through the coastal range to Tillamook and then turn left to begin your journey south. The first sections can be disappointing, with too much seaside development. After a hundred miles or so, it's time to break out the camera. Try to pass through the Otter Rock area, just north of Newport, in the afternoon when the fog has lifted. This is the most dramatic, and, we think, the most beautiful stretch of the Oregon coast.
Farther south, the Gold Beach area, just below Port Orford, is a great spot for camping and beach walks. If you plan to camp in the state parks in the summertime, however, be sure to make advance reservations. After crossing the Oregon-California border, you'll pass through scenic Redwood National Park which stretches for 40 miles along the main route, Highway 101. South of the park you'll have to climb through the Coastal Range to connect with Highway 1 at Ft. Bragg. The next couple of days' riding will take you along the Mendocino coast, one of the highlights of the trip. Twenty miles south of Mendocino, cross the Russian River and continue on to the little town of Elk. Some think this quiet outpost has the best ocean views on the West Coast.

From here on, the road continues to snake its way along rugged headlands as you wind your way toward San Francisco. When you reach Bodega Bay, check out the local eateries for great oysters, and make a day-trip to nearby Pt. Reyes if you've got the time. As you approach San Francisco, don't blast across the bridge, but stop just short and explore the Marin Headlands National Recreation Area—a perfect place for a mid-day picnic, with views that will leave you amazed. South of San Francisco be sure to explore Monterey, Carmel, and the Point Lobos Nature Preserve. You'll probably be anxious to get to Big Sur, but frankly points farther north are more impressive. Once you've gotten to San Simeon, you've hit all the highlights, and you may want to wrap up the tour.
Practically Speaking
For most folks, a week on the coast may be all they need in a cycling vacation. Guided tours are available, offering a week-long trips from Eureka on the northern coast to San Francisco. If you stay in deluxe inns the price runs around $1,500. If you elect to camp out, the price is $800, but this still includes full van support and most food.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 2 Feb 2001 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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