Our west coast bike tour continues in Northern California with massive redwoods and gorgeous coastline during our 425 miles between Highways 101 and 1. Check out the story and our pictures below 🚴♀️🌎🚴♂️
We left Brookings early to a bright sunny morning. We were about 6 miles from the Oregon California state line where a big climb would take us into the redwoods. After a brief stop in Coos Bay, we prepared ourselves for a 1200 ft climb followed by a fun descent. The curvy road thankfully didn’t have too much traffic, and we pedaled away surrounded by towering trees.
We were delighted to reach the top and began our descent winding down the highway. Soon, we approached a construction zone that only allowed one lane of traffic through at once. We waited while the cars backed up behind us, but wisely let them pass when it was our turn. This allowed us to take up the rear knowing that there was a great distance between us and the next group of cars through construction. We had the whole lane to ourselves and glided down the highway grinning ear to ear. We stopped at the bottom of the hill for a picnic lunch, then continued on our way. We still had one more big climb ahead of us before camp.
Just south of the tiny town of Klamath, we reached a detour that would take us to Prairie Creek State Park via Newton Drury Scenic Byway. This byway parallels the 101 for about 10 beautiful miles. We made the turnoff the highway and headed uphill once more.
The hard work was not without reward as this byway did not disappoint. After cresting the hill, we set off on an incredible 7 mile descent winding through continuous redwood groves, trees towering in all directions. Here was truly one of my most favorite moments of the tour – effortlessly gliding among giants.
Our descent came to an end at the state park campgrounds where we setup camp for the night at the hiker / biker site.
We woke up excited for our relatively short day ahead. We were aiming for the small town of Trinidad where our friends Cassidy and Dustin, who had housed us in Astoria a week prior, were joining us to camp for the night. We arrived at the campground ahead of them and tend to our chores – showering, laundry, grabbing groceries.
We were stoked when our friends arrived to our camp in the redwoods. In the evening, we made the short walk to the beach to watch the sunset and play with the pup, Althea, and we stayed up probably too late around the campfire gabbing and giggling.
In the morning, we said our goodbyes and pulled away on bikes. Just north of Trinidad, highway 101 became more of a freeway – divided highway, two lanes of traffic in each direction, and entrance / exit ramps. This continued as we headed south through Arcata then to Eureka. Tired from the nigh before and swayed by Eureka’s budget friendly accommodations, we took a short day and rested in a motel.
Leaving Eureka, the 101 continued as a busy freeway. As a plus it had a huge shoulder, but the whizzing traffic and not too scenic of an area made it somewhat of a bore to me. I was thrilled to find the Avenue of Giants scenic byway around lunchtime. This byway, much like the one a couple days ago, also parallels the 101 but this time for about 30 miles. We were thrilled to get off the freeway and again be surrounded by unending redwood groves. That evening, we were headed for another campsite in the redwoods at Richardson Grove State Park.
The Avenue of Giants byway ended just north of Garberville where we stopped for some groceries. Richardson Grove was about 8 more miles down the road.
We arrived at camp delighted to be once again surrounded by the redwoods and even more stoked to be joined by our friends and fellow Sockeye employees, Dani and Ali.
In the morning, we parted ways and continued down the 101. Our 35 mile day would take us to yet another friend’s house. We took off for 28 windy, hilly miles down the 101.
We took a lunch break at turnoff for our friend’s house, mentally preparing for the challenge ahead – 3300 ft of elevation gain in about 7 miles on a mostly gravel road. We knew he had a truck if we couldn’t make it up, but we wanted to give it a try. It took us two full hours of winding up the incredibly steep gravel road with many, many breaks in our lowest gears, but we rejoiced once we made it to the top.
The next 4 days we rested enjoying the company of our friend and his many dogs. And we picked the perfect time to pause the ride as it rained the majority of the time we were there!
After our rest, we left the house with a slight ascent back over the peak then careening down to the 101. Upon the ascent, I was struggling to make it uphill. Sean almost turned back to see where I was when I rounded the corner, and he could see my flat rear tire. 950 miles, this was our first flat! After about 20 minutes, we were ready to ride again, flat fixed
We rode to the small town of Laytonville and loaded up on groceries. From here, we headed west on Branscomb Rd that would take us to Highway 1. It was great to once again be off the highway. We saw very little traffic and felt rejuvenated after our break. Even the 1000ish foot climb over the coastal mountains didn’t seem too bad. Once we made it to the top, it was sweet, smooth sailing all the way to Highway 1. Not too long after returning southbound, we made it to Fort Bragg where we found a cheap motel for the night.
We left Fort Bragg happy to be back on the coast with nothing but sunshine in the forecast and about 150 miles left to San Francisco. Compared to the 101, Highway 1 is considerably windier with many sharp turns and is a series of continuous hills. We spent the day climbing and descending and ended at Manchester KOA.
Another perfect day of weather! We rode all day in the sunshine pedaling up, coasting down, and repeating over and over. In the late afternoon, we came to a big climb hugging the coast as we climbed up over 1000 ft. From the top, we careened down with big ocean views stretched before us. I audibly wowed my way down the mountain cautious of the steep dropoff to my right.
As we neared sea level we came to a stop through some road work. A stop light was directing traffic through one lane at a time. We followed a string of vehicles and were slowly going uphill around 5mph. We both had a feeling we weren’t going to make it through before the other lane started coming. As predicted, oncoming traffic approached as we were slowly moving uphill with a cliff on one side and a guardrail on the other. Thankfully, the lead car spotted us, and traffic mysteriously meandered around us despite the lack of wiggle room.
As the sun was setting, we cruised our final 10 miles to Bodega Bay Dunes Campground. As I watched the sun set into the ocean while riding my bike, I was nothing but grateful for the experience of my first long distance ride.
When we realized we were only 70 miles from San Francisco, it wasn’t hard for us to make the decision to push on into the city. We woke up to our warmest morning of the ride and were already hot by 9 am. The news mentioned a wildfire had started overnight in Sonoma county (where we were) but it was inland. With our goal in mind, we started our ride.
The first half of the day was the similar pattern of ups and downs we had come to expect on Highway 1. This section was incredibly rural with very little shade, traffic, and much of, well, anything. We stopped for lunch in Point Reyes and evaluated our mileage. We were right on track for getting into the city before dark.
We took off again thankfully this section was a little bit easier pedaling, and I very much enjoyed some added shade from the trees we started seeing.
When we got to Stinson Beach, we were surprised to see Highway 1 was closed with a reroute going up and over Mt. Tamalpais (Mt Tam). We were already pretty committed to our goal, so we began the climb of nearly 1500 ft. It was a pretty big surprise to add to our 70 mile day, but once we got to the top, the ride down was pretty joyous.
We rejoined Highway 1 and soon enough we were riding our way through Marin City and Sausalito. I put Google maps bicycle navigation on, and got the in ear directions to get us through the city. All I gotta say is, thank God for west coast cities with bike lanes!!!
We were racing the sun, trying to end this long day before it was completely dark. We rode around the San Fransisco Bay with amazing city views and tons of cyclists out. Finally, we reached the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. When we arrived, the south bound pedestrian lane was for bikes only. It was an incredible moment having reached our destination from Seattle so many miles away. The pastel colors blended in the sky perfectly, and were stopped for a brief moment to take it all in.
After crossing the bridge, we had just a couple miles left to get us to a hotel downtown. Again, so grateful for bike paths and lanes!!! We grabbed a few beers and collapsed into bed, proud of our efforts and exhausted.
Though we’d made it to the city, we still had to get to the south side of the Bay area where the San Francisco airport is. This involved a 21 mile ride across the city. Directions in ear we navigated from the heart of downtown through various bike paths and lanes to the opposite side of the Bay. Though I was definitely nervous for this undertaking, I couldn’t help but be proud of myself for getting this done safely and overall confidently. The biking world is all very new to me, but it’s pretty exciting seeing my skills, abilities, and confidence grow.
Sadly, our west coast bike tour has come to an end! Including the ride all the way to the bike shop to get the bikes boxed, we rode 1175 miles in 30 days.
Look for another blog post soon breaking down our stats and review of our ride from Seattle to San Francisco 🚴♀️🌎🚴♂️
We are Bekah and Sean, long distance hikers, bikers, seasonal workers, and global vagabonds. Follow our life in motion here or on Instagram.