From civilization to solitude and back
Sometimes you want to go to the beach to be among people – the raw energy of all those folks congregating in one spot, each bent on enjoying it in their own way, can be pretty electrifying. And sometimes you want to go to the beach to enjoy some isolation in natural splendor – just you, the sand and the vast reaching ocean.
Here’s a ride that offers both environments – and with a fat bike, you can easily spend as much time as you want in either atmosphere.
This is an out-and-back-and-out-and-back route – meaning, you start in the middle and pick a direction. When you hit the end of that, turn around, return to the start, and try the other direction if you want.
Find your way to Pacific City, the heart of the Three Capes Scenic Drive, tucked in below Cape Kiwanda. Here’s where you’ll embark on your adventure. Before you head out, you’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants if you need to stock up or fuel up, plus parking is free – it’s a great launching point for a ride.
When you first hit the sand, be aware that vehicles are allowed on the beach here. Be careful, because some drivers throw out normal driving behaviors and do questionable stuff; they may not be able to stop quickly in the soft sand. In addition to the cars driving on the beach, dory boats launch and land in this area. Give all motorized vehicles a little space and you’ll be fine.
Let’s arbitrarily have you head south first; if you started at the north end of town by Pelican Brewing Company, you’ll pass along the entire stretch of Pacific City; if you start at the south end by the bridge over the Nestucca River, you’ll be out of town right quick. Make your way down to the North Spit, which is almost entirely occupied by Bob Straub State Park. The sound of vehicles will fade away, and you’ll enjoy some peaceful shoreline isolation. The sand here can be soft and coarse, making it slow to ride on; consider riding at low tide to take advantage of the hard, smooth sand – it’ll make the going much faster and easier.
At the end of the spit, the Nestucca River squeezes out into the Pacific; here you’ll have the beach to yourself, with a view of a spectacular mansion atop the cliff across from the inlet. Looking west, it’s all ocean. Looking east, it’s all the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Soak in the natural wonder of special places like this. And then, as Queen so succinctly put it: get on your bike and ride. As you head back, you may even run into some horse tours. Make sure not to spook the horses by jumping off your bike.
In just a few miles you’ll be back in Pacific City, where you can next-level your ride by climbing the steep, imposing and ridiculously fun dunes of Cape Kiwanda. As you head up and over, make sure to look back and out, to appreciate the various awe-inspiring viewpoints. Once you hit the top, check yourself: Are you ready to try something wild? If the answer is “Heck yes,” or at least “Um… sure?” then grab your brakes, get your weight as far back as you can, and do your best X-Games impression as you bomb down the side of the dune.
Once you’re back on flat ground, make your way north, skirting around the rock features and once again leaving the masses behind, until you hit the small town of Tierra Del Mar. If you want, continue another mile or so until you hit another isolated dead end at the mouth of Sand Lake. Wherever you turn around, simply head back the way you came and experience the dunes from another angle.
Bike resources: The nearest location to rent fat bikes is in Lincoln City at Safari Town Surf.
If you go: Wherever you go fat biking on the Coast, check the tides and try to go during low tide as much as possible. Beware of sneaker waves and stay off rocks and small, enclosed beaches. Respect the sensitive micro-environments, whether it’s birds or anenome you encounter. In particular, it’s critical for people and pets to avoid areas that are closed due to western snowy plover nesting season, March 15-Sept. 15. Look for bright yellow signs nearby Oregon’s beaches and more info about how to protect this threatened species here).