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Tips for Hillsboro>Cape lookout>Astoria, OR casual tour?

Old 05-07-21, 06:14 PM
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tahlwin
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Tips for Hillsboro>Cape lookout>Astoria, OR casual tour?

Hi there!

I'm finally vaccinated and am happily planning a tour to camp around for around 5-10 days in the coming weeks. I'll primarily be shooting for hiker/biker campsites along the way.

My plan so far is:
  • Nestucca river road trail
  • (Possibly) Ride 101 from Cape Lookout up to Astoria?-- I'll likely stop along the way and take my sweet time. If there's any opportunities for a boat ride, or less time spent on the side of a highway I'd gladly take them as well.
  • Once in Astoria I tentatively plan to take the Banks Vernonia path back home.


    I've done quite a few 50 mile+ day rides and have gone on overnight loaded camping trips, but this will be my first larger (and solo) trip. If you all have any tips or suggestions for the route it would be much appreciated-- I'd like to avoid time spent nervously walking my bike off the highway or dealing with speeding cars around blind corners with no shoulder.
    I hope to minimize sketchiness, maximize safety, and hopefully grab many burritos and sights along the way.

    Also If there is any compelling reason to stop short of Astoria, or to head instead head south Nestucca along the coast, and then into Salem and back up then please let me know. Both directions sound appealing to me.

    Thank you for your time!
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Old 05-08-21, 03:02 PM
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Hey there, tahlwin!

The route that you're planning is pretty decent. But if it were me, I'd do it in reverse order, going counter-clockwise vs. the clockwise direction. Here are a couple reasons why:
  1. It's best to head south on 101. The biggest reason is that the wind is primarily out of the NW in summer, so unless you like biking into a constant headwind all-the-time going north, head south instead.
    • Also, the ocean will be to your right, so you don't have to cross 101 to stop at overlooks or beach access.
    • Plus, since 95% of cyclists head north-to-south, ODOT takes this into account. If there's a spot where there's not enough room for a shoulder on both sides of the road, they'll drop the shoulder on the northbound side.
  2. The climb on the Nestucca River Road is more gradual coming from the west, as you are following a valley up to the summit of the Coast Range. Approaching from the east, the grades are more severe, with some stretches of sustained 7-9%
The section of 101 from Astoria to south of Tillamook is okay for the most part, though there are a few caution areas, like Arch Cape Tunnel. The Adventure Cycling route has you stay inland from Astoria to Seaside with one good climb. 101 here is flat and has a wide shoulder, but lots of traffic. Make sure you get off 101 at Tillamook and take the Three Capes Route (though part of it may be still blocked due to a slide). This way you get to stop at Cape Lookout. You'll need to get back on 101 for about 4 miles until the Nestucca River Road turnoff at Beaver. It's pretty hairy, but there's no real alternative.

As for going south? There's definitely good stuff going south, especially south of Lincoln City and down towards Florence. That'd be a different tour, though.
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Old 05-08-21, 05:02 PM
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I agree with the prior poster that US101 is a much better deal N-S than S-N.

From Hillsboro, there's a designated scenic bikeway route to get to Banks and connect with the BVT. However....what will you be riding? Road bike, or something that will handle semi-rough trails? I ask, because the BVT ends at Vernonia. There's the Scappoose-Vernonia highway to get to US30, but I've driven it and wouldn't describe it as a great bike route. There's the Crown-Zellerbach Trail, which runs roughly parallel and would get you from Vernonia to Scappoose (or vice versa, if you stick with clockwise), but it's mountain or gravel bike stuff.

And you probably already knew that there's a several mile chunk of the Nestucca River Road that's unpaved. I've ridden it on a skinny tire road bike many years back, and while it was doable, it wasn't tons of fun.

And again, that's a stretch that's probably a better ride W-E than E-W. The climb coming from the east is pretty steep in spots, winding, narrow, poor sight-lines. Lots of log trucks, a fair number of RVs. Not a great place to be grinding your way uphill...when we did it, it was a Cycle Oregon training ride, so they had support, cops, etc keeping us from getting flattened. I'd much rather swoosh down that going east.

--Richard
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Old 05-08-21, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by rlmalisz View Post
From Hillsboro, there's a designated scenic bikeway route to get to Banks and connect with the BVT. However....what will you be riding? Road bike, or something that will handle semi-rough trails? I ask because the BVT ends at Vernonia. There's the Scappoose-Vernonia highway to get to US30, but I've driven it and wouldn't describe it as a great bike route.
When I've headed to Astoria via the Banks-Vernonia Trail, I continued from Vernonia via OR 47 then to OR 202. It's a pretty pleasant ride with low traffic and one climb over the Coast Range. I'd do that rather than 47/30.

One thing to take into consideration if going this route is where to stay. It's about 100 miles from the Hatfield MAX in Hillsboro to Astoria via this route. There's camping at Stub Stewart (20ish miles in), in Vernonia (30ish miles in), and at Big Eddy campground (40ish miles in.) As far as I know, there's no legal camping after that on the route, though there is a horse camp (Northrup Creek) several miles off of 202, and since the road passes through a bit of Clatsop State Forest, one could probably bush camp there. And Fort Stevens campground near Astoria adds about 10 miles on top of the main route.

Originally Posted by rlmalisz View Post
And you probably already knew that there's a several-mile chunk of the Nestucca River Road that's unpaved. I've ridden it on a skinny tire road bike many years back, and while it was doable, it wasn't tons of fun.
I've done it on tires in the 35mm wide range and didn't have issues. One positive thing about the couple miles of gravel is it keeps traffic volumes fairly low.
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Old 05-11-21, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
Hey there, tahlwin!

The route that you're planning is pretty decent. But if it were me, I'd do it in reverse order, going counter-clockwise vs. the clockwise direction. Here are a couple reasons why:
  1. It's best to head south on 101. The biggest reason is that the wind is primarily out of the NW in summer, so unless you like biking into a constant headwind all-the-time going north, head south instead.
    • Also, the ocean will be to your right, so you don't have to cross 101 to stop at overlooks or beach access.
    • Plus, since 95% of cyclists head north-to-south, ODOT takes this into account. If there's a spot where there's not enough room for a shoulder on both sides of the road, they'll drop the shoulder on the northbound side.
  2. The climb on the Nestucca River Road is more gradual coming from the west, as you are following a valley up to the summit of the Coast Range. Approaching from the east, the grades are more severe, with some stretches of sustained 7-9%
The section of 101 from Astoria to south of Tillamook is okay for the most part, though there are a few caution areas, like Arch Cape Tunnel. The Adventure Cycling route has you stay inland from Astoria to Seaside with one good climb. 101 here is flat and has a wide shoulder, but lots of traffic. Make sure you get off 101 at Tillamook and take the Three Capes Route (though part of it may be still blocked due to a slide). This way you get to stop at Cape Lookout. You'll need to get back on 101 for about 4 miles until the Nestucca River Road turnoff at Beaver. It's pretty hairy, but there's no real alternative.

As for going south? There's definitely good stuff going south, especially south of Lincoln City and down towards Florence. That'd be a different tour, though.
N-S it is then! Appreciate all the information, this helps a bunch.

Originally Posted by rlmalisz View Post
I agree with the prior poster that US101 is a much better deal N-S than S-N.

From Hillsboro, there's a designated scenic bikeway route to get to Banks and connect with the BVT. However....what will you be riding? Road bike, or something that will handle semi-rough trails? I ask, because the BVT ends at Vernonia. There's the Scappoose-Vernonia highway to get to US30, but I've driven it and wouldn't describe it as a great bike route. There's the Crown-Zellerbach Trail, which runs roughly parallel and would get you from Vernonia to Scappoose (or vice versa, if you stick with clockwise), but it's mountain or gravel bike stuff.

And you probably already knew that there's a several mile chunk of the Nestucca River Road that's unpaved. I've ridden it on a skinny tire road bike many years back, and while it was doable, it wasn't tons of fun.

And again, that's a stretch that's probably a better ride W-E than E-W. The climb coming from the east is pretty steep in spots, winding, narrow, poor sight-lines. Lots of log trucks, a fair number of RVs. Not a great place to be grinding your way uphill...when we did it, it was a Cycle Oregon training ride, so they had support, cops, etc keeping us from getting flattened. I'd much rather swoosh down that going east.

--Richard
I'll be using a gravel bike fully loaded with camping gear! I'll look into the trails. I'm definitely happy to avoid car traffic when I can, as long as it isn't too major of a detour!

Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
When I've headed to Astoria via the Banks-Vernonia Trail, I continued from Vernonia via OR 47 then to OR 202. It's a pretty pleasant ride with low traffic and one climb over the Coast Range. I'd do that rather than 47/30.

One thing to take into consideration if going this route is where to stay. It's about 100 miles from the Hatfield MAX in Hillsboro to Astoria via this route. There's camping at Stub Stewart (20ish miles in), in Vernonia (30ish miles in), and at Big Eddy campground (40ish miles in.) As far as I know, there's no legal camping after that on the route, though there is a horse camp (Northrup Creek) several miles off of 202, and since the road passes through a bit of Clatsop State Forest, one could probably bush camp there. And Fort Stevens campground near Astoria adds about 10 miles on top of the main route.



I've done it on tires in the 35mm wide range and didn't have issues. One positive thing about the couple miles of gravel is it keeps traffic volumes fairly low.
I'll look into Big Eddy! thank you. Don't think I'm in tip top shape right now so will probably ease into the ride a bit, but will see how I feel once I get going
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Old 05-11-21, 10:54 PM
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Looking more at Veronia to Jewell, on the way to Astoria--

I ran through the route a bit on google maps and the 47 seemed a bit sketchy in some parts. Google maps is showing a lot of backroads which look like they connect to Jewell (Veronia to Jewell via Keasey Road). Would this be a more preferable way to go? Seems to be a bit of climb but I'd take that if it means no logging trucks coming up on me.

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Old 05-11-21, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by tahlwin View Post
Looking more at Veronia (sic) to Jewell, on the way to Astoria--

I ran through the route a bit on google maps and the 47 seemed a bit sketchy in some parts. Google maps is showing a lot of backroads which look like they connect to Jewell. Would this be a more preferable way to go? Anyone have experience cutting through to Jewell, or at least skipping parts of the 47?
I didn't find any section of 47 from Vernonia to the junction of 202 sketchy. South of Vernonia? Yes, but you'll be on the Banks-Vernonia Trail. Yes, the road doesn't have shoulders and can wind a bit, but the key thing is traffic is pretty light.

As for those other roads you see, I'm guessing most (if not all) of them are gravel roads going through either private or public forest lands. These roads can be rewarding if you know what you are doing and where you are going. They can and will be steep, and they can and will be unmarked. Having a good GPS system is necessary for exploring these roads. You'll also need to know what you can access and what is off-limits due to logging, etc. The easier option is to use 47 to 202.

Everyone's preferences and comfort zones are going to be different. Some people don't mind shoulderless roads as long as there's no traffic, some will stress out the whole ride because of the traffic there is. Some folks want the extra adventure of steep unmarked gravel roads through timber land to avoid the main roads, some would rather stick to the more straightforward route. So keep that in mind, and have fun.
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Old 05-11-21, 11:27 PM
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
I didn't find any section of 47 from Vernonia to the junction of 202 sketchy. South of Vernonia? Yes, but you'll be on the Banks-Vernonia Trail. Yes, the road doesn't have shoulders and can wind a bit, but the key thing is traffic is pretty light.

As for those other roads you see, I'm guessing most (if not all) of them are gravel roads going through either private or public forest lands. These roads can be rewarding if you know what you are doing and where you are going. They can and will be steep, and they can and will be unmarked. Having a good GPS system is necessary for exploring these roads. You'll also need to know what you can access and what is off-limits due to logging, etc. The easier option is to use 47 to 202.

Everyone's preferences and comfort zones are going to be different. Some people don't mind shoulderless roads as long as there's no traffic, some will stress out the whole ride because of the traffic there is. Some folks want the extra adventure of steep unmarked gravel roads through timber land to avoid the main roads, some would rather stick to the more straightforward route. So keep that in mind, and have fun.
Good points! Thank you for your time.
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Old 05-11-21, 11:42 PM
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Originally Posted by tahlwin View Post
Good points! Thank you for your time.
You are welcome!

Another thing to do when looking at Google maps: Turn on the Terrain layer. If you look at that area from Jewell to Vernonia, you'll see that 47/202 follows the Nehalam River, and its heading downstream. You'll be in a valley. Any other routes are going to go up and over a hill or three to get to the same point.
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Old 05-12-21, 02:35 PM
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One more set of tradeoffs to consider...which days of the week are planning on doing this, and how many days are you planning to take? For the bits on highway, those will be busier weekdays (except maybe 101 on the coast, which seems steadily crazy any more), quieter on weekends. There are several campsites along the Nestucca River Road, but those are all first-come, and the last time I checked them out (a fall Friday) one was closed, the other two had one open site between them. Some of that may have been COVID-driven (since few folks were working), but I think during the summer, anything close to a weekend is going to find those sites pretty full pretty early. WRT Stubb and Anderson (the campground right on the BVT in Vernonia), they take reservations but may already be full...certainly filling up.

If it were me, if I could get reservations at Stubb or Anderson for Friday night, I might grab it and plan my start to end there on day #1. If you're planning on camping state parks along the coast, get those booked accordingly. Assuming you'd make it to the Nestucca section mid/late the following week, an early start should get you a decent shot at one of the three campgrounds you'd pass.

I'll mention that on the east side of Vernonia Lake (past where the BVT forks) there's a primitive campground down a short ragged path...takes off just south of a vault toilet and water fountain on the lake loop trail. I have never gone down to check it out, and have no idea how it would be. It should be right on the Nestucca River. 45.854436, -123.1711 are the GPS coords for where the trail ducks off the paved BVT.

Lastly, if you're going to be on the highways much, a Varia and a head unit it can talk to would be high on my list. Knowing when there's approaching traffic without having to keep a constant eye on a mirror is good for piece of mind...and keeps my old neck more relaxed. I assume you're planning on hauling some sort of power bank or solar along to keep theings charged up?

--Richard
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Old 05-14-21, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by rlmalisz View Post
One more set of tradeoffs to consider...which days of the week are planning on doing this, and how many days are you planning to take?
...There are several campsites along the Nestucca River Road, but those are all first-come, and the last time I checked them out (a fall Friday) one was closed, the other two had one open site between them...If you're planning on camping state parks along the coast, get those booked accordingly. Assuming you'd make it to the Nestucca section mid/late the following week, an early start should get you a decent shot at one of the three campgrounds you'd pass.
Good advice about hitting the Nestucca River campsites on a weekday.

However, the big advantage of riding the Oregon Coast is the hiker/biker sites in the state parks that have camping. These are reserved for cyclists and hikers and require no reservations. The price is about $8 a head. The hiker/biker state parks on the OP's route are Fort Stevens, Nehalem Bay, and Cape Lookout. According to the state parks website, these hiker/biker sites should all be open by June 1st, they have been closed since last March due to COVID. And in the past parks employees have found spots for cyclists even if all the sites (including hiker/biker) have been full. I wouldn't want put that policy to the test right now, but there's usually plenty of room in the hiker/biker area. There can be hiker/biker spots in the non-state park campgrounds, but they can be much more pricey. I stayed at Barview Jetty once, a Tillamook County Park, and paid about $20 for their hiker/biker spot. Nice spot otherwise.

So finding sites on the coast isn't going to be the issue, but can be on the to/from the coast part.
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Old 05-14-21, 01:32 PM
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Not sure you have your heart set on Astoria...US 30 parallels the Columbia, but gets a bit tiresome, and as was pointed out, is pretty devoid of camping along your route.

It's a shorter tour, but you could consider chasing the Nehalem River to the coast instead. Komoot makes it to be about 30 miles from Vernonia to Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground. You'd be on US26 for less than 10 miles...a lot less than you were going to be on US30. There's a stretch of Lower Nehalem Road that's unpaved...like 20 miles...but when I have been back there, I've seen very little log truck traffic. It's a popular boondocking area, so informal campsites abound. From Spruce Run to Cape Lookout is about another 60 miles. You'd tie into US101 at Nehalem. That stretch between where you turn off US26 to where you hit the coast is really pretty.

Well, I was going to attach a GPX for that section from Komoot, but apparently GPX files are not something to be shared on a site about regional rides. Any routing software should give you the same output. It's a mile of climb and descent going that route, so hillier than what you had been considering. But would be shorter, so probably a wash for saddle time. You'd pass the Sunset Rest Stop (water and bathrooms). There should be water at Spruce Run...aside from that, there'd be nothing by way of services.

--Richard
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Old 05-14-21, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by rlmalisz View Post
Not sure you have your heart set on Astoria...US 30 parallels the Columbia, but gets a bit tiresome, and as was pointed out, is pretty devoid of camping along your route.
If the OP does the Banks-Vernonia-47-202, they wouldn't be on 30 at all.

Originally Posted by rlmalisz View Post
It's a shorter tour, but you could consider chasing the Nehalem River to the coast instead. Komoot makes it to be about 30 miles from Vernonia to Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground. You'd be on US26 for less than 10 miles...There's a stretch of Lower Nehalem Road that's unpaved...like 20 miles...but when I have been back there, I've seen very little log truck traffic. It's a popular boondocking area, so informal campsites abound. From Spruce Run to Cape Lookout is about another 60 miles. You'd tie into US101 at Nehalem. That stretch between where you turn off US26 to where you hit the coast is really pretty.
Or, if they want to go down the Lower Nehalem Road, they can do the Banks-Vernonia/47/202 route, then at Jewell take OR 103 to US 26, right near a market. This may be a bit longer, but it's all following the Nehalem River downstream, and you'd only be on 26 for 2-3 miles. I did this route a few years back. 26 is still very sketchy, though, the short segment has no shoulders, a climb, and fast/lots of traffic. I wouldn't want to be on 26 for any longer. At least 30 has generally decent shoulders for most of its length.
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Old 05-14-21, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by tahlwin View Post
Looking more at Veronia to Jewell, on the way to Astoria--

I ran through the route a bit on google maps and the 47 seemed a bit sketchy in some parts. Google maps is showing a lot of backroads which look like they connect to Jewell (Veronia to Jewell via Keasey Road). Would this be a more preferable way to go? Seems to be a bit of climb but I'd take that if it means no logging trucks coming up on me.
I had some friends ride Hwy 47 from Vernonia and they said the shoulders were non-existent. With the logging trucks and sharp drop off in many places, they'd agree with you on your assessment of Hwy 47. I've only ridden Hwy 6 to Tillamook and it was fine. I've never ridden 202.
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Old 05-14-21, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by mtnbud View Post
I had some friends ride Hwy 47 from Vernonia and they said the shoulders were non-existent. With the logging trucks and sharp drop off in many places, they'd agree with you on your assessment of Hwy 47. I've only ridden Hwy 6 to Tillamook and it was fine. I've never ridden 202.
'

Which direction did your friends ride from Vernonia?

I'm not fond of logging trucks, but not as scared of them as others. They are professionally-trained drivers who know how large their vehicles are, and it's in their best interest to keep their driving record clean.

Before I did my first tour of the Pacific Coast, I was warned about logging trucks. I didn't nearly find them as much of a problem as RVs, which tend to be vehicles as big as city busses, yet the drivers don't need CDLs somehow. I lost count of how many times an RV passed me too close. (And half the time they're towing something, so just when you think the RV has passed ya, it's not over.) Nor do I find logging trucks as bad as males in jacked-up trucks with add-on "rolling coal" kits and something to prove.

I've ridden OR 6 once and found it to be less-than-fine, especially when someone threw a lit firecracker at my friend from their moving vehicle.
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Old 05-16-21, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
'
Which direction did your friends ride from?
East to west. They were pretty adamant about logging trucks cutting it pretty close. Then again, maybe it was just one logging truck had to that cut it close and that set them on edge...

To the OP, Astoria and Fort Stevens are pretty neat, but the stretch on 101 from Astoria to Seaside is pretty dull. Luckily the shoulder is good and it's a short section.

I agree with pdx's assessment of big rv's. They don't seem to understand they should wait to pass a bicyclist when they're not at a safe place to do so. The last time I was at the coast, it was a zoo between Seaside and Cannon Beach as many people from the Portland area were headed out to enjoy the beach. Cars were parked up and down the shoulder of 101 south of Hwy 26 because the parking lots were full. It might be worthwhile to hit that section on a weekday.
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Old 05-17-21, 11:30 AM
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Great plan and not a bad route, I am also planning a trip in mid-July, maybe I will even be in those places.
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Old 05-19-21, 04:48 AM
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Perhaps this year I will be able to visit these places, I also get to the place by car with a trailer, it's good that there are mounts for 2 of my bikes. It was one of the main options when choosing a trailer, plus it is quite light I have such https://www.horizonteardrops.com/. I get to the camping, then I explore the area by bike, relax in comfort, charge my gadgets and continue the journey.

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