Distance: 98-mile figure-eight
Elevation gain: 5960 ft
When was the last time you rode 100 miles and almost every mile was choice? Here’s your chance. I learned this route when it was an annual organized century ride. It’s two loops connected by a stretch of Hwy 101, and it offers a remarkable variety of riding conditions: coastal riding, one serious climb, one wonderful descent, a ride along a ridge with great ocean views, mellow riding along the Rogue River, and a charming, easy meander through meadows and forests. The northern loop is flat and pretty, the southern loop is up-and-down and dramatic. The ride starts and ends in Gold Beach, a charming, low-key, and relatively untouristy Oregon beach town worthy of a vacation even without a bike.
(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)
Navigation on this route isn’t hard but there’s a lot of it. Ride out of Gold Beach south on Hwy 101. In California the west coast highway can be a traffic nightmare, full of frustrated, angry drivers in a hurry, and I avoid it whenever I can—I think it appears only four times in this list, and always under duress except for the Leggett to the Sea ride—but Oregon’s Hwy 101 is a mellower, more peaceful thing, and Gold Beach is a long way from anywhere (as you know from trying to get there), so it’s as good as coastal riding gets. The views of the ocean and shoreline are great, the traffic is tolerable, and the road does enough up and down to keep you honest without killing you.
Turn L onto Carpenterville Rd. after 27 miles and follow it east and then back north until it ends. The 21 miles after the turn off 101 are the high drama for the ride. You start with the usual bracing climb away from the West Coast shoreline. After a few miles things will appear to mellow out and you’ll think you’re done climbing, but far from it. Continue to stairstep up and up through beautiful woods until the inevitable but imperceptible summit. Take the time to enjoy the expansive views of the Pacific to the west. Do a few miles of rollers and a bucket-list descent back down to the coast, one of those glassy-surfaced, car-free slalom courses you dream about years later.
Ride next to 101, through Pistol River, and onto Cape View Rd. for 1/10 of a mile (at mile 49), then onto Meyers Creek Rd. Follow Meyers until it dead-ends at 101. Turn R on 101 and return to Gold Beach.
Ride through town and turn R onto Jerry’s Flat Road and head up the south side of the Rogue River. Turn L and cross the river on Lobster Creek Bridge (71 mile marker). Ride back down the other side of the river, then turn R on Cedar Valley Drive (erroneously called Squaw Valley Rd. on some maps—it’s the road to Ophir). This is a really pretty if unspectacular meander through meadows, horse farms, and dry forest—totally pleasant, nearly flat, and constantly winding back and forth, just about what you want after riding all those more demanding miles.
Ride to where CVD dead-ends at Ophir Rd., and turn L on Ophir (don’t bother to go R to explore the “town” of Ophir—there’s nothing there). The rest of the route is fairly routine. Ride on Ophir along Hwy 101 until you see an opportunity to cross the highway and ride through Nesika Beach, merge onto 101 when you have to, get off at Old Coast Highway on your R and ride OCH into Gold Beach.
Shortening the route: Piece of cake—pick the loop that’s to your taste, easy/pretty (northern) or hard/dramatic (southern).
Adding miles: If you’re up for a ride that’s the stuff of legend, you can ride up Jerry’s Flat Road and just keep going. You’ll ride through Agness, then on to Galice after 67 miles (thus intersecting the Galice to Golden ride) and keep going until you get to Grant’s Pass 20 miles later, and you’ll have a tale you can tell your grandchildren. Locals call this ride “Bear Camp.” It’s all paved and civilized to Agness—then it gets wilder and frequently unpaved. Definitely a ride for a gravel bike.
Afterthoughts: a large part of the grandeur of this ride is the views you get of the coast and ocean on the southern loop—both from Highway 101 and from high up on Carpenterville Rd. The Oregon coast, like any other stretch of northwestern coastline, is given to fog. For the full effect, try to ride on a day with clear skies. It’s safer too—fog is drippy and hard on traction.