Maybe you’ve been to this spectacular stretch of the Oregon Coast. So maybe you’ve enjoyed spotting whales, exploring lighthouses, gazing out at the vast ocean, scouring the beach for treasures, and even experiencing some of the bracing salt water. If you haven’t, head here right now. But even if you have, have you ever done it on a bike, on the beach? Didn’t think so.
This ride is made possible by the advent of fat bikes – those giant-tired beasts that will take you almost anywhere your legs can pedal. Using this fun, healthy and non-road-dependentmode of transportation will give you an entirely different perspective on the amaxzing nature of the Oregon Coast. In this one ride you can try some whale-watching from a cliff edge, check out a historic lighthouse, stumble upon some quiet surf breaks, and end the adventure with a drink and some great food in the quaint town of Newport.
The best start for this adventure is at Bike Newport. The friendly people there know all there is to know about fat biking the beach, and they’re happy to pass on the key info you need for a great ride.
Before you start riding, the first thing to do is assess the wind – always a big factor in any coastal adventure. This route is set up as a one-way beach ride, and you’ll enjoy that part much more if the wind is at your back! You can either ride back to the start on the road, where you’re more protected from a headwind, or work out a car/bike shuttle by leaving a vehicle at the end of the route so you don’t have to pedal back on the road.
Since the wind tends to most often blow from the north, you’ll want to start this route at the northernmost point of Otter Rock and head back to Newport. Set out from Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area, making your way down the wooden stairs to the beach (we don’t recommend you start riding until the bottom of the stairs…).Here you should take a long moment to soak in the stunning tableau of Otter Rock as the backdrop to a tasty surf break.
And now… ride. Head south beside the sandy bluffs, crossing a few small streams on yourtrusty steed. You can find plenty of uncombed beach life, since most people don’t walk as far down the beach as you can ride. You can’t mistake the majestic Yaquina Head Lighthouse in the distance. You’re beach-cruising along one of the most scenic shorelines you’ll ever find, smelling the tangy salt air and feeling the occasional spray borne from the top of a cresting wave. You’re living large on your fat bike!
An important note: It’s best to do this ride during the lowest tide possible, because it’s easier to ride around the various rock outcroppings when the tide is out. The folks at the bike shop can help with that planning, or just check a tide table online. As you make your way down the beach, keep your eye on the lighthouse; as you get closer, the water around Yaquina Head becomes much too deep to ride through, and if you try to stay on the beach you’ll encounter impassable cliffs anyway. So plan on getting off the beach to ride Highway 101 for a short stretch. The best spot to leave the beach is at Moolack Shores Motel.
Next stop: an iconic Oregon lighthouse. On the highway, climb up and follow signs to the right to enter Yaquina Head Lighthouse. This is a great place to take a break from pedaling to simply savor the expansive views. Try taking yourself back in time, to when this lighthouse was the only way boat captains could safely navigate the rugged coast, and fat bikes were as realistic an idea as flying saucers. While you’re here, you can explore the lighthouse itself, and in the winter and spring months you may even see whales moving by offshore.
When you’ve had enough of a break, it’s back on the bikes and back out toward Highway 101. But just before your get to the highway, turn right on Agate Way Road. This will lead you to a path, which in turn leads you to a staircase, which will lead you back down to the beach. From here, work your way back to town, making sure to stop and explore any and every thing that catches your eye or captures your imagination.
And if you just don’t want the adventure to end, keep going all the way down to the jetty, where you can park the bike and spend some time clambering among the rocks, which provides great views of the inlet and the Newport Bridge.
Wherever you finish your ride, you’ve just experienced a day at the beach in an entirely new way.
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).