The Route (8 miles)
Difficulty Rating 4/5
This ride hosts a multitude of challenges — or adventures, depending on your mindset — from difficult sand conditions to a significant river crossing and few exits back to the road. For directions and map details, follow the self-guided Ride with GPS route.
A group of us came down from Portland to explore the capes between Port Orford and Cape Blanco along Oregon’s South Coast. Though we had little knowledge of the area, this ride did not disappoint our adventurous souls. This coastal fat bike ride is a stunning cliff-lined adventure that runs point to point between two of Oregon’s largest capes. Packed full of adventure, we found ourselves in several unexpected situations, including fording a river and escaping quicksand.
The Cape Blanco to Port Orford fat bike ride made us feel completely removed from civilization, on our own with the elements, and we enjoyed every second of the feat.
Shuttle service Pineapple Express Adventure Rides dropped us off at Cape Blanco and we rode south, following an off-road vehicle down to the beach toward huge piles of driftwood and the Elk River. The sand was hard-packed and we rolled effortlessly, laughing about the ease of the ride, unaware of the perils ahead.
Within 2 miles we hit the Elk River. There is no easy way to conquer this one — no bridge, no sand bar. As we trucked through the river to the other side, waist deep in sections, we quickly learned that fat bikes float well.
Note: In spring, the river can get quite deep and may not be passable. Check with local tour operators before embarking on this part of the ride. Summer and fall will be the best times to tackle this challenge.
Needless to say, the chilly Oregon waters will wake you up better than a double shot espresso. After the crossing, we traveled parallel to the river for nearly a mile. We stopped for a snack and walked over to an island to take in the view.
Right when we thought we made it through the tough part of the day, we realized we weren’t out of danger yet.
Walking toward the edge of the island, I stepped on a soft spot and sank into quicksand. Luckily, I still had a hand on my bike and was able to use it for leverage to pull myself out. Later we learned that this area is notorious for real quicksand that has taken a few horses and even vehicles over the years. Just make sure to cross at the mouth of the river where it meets the ocean. Apparently quicksand is not just a plot twist in old movies and cartoons — it is alive and well on the Oregon Coast.
Only a few miles later, the ride clearly ended at the massive bluff at Port Orford Heads State Park. We rolled into the park and climbed the road to enjoy the viewpoint of the Port Orford heads.
From the parking lot, the Headland Trail is a short walk to an incredible viewpoint of the offshore heads and Cape Blanco to the north. Just below the viewpoint are seals lounging on rocks and basking in the sun.
The Headland Trail also connects with the Nellie’s Cove Trail, which leads to a cool observation tower and views of Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve and Humbug Mountain to the south.
Following the dirt singletrack, we were able to look back at the beach and relax, reflecting on our strenuous day.
Afterwards we rolled straight into the Crazy Norwegian’s Fish & Chips restaurant — a Port Orford staple — and ordered a heaping load of deep fried fish, filling our tired bodies and empty stomachs.
Tips and Tricks
Fat biking the Oregon Coast has one key factor to plan around: ride the beach with a tailwind. Take a look and which way the wind is going and make sure to ride the beach with the wind at your back. After the beach ride this will allow you to ride back on the road into a headwind which will be blocked by the trees and much easier to ride on the pavement.
Another way around this is to do what we did and hire a shuttle service. This allows you to enjoy the best part of the ride, then jump in a van to take you back. On our ride, the wind was coming from the north so we had our shuttle drop us off at Cape Blanco and we rode south. Starting from the most southern point (past the campground), we followed an off-road vehicle down to the beach toward huge piles of driftwood and the Elk River.
Don’t have a fat bike? Not to fear, South Coast Bicycles has you covered. Stop by and say hi to Karl, who knows a thing or two about cycling. Need proof? Look at the stars-and-stripes jerseys lining the shop walls.
Tours and Shuttle Service
Pineapple Express will take care of you if you want a quick shuttle to one end or a full-service tour, where they remove the tedious planning part by riding with you. Erin’s local knowledge can help navigate you through the tricky spots in this ride.
Where to Eat
- The Crazy Norwegian’s Fish & Chips: This unique restaurant provides the fresh seafood fix that you crave at the Oregon Coast.
- Siren’s Cove Cafe: A local favorite, this cafe has everything from pizza to lattes.
- TJ’s Cafe and Coffee House: Take in an old-school diner with vinyl booths that make you feel right at home.