There’s a reason so many visitors flock to Cannon Beach: it’s a fantastic place to hang out. An array of restaurants, eclectic boutique shops, rustically elegant beach houses… and a lovely beach with iconic Haystack Rock looming over the entire scene.
People have been thronging to this town and beach for decades, but only relatively recently have some adventurous folks figured a new reason to drop in: It’s a great place to ride a bike on the beach. From dodging the kite-flyers, Frisbee-tossers and shell hunters near town, to exploring off-trail waterfalls, caves and historic wagon trails off the beaten path, you can have a completely different experience than 99 percent of the people who come here, all in less than 6 miles of coastline. And then you can end up back in town at a great bakery or ice cream shop – it’s the best of two worlds!
The logistics of riding here are pretty simple: get to town, turn west, ride onto the beach. The end of Gower St./Ecola Court is the main thoroughfare to the sand, but there are numerous other portals strung along the shoreline that you can begin your journey from. But wait; there’s another level of planning you need to consider: tides. Consult a tide table before you decide when to set out, because you want to ride in as low a tide as possible – the capes along here are not rideable at higher tides. Mistiming it could cut your trip frustratingly short if you’re not prepared. Plus, low tide exposes more of the harder sand that offers the best riding.
OK, now that you’ve planned it perfectly… ride. Like pretty much every trip to Cannon Beach, your adventure will begin with the local landmark: Hit the beach and head south toward Haystack Rock. For a quick and easy ride, you can just cruise up to the rock and then explore the beach as far south as you’d like.
If you’d like to take on the full ride, keep heading south down the beach. You’ll come across plenty of small rocks to ride over and jump off, and the population density will drop off precipitously after passing Tolovana Beach State Recreation Area. In a matter of minutes, your awareness of the cars coursing along Highway 101 above you will fade away and you’ll realize how much space and solitude you enjoy on this part of the beach. Gliding down the beach like a seagull in flight, you’ll skirt around Silver Point and then take on the challenge of riding between the large rocks of Humbug Point; at low tide you can even ride around them.
As you continue down the smooth, fast beach, you’ll approach what looks like a dead end at Hug Point. But as you get closer, you’ll see there’s a small, rugged pathway around the lower portion of the rocks. This is an old wagon road that was the original “highway” down this stretch of coast (the road really hugs the point; hence the name).
As you ride onto the rocky trail, look down to see the old wagon-wheel marks still left in the rock. As you roll around the end of the road, you’ll feel the waves crashing against the west side of the rock; this part of the ride is sure to spike your adrenaline. (Note: At anything above half tide, this section will not be rideable. Getting back onto the beach on the south side will likely involve getting your feet wet.)
Now that your blood is pumping, it’s time to do a little exploring. Just south of Hug Point, find some waterfalls off to your left; you can climb up to them and take a little break from your bike. Farther down the beach, you’ll run into a collection of caves that make a great place for a unique lunch stop.
Once you reach the town of Arch Cape, it’s time to turn around and head back up the beach. For a quicker way home, you can also jump up on Highway 101 and ride the road back into Cannon Beach.
Bike resources: Just to the south in Manzanita, at Bahama Mama’s you can find some simple single-speed fat bikes. Cannon Beach has a couple locations to rent beach cruisers that will also do the job. Wheel Fun Rentals in Seaside has bike rentals, while Surfsand Resort in Cannon Beach has free bikes for hotel guests.
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).
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