Favorite Cycling Routes: The Pacific West Coast USA

Camping on the Oregon Coast.

Camping on the Oregon Coast.

I started my tour in July 2013 by cycling down the Pacific West Coast as a warm up; a warm up which turned into an amazing five weeks as the cycling was easy, the hiker/biker campsites were a great way to meet other cyclists, and the scenery was beautiful. Though I had never toured, knew absolutely nothing about bikes and hadn’t trained at all for this trip, this didn’t seem to matter as I was able to start out slowly (doing fifty or so kilometers a day) before increasing my mileage when it felt right. Within a few weeks I was cycling 80-120km/day, and loving every minute of it. Along this route I stayed with various hospitable families who renewed my faith in humanity, was encouraged along by passing cars, swam in rivers amongst the gigantic redwoods, and fell asleep beside the beach listening to the crashing waves. I also met dozens of other cyclists, from students to retirees, doing this same route which made nights around the campfire a whole lot of fun.

Stats

Distance: 3,000km (Vancouver to San Diego).
Time needed: I did it in five weeks though I would suggest six to give a few more days off.
Highlights: Cycling through the red woods, hiker/biker campsites, swimming in the ocean.
Road surface: All paved.
Traffic: Lots on highway (large shoulder), less on smaller country roads (no shoulder).
Best season: June – September (otherwise the northern coast is very rainy); Completed July ’13.
Water/food availability: Easy to find both.
Solo female: No problem; you will probably receive more kindness and homestays than the boys.
Overall difficulty: Very low – easiest route I’ve done.

Camping

The hiker/biker campsites are located every 60-100km down the coast and are one of the things which makes this route so simple and unique. These sites, which charge five dollars a person, are in the normal campgrounds but are spots reserved for non-car campers. Besides giving you a relatively cheap camping spot (and bathroom, running water, and sometimes hot shower) they also give you a place to meet other cyclists on this popular social route. You end up knowing all of the cyclists within a few days of yourself, and at night, there were often five to ten of us (and one night, over twenty!) all cooking dinner together at these designated spots. It’s also possible to wild camp if you get off the highway a bit, something I did about every other night. (And if you are stuck, just ask a nearby farmer if you can sleep on his land; I never got no for an answer and even ended up getting invited inside by families.)

Budget

I was able to complete this route on an average of five dollars a day as I spent every night in my tent, and cooked every meal (notably pasta, oatmeal, and bananas and peanut butter) for myself instead of eating out. Though the USA can be expensive if you are eating at restaurants and staying in hotels, there were many other students on low budgets as well, and I would say that ten dollars a day is a comfortably cheap budget to shoot for.

Notes

I can’t stress enough how great this route is for beginners. You don’t need a special touring bike – I even met someone doing it on a fixie – just a workable bicycle with two back panniers, a tent, and a backpacking stove. Though I know cycling touring seems daunting at first, within a few hours along this route, you will realize how simple and easy it really is. If you have always wanted to tour but haven’t had the guts to starts, this is your route… Pack up your bike and go!

This route is really straightforward as it follows highway 101 until California where it jumps over to highway 1 for the remainder. There are occasionally country road deviations which are usually signed from the highway. My favorite section was from Astoria, Oregon down to San Fransisco, so if you have less than six weeks available, I would suggest just doing this middle section.

Resources

Many cyclists use either the Adventure Cycling Association maps, or the book “Bicycling the Pacific Coast,” while completing this route. Though it’s definitely not necessary road wise (as you literally just follow highway 101/1), someone gave me the book a week or two in and I found it useful as it laid out all of the hiker/biker sites. In the big cities (San Francisco, LA, San Diego) I used warmshowers as there are no campsites and accommodation is expensive, and I and found three great hosts which made my night or two stays in these cities fun.

We currently live in Astoria OR and love hosting cyclists, so make sure to get in touch before you pass by!

A few of my blog entries from this route:
It’s Not About the Bike
The Pacific Coast: 2,900km
In A Hiker/Biker World
Everything Always Works Out

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts, corrections, or updates in order to help others looking to complete this route.

*This is the first in a series of blogposts about our favorites routes from our two-year South America and Asian tour. Coming up next week; the Northern Indian Himalayas.*

For a photo of the day and other updates follow me on facebook here, and for some awkwardly cropped photos from our journey, follow us on Instagram @awanderingphoto!

10 thoughts on “Favorite Cycling Routes: The Pacific West Coast USA

  1. As a former lng haul truck driver who would run those roads a couple times per month (enroute to pick up produce coming back east 😉 ),I always thought those two routes would make for ideal touring (speaking of before I began reading about just such after those driving days even). It’s on my “I hope to do someday!” list (near the top). I’m currently in TN and living on a low fixed “legally disabled Veteran’s” income though (with a family including 2 kids,that means I can’t afford to get there to do the trip for now). Circumstances change though,so it remains on my short list mentioned above 🙂

    “Liked” this post,going now to read those you linked about your trip. Thank you for sharing 😀

  2. I’m 30 and have wanted to do what you have/are doing and fear is my biggest obstacle. I was just wondering how you did your taxes? Sense you weren’t making anything on the road is that what you claimed? Just a silly question. I’m sure it’s to simple but I worry about getting in trouble later in life because if ignorance. I have loved reading your blog. A true inspiration:)

    Thank you for your time,

    Allie:)

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Not silly, the little things can matter! So yes you claim nothing as you are making nothing, some people have other people back home do their taxes whole away (my mom did mine) while others skip it and don’t fill them out since they have nothing to claim.
      Hope you get to.hit the road soon!

  3. This is the first post of yours that I have read and it is inspiring. I presume you live in Washington (given this is where you started) but either way, how did you return yourself and your bike to home? Is this accounted for in the budget?

    Thanks for the inspiring post.

  4. Thanks for this great post! At 50 years old, I just finished a 9-week bike tour in Europe. My first bike tour and my first visit to Europe. 4 weeks with my 14-year old son, then 5 weeks and 1,500kms by myself.

    You are right, travelling as a single female I think I received more help, kindness and generosity. Even more than when travelling with my son. It was one of my greatest “take-aways” from the trip – the world is full of wonderful people!

    Only 2 weeks after being back home in Canada and I am already dreaming about my next trip. The pacific coast is currently at the top if my dreams 🙂 My 61 year old husband, who previously wanted nothing to do with bike touring, is even considering joining me!

    Thanks for taking the time to post and thanks for the inspiration!

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