Arcata to Ashland
Spring - Fall
This is a great mini tour showcasing some of the amazing natural areas that lie between the coast and the Rogue Valley. Almost the entirety of this route is on backroads. There are a plenty of swimming options which was clutch when we rode it as the highs were in the low 100’s. The re-supply spots are spaced out in such a way that one has the option of packing fairly light, and there are a few options for dining out.
The route starts out with some mellow miles through the Arcata bottoms along the Hammond Rail to trail and connects to the town of Trinidad via the aptly named Scenic Rd. North of Trinidad you’ll be riding through damp coastal forest full of alder, spruce, and redwood. Once in Orick you’ll climb away from the coast up and over Bald Hills Rd. which eventually drops descends to Klamath River in Weitchepec. Bewteen Weitchepec and Orleans you’ll be on HWY 96 which can be busy but not that bad. An excellent lesser known alternative to the 96 is Ishi Pishi road, and although it adds some climbing it is more than worthwhile.
The Salmon River Outpost is a bit of an oasis and stopping here is a must, if nothing else for an ice cream sandwich or some food to take to camp (they have an excellent beer selection too). The miles spent riding along the highway will pay off once you’re along the Salmon River. There are few better places to bike tour in our book. The road, in many places is narrow with a dramatic steep drop off down to the river below, sees very little traffic. There are plenty of swimming holes and places to camp, we suggest spending some time off the bike during this section.
The climb out of the Salmon drainage is no joke but rewards you with some amazing views. The PCT crosses the road at the summit which is just shy of 6,000 ft. and the descent into Etna is top notch. Etna is your last option for food re-supply, there are also a few restaurants, a brewpub, and rumor has it a distillery. The route cuts through Quartz valley and eventually ties into the Scott River before hitting the Klamath River again. You’ll be on the 96 again but not for too long before turning onto the peaceful and scenic Walker Rd. which parallels the river on the south side. Don’t miss the Walker bridge which will take you back north side of the river and to Beaver Creek Rd. where you’ll start the slow yet steady climb back up to Mt. Ashland. Having the GPX file downloaded will be helpful navigating the maze of logging roads on the south side of the Siskiyou Crest. The route terminates with a fun dirt descent into downtown Ashland.
We rode it in five days, four nights but it could be done in less (day 1 and day 5 were lower miles).
Season: Best time is spring and fall because it gets very hot once you leave the coastal range. However, as we experienced there can be heat waves in late Spring. Big days with lots of climbing was hard enough but with temps over 100F everyday it was rough, luckily there are plenty of swimming opportunities.
Backroad highlights: Hammond Trail, Scenic Drive, Stagecoach, Ishi-Pishi Rd, FORKS OF SALMON!, Quartz Valley, Walker/Klamath River Rd.
Camping: plenty of camping along the coast, Patrick’s Point and Prairie Creek if you get a late start or want to do shorter days. Several campgrounds along the Klamath, Salmon, and Scott Rivers. Beaver Creek Campground is highly recommended.
Provisions: Another aspect that makes this route great is the availability and spacing of supplies. This (and warm weather) allowed us to pack fairly light. Stock up in Arcata. Beachcomber Cafe in Trinidad. Snack Shack in Orick, Orick Market (nothing between Orick and Orleans). Salmon River Outpost is a gem and a must stop! During summer there is a little store in the town of Forks of Salmon but don’t rely on it being open. Etna has a grocery store and brewpub stock up here for the remainder of the trip because aside from Quigley’s on the 96 there’s not much NOTE: Quigley’s is permanently closed, you’ll need to get the remainder or your provisions in Etna.