Distance: 33 miles one way
Elevation gain: 2560 ft
This ride is expertly covered in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon (see the “Oregon” section in Rides by Region).
The Oregon coast is a legendary destination for touring cyclists, and it’s certainly leaps and bounds better than California’s coast—fewer cars, kinder motorists, far more towns for R and R and refueling, and only slightly less spectacular scenery. But I’m not nuts about it. Notice I only have two rides that explore it, and the other (Gold Beach Century) does it as much out of necessity as out of choice. Perhaps it’s because I did my north coastal riding on the July 4th holiday, and the place was a zoo. This is the best ride on the Oregon coast and is well worth doing, in large part because here Hwy 101 goes inland and the coastal riding is on smaller secondary roads. The rewards keep on coming—four charming coastal towns, grand bays, a lighthouse, miles of deserted beaches, grand ocean vistas, and one delightful hike.
The route you want to ride is slightly different than what is mapped, for reasons that will be made clear below.
My favorite part of the ride is the first 10 miles, from Tillamook to Short Beach. Begin in Tillamook and head west on 3rd St. Take a R onto Bayocean Rd. and roll along the very edge of Tillamook Bay. It’s lovely and car-free out there. Be sure to stop and read the large sign on your R headlined “City of Bay Ocean Park,” detailing the quirky history of the community once built on the spit crossing the bay.
Just past the spit there’s an intersection. The road straight ahead changes its name to Meares Avenue NW and the road on the L is Cape Meares Loop. Even though I haven’t mapped it, go straight at the intersection, leaving the main road, and continue west to the tiny beach community of Cape Meares. Ride as far west as you can, then walk the 50 ft to the beach. White sand, lovely surf, and no people. Enjoy.
Return to your bike, return to the intersection and go R onto Cape Meares Loop. CML was closed for 10 years by a slide and has just (11/23) reopened, but RWGPS hasn’t caught up to the reopening so it won’t let me map the leg. So from here to Short Beach ignore my mapping (which is an alternate route marked as “unknown surface” by RWGPS) and stay on CML. It’s a dreamy stretch of road, with a short, brisk climb (up to 12%) and descent .
Midway along Cape Meares Loop you pass Lighthouse Drive on the R. I haven’t mapped it, but take it for a short jaunt to Cape Meares Scenic Viewpoint, from which you can take short, easy paved walks to the lighthouse and the Octopus Tree. Return to CML and ride to Short Beach.
The rest of the ride is an easy ramble down the coast, during which you will experience several small communities worth hanging out in—Short Beach, Oceanside, Netarts, and Pacific City—one killer vista point (Anderson’s Viewpoint at about mile 22. Watch for it over your R shoulder—it’s just an unsigned dirt turn-out), one nice climb (up and over the Cape Lookout ridge), and lots of views along two shallow bays.
As you leave the coast to climb over the Cape Lookout ridge, you’ll pass the prominent Cape Lookout Trailhead on your R. From this trailhead a beautiful hiking trail heads out to the cape itself. It’s 5.2 miles round trip, all gentle downhill going out, gentle uphill coming back, through rare and magnificent old-growth Sitka Spruce to a spectacular ocean overlook. By no means do you need to walk all of it. Even a short jaunt takes you into a very special and spiritual place.
The entire bike route is easy to follow—just stay as close to the ocean as you can. I got lost once. Leaving Netarts, I took my eye off the map and missed the R onto Netart’s Bay Drive. If you do that, you’ll stay on Hwy 131 and climb an unnecessary hill to an inland intersection signed “Cape Lookout State Park” to the R. Follow that R back to the coast and your route. This is also the route you’ll take if you opt for Short Ride Version #2 in Shortening the Route just below.
Getting back to your car/Shortening the route: You could ride this as a long out and back, and it would all be worth seeing twice. Or you can ride it one way, then jump on the bus that runs from Lincoln City to Pacific City to Tillamook (there’s a bike rack)—see Kevin’s comment below for details. Or you could loop back on Hwy 101 from Pacific City to Tillamook, which would be 25 miles of trafficky shoulder riding (I haven’t done it and wouldn’t dream of doing it). Or there are three shorter versions of the route: 1) ride the miles from Tillamook to Short Beach as a plumb 24-mile out and back; 2) stay on Hwy 131 through Netarts and following it east, then north as it loops back to Bayocean Road near where you started; or 3) take Sandlake Rd. east from Cape Lookout Rd to Hwy 101 and heading north to Tillamook, making a loop of roughly 40 miles. This leaves you with only about 10 miles of Hwy 101.
Adding miles: besides riding 101 back to Tillamook and the cut-off roads we’ve already discussed, the only option open to you is to continue south on 101. Some riders keep going until they hit Mexico.