I'm contemplating a long ride in the fall (September / October), and thinking about the Pacific Coast route. I've never tried a multi-day bike tour before, although by then I will have. I'm hoping to stay in hotels or with Warm Showers hosts, not camp, and to bike about 50 miles a day. My question is: Does anyone have any advice about whether it's better to start north, in Washington or Oregon, and head South, or start in LA and head North?
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You should head South. Prevailing winds are northerly. Also, you will be on the correct side of the road to look over the cliffs and see the beauty.
As for not camping, it can get mighty expensive in tourist areas during the season, and usually 'reservations only' if they have room. On the other hand, there are 'Hiker/Biker' camps ($5 when I did it) at nearly all of the State Parks along the way that are positioned about every 40-50 miles. That is where you will meet other riders from all over the world. I had the time of my life doing that. Have fun.
This sounds amazing. My partner and I are in the early stages of planning a PC tour in California. If you don't mind me asking; when did you do you tour? - We're trying to get a gauge on how much camping will cost us. Also is there any directory or website for these hiker/biker camps? And do you have to book? We will be going in July.
It seems like yesterday but it was in 2014 that I biked from Vancouver to San Luis Obispo. The Hiker/Biker campgrounds I used were mostly in California. You do not need a reservation. What each State Park has is a group campsite away from the others for Hikers and Bikers, not individual spots. You will have to research the California, Oregon and Washington State Parks for locations and pricing. Also, be sure and check with CalTran to see if Hwy 1 is clear. They have had some big slides in the last few years. Most probably this trip is the most beautiful and low traffic ride you will ever do. I'm riding this year up in parallel to the Pacific Crest Trail from Mex to Can and I hope it is as nice.
You can find out more about the California State Parks bike camping sites here: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=26837 My partner and I count our ride down the coast as one of the most memorable vacations of our lives. One place you might want to check out along the route is Esalen Institute. I am unsure what their policies are now but we soaked in their hot springs over looking the Big Sur coast. It was an amazing break for our minds and out legs.
I did the PC when I did a perimeter tour of the US. I unfortunately did it northbound during July. I was a strong rider, young, in shape, etc. It was fairly miserable due to the headwinds. Some days I rarely got out of my inner (smallest) triple chainring while others going the other way were smiling, joyous, etc. Unless there is some overriding reason why you MUST ride northbound, I would definitely recommend going southbound.
I have ridden this ride a several times. You will have a better experience riding southward. As others have said, we have consistent winds from the Northwest most of the year. The weather in September is generally very nice. No rain. And not as much fog. If you need information about San Diego or San Francisco, I am happy to help. I have lived been riding bike in both places for 40 years.
We rode the PC southbound in October / November 2016. I agree with everyone else that southbound is best and that camping is great at the hiker / biker state parks. We stayed at many of these campsites in Washington, Oregon and California and, without booking, were only turned away from one state park with hiker / biker facilities. We were unfortunate to have very bad weather and so also stayed at many Warmshowers and cheap motels along the way. For that reason, I'd recommend starting in September to avoid the potential for heavy rain in October. Your plan to do 50 miles a day is very reasonable but bear in mind that the coastline in northern California / southern Oregon can be very hilly, so you'll probably do some shorter days there and longer days further south.
All the best
The PC ride is about community. That happens at the hiker - biker sites. These sights are along whole route. Cost as of this winter, $5 to $10.
Fall ride could be cool and wet up in Washington.
Did you decide which way, North or South?