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Best time of year to do the PCH?

Old 06-23-12, 06:18 PM
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darb85
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Best time of year to do the PCH?

I work a job that I cant do it during the summer, but what time of year, late fall or spring would be the best time to do the PCH with the best chance of the least amount of problems.

Thanks
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Old 06-23-12, 06:55 PM
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September is your best bet on the PCH for decent temps and low precip. Bonus is less traffic than in the summer.
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Old 06-23-12, 06:58 PM
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Can you be more specific on your starting and ending points?

I've ridden SF to LA several times in later April which is usually sunny, cool, and with reliable tailwinds if going south. One benefit of Spring over the Fall is wildflowers.
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Old 06-23-12, 07:51 PM
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Im ending in Santa Barbara and starting in Vancouver BC. Might decide to take it the whole way but ive heard that past santa Barbara sucks riding wise.
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Old 06-23-12, 08:51 PM
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We can have south winds, which means rain, well into May here in OR. Heck, we're having south winds and rain today. September is pretty reliable for north winds and not much rain. Traffic tends to go down as you get later into September, but the odds of south winds and wet stuff goes up as you move later into the month. Most years I ride down the coast (from Reedsport to Jenner) in March and September. March is almost always wet with headwinds on the first half. September is much drier with favorable winds.

I recommend you at least consider the Lost Coast. Either skip the Avenue of the Giants and head out to it at Ferndale, or do part or all of the Avenue and then catch the last half or third of the Lost Coast. It has steep hills, very little traffic, no services other than a store at Honeydew and is just plain touring heaven, as long as you are fully self-contained and have sub 1:1 gearing for Wildcat and Wilder Ridges. Usal Rd. hits hwy 1 at mp 90, 30 miles north of Ft. Bragg. Usal Rd is 25 miles of dirt with wilderness on the west side and a private hunting reserve on the east. I've only seen one car on it ever. The rest of the Lost coast can be done on paved or unpaved roads, whichever you please.
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Old 06-23-12, 09:02 PM
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In September, 2011, I rode from Bellingham, WA To Newburg, OR (60 miles south of Portland) mostly along the coast (journal here). I followed the ACA Pacific Coast route (the inland option not through Olympic Natonal Park) for the early part of the ride but split to get to the coast south of the Hood Canal. It was a great ride and one I'd recommend. The weather in September was great. I only had rain one one day (the first one) with plentiful sun the rest of the time.

I've only ridden the northern part of the Oregon Coast, on the same ride, and while it wasn't as nice as the Washington coast, it was starting to get much better when I turned inland to get to Newburg, at Tillimook.

As I said before, I've ridden down to both LA and San Diego from SF several times but always in April (journal 1 here, journal 2 here). I would think that September would be a better time if you are leaving from Vancouver. I would be sure to add a couple of extra days to your schedule so that you can wait out any storms that you might run into. On the California coast, the wind comes from the south during storms and it would make riding distinctly unpleasant.

As for where to stop, the coast is fabulous down to San Luis Obispo. After that, it heads inland around a National Park full of sand dunes and dune buggies. It goes through relatively uninteresting farm fields until Lompoc (a day's ride south from SLO). Hwy 1 south of Lompoc is a very nice 16+ mile climb until the blast down onto the 101 freeway for the ride into Santa Barbara. Unless ou have a great desire to see Santa Barbara, you won't miss much if you stop in SLO. I continue on to LA as that is where I grew up and have family.

It is a great ride full of wonderful coastal scenery with people and businesses accustomed to seeing and helping bike tourists. Have a great time!

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Old 06-24-12, 12:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
September is your best bet on the PCH for decent temps and low precip. Bonus is less traffic than in the summer.
Agree completely. I rode from SF to LA in September and it was great. Left after Labor Day so roads, campgrounds, and motels were relatively empty. Had a couple of cool, foggy mornings but other than that the weather was perfect.

The riding from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles isn't as beautiful as the rest of the trip, but it doesn't start to get bad until the eastern end of Malibu. Traffic starts to get heavy and there isn't as much room for bikes, so it can be a little hair-raising. Gets better just before Will Rogers State Beach.
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Old 06-24-12, 05:57 AM
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Originally Posted by darb85 View Post
I work a job that I cant do it during the summer, but what time of year, late fall or spring would be the best time to do the PCH with the best chance of the least amount of problems.

Thanks
It was nice in September last year when I rode from Seattle to San Luis Obispo. Not much rain, not as much traffic as in the Summer, and OK temps. Personally since I tend to like it pretty cool, I have to wonder if October might be even nicer.
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Old 06-24-12, 07:53 AM
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september it is! now to get planning. Thanks guys!
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Old 06-24-12, 08:49 AM
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i don't even liking driving on the Big Sur stretch (where I live) since it is cramped. Camper vans and overall tourist driving (gawking out the window/trying to find their turn off) in the summer is high. Plus our summer is September/October. Beautiful road however.
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Old 06-24-12, 09:27 AM
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Best time of year in California is September to early October. You can pick up Amtrak in either San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara as a way to end your ride.
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Old 06-24-12, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Tycho Brahe View Post
i don't even liking driving on the Big Sur stretch (where I live) since it is cramped. Camper vans and overall tourist driving (gawking out the window/trying to find their turn off) in the summer is high. Plus our summer is September/October. Beautiful road however.
I didn't see a whole lot of RV or tourist traffic in September. Nothing like the motorcycle trip I took in July a few years ago where traffic through Big Sur was stacked up for, literally, miles behind slow-moving RVs.
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Old 06-24-12, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
I recommend you at least consider the Lost Coast. Either skip the Avenue of the Giants and head out to it at Ferndale, or do part or all of the Avenue and then catch the last half or third of the Lost Coast. It has steep hills, very little traffic, no services other than a store at Honeydew and is just plain touring heaven, as long as you are fully self-contained and have sub 1:1 gearing for Wildcat and Wilder Ridges. Usal Rd. hits hwy 1 at mp 90, 30 miles north of Ft. Bragg. Usal Rd is 25 miles of dirt with wilderness on the west side and a private hunting reserve on the east. I've only seen one car on it ever. The rest of the Lost coast can be done on paved or unpaved roads, whichever you please.
BC, can you give a little more detail on what you are recommending here. I tried google maps but it really doesn't show much other than the main routes. Is it a combination of dirt and pavement and do you need a forest service map. Thanks.
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Old 06-24-12, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
I didn't see a whole lot of RV or tourist traffic in September.
Me either, but people's traffic tolerance varies pretty widely.
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Old 06-24-12, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
Either skip the Avenue of the Giants
I strongly advise not skipping the Avenue of the Giants. I thought it was one of the highlights of the trip.
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Old 06-24-12, 02:45 PM
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Showers-Pass Rep, Reset, made sure their rain-gear display was well placed
on the floor of the LBS, for those that were thinking
of someplace else they were touring thru, when they left,
and realized they needed better rain gear, on the road.

It won't be hard to find.
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Old 06-24-12, 03:09 PM
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Can't beat mid Sept. to Oct.
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Old 06-26-12, 12:01 PM
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I rode from Crescent City, CA to SF last year in the second week of October. The weather was cool and damp in Del Norte and Humboldt counties (wool hoodie, long pants) but by the time I got to Sonoma county it was hot enough to just wear cycling shorts and a tank top.
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Old 06-26-12, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I strongly advise not skipping the Avenue of the Giants. I thought it was one of the highlights of the trip.
If he did the lost coast then he would be riding on Bull Creek Flats Road, which is absolutely stunning, and almost more impressive than avenue of the giants. Though I agree, the avenue of the giants is something else. If anything, I would recommend at least riding out and back 5 miles or so along Bull Creek Flats Road.
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Old 06-26-12, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
I strongly advise not skipping the Avenue of the Giants. I thought it was one of the highlights of the trip.
+1 However, I have not ridden the Lost Coast, so I can't really compare.



We headed north out of Vancouver to Lund, and then took the ferry from Powell River to Vancouver Island starting in September. This is a great way to start the PCH. We did get quite a bit of rain all the way down to Eureka. From San Francisco south it was great. We've probably done 4 or 5 other short tours on the coast, usually in September, and have been rained on every trip. Having said that, I still think September is the best time to ride the coast. Just bring your rain gear.


Astoria, OR, in September. Ortlieb's are good

Last edited by Doug64; 06-26-12 at 03:31 PM.
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Old 06-26-12, 04:19 PM
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I'm hoping two weeks from Friday will be good for Brookings to Sea Ranch. Last year, the third week of Oct on the Oregon coast was just about perfect weather-wise. Daylight hours were getting short-ish, tho'.
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Old 06-26-12, 05:06 PM
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Wednesday this week is supposed to be OK..
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Old 06-27-12, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I strongly advise not skipping the Avenue of the Giants. I thought it was one of the highlights of the trip.
I second this - my ride through the Avenue was the most magical, awe-inspiring moment of the entire trip.
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Old 06-29-12, 05:05 PM
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what temperature rated bag do you use along this route during these times?
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Old 06-29-12, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by SoundsGood View Post
what temperature rated bag do you use along this route during these times?
It got chilly when I was there, but I do not recall frost. I used my Mountain Hardware Phantom 45+ and was comfy but some guys with 30+ bags said they were cold. I tend to put out heat like a furnace though so take that into consideration.
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