One of the best things about this stretch of the coast? It’s not on Highway 101. The Three Capes Scenic Drive departs from the main highway in Tillamook and loops out west to the coastline, passing by three iconic capes (Meares, Lookout and Kiwanda) before reconnecting to 101 outside Pacific City. While a lot of tourists stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory and then just keep going down 101, those in the know take their time and explore this less hectic but still gorgeous section of the North Coast, including the relatively less kitschy towns of Oceanside and Netarts.
This ride takes that away-from-the-main-road approach even further – because where you’re riding, there are no roads. Stop and get ice cream in Tillamook if you want, but then head out to Cape Lookout and connect with the ocean on two fat tires.
Start at majestic Cape Lookout State Park; this out-and-back route makes logistics simple. Actually, we suggest first heading down the road a bit past the park entrance, to the Cape Lookout Viewpoint. From here you can get the lay of the land – or at least a great vantage point to remind you of the scale of the scenery. Then head back to the entrance and zip in to the parking lot ($5 fee; includes restrooms and running water to fill up your water bottles). Camping is also available on-site.
Walk down to the beach, throw your leg over your bike, and head north along the waterline. As you pedal away from the campground, feel the welcome sensation of isolation settle over you. This is the joy of riding along a spit: no one is out here unless it’s specifically just to enjoy being there – no one’s on their way to somewhere else. Even the beach walkers will fade out soon, leaving only you and your riding partners to take it all in.
Netarts Spit is wild country; there are no homes out here, and you can get a sense of what early explorers experienced when they came upon these unspoiled beaches (too bad they didn’t have a bike, like yours, right?). When you reach the end of the spit, you’ll see three arch rocks off in the distance, just offshore from Oceanside; you’ll also see Netarts just across the bay. This is a great place to grab a seat on a log, take in the views, and have a peaceful snack break.
On the way back, take the opportunity to mix it up a little. Try riding different distances from the water, to compare the sand consistency – or ride in the water a little, if it’s warm enough. Make art with your tire tracks; maybe spell out your name? Stop to hunt for sand dollars, beach glass and other beach-combing treasures; this beach is not likely to be picked over – you know, like the ones people can get to easily from a road.
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).
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