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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Biking and Camping the Pacific Coast: Washington, Oregon and California Bike Camping Tips

By Megan Maxwell
This past summer, I went on a long-distance bike trip through Washington, Oregon, and California. I had always wanted to see the Pacific Coast, but I needed to be frugal with my money. The best way to save money and make my bike trip a reality was to camp along the way. I kept my tent and other camping gear in my panniers and pedaled my gear down the coast.


Finding camp sites was relatively simple. I was using the Adventure Cycling Association’s Pacific Coast route map, which in addition to providing the most biker friendly route down the coast, also mapped all of the state parks along the way. Occasionally, there wasn’t a state park where I wanted to stop for the night. I purchased the Camp Finder app for a few dollars. It listed all of the private campgrounds that weren’t on my cycling maps.

At the state parks, there were campsites called “hiker/biker sites.” These are campsites that don’t have to be reserved ahead of time, due to the difficulty of planning daily mileage on a bicycle. Multiple hikers and bikers will be put together in one campsite. The price varies depending on the state, but it isn’t ever more than $10 per person and it’s often less. Oftentimes, the showers are coin operated and usually cost about a dollar. Oregon was great because they offered free showers at the state parks.


Most of the state parks have kiosks at the entrance where you can speak to a park employee or volunteer and pay your fee. They usually give you some sort of a receipt that shows that you did pay your fee, although it doesn’t seem that anyone usually monitors who is camping at the sites. Some of the smaller parks operate on the honors system. Just put your money in an envelope and drop it in a box. I also saw a lot of this in Washington before camping season started for the year.

The hiker/biker sites in Washington and Oregon were frequent, easy to locate, not highly trafficked, and clean. They also had the lowest prices for campsites. Once I got into California, the prices for camping went up as did the shower prices. I was also biking in California in July, so the campsites became much more crowded and the bathrooms usually weren’t very clean. Upon entering Big Sur (which is beautiful by the way), a lot of the parks stopped offering hiker/ biker sites and I had to keep biking late at night a few times.

It’s easy to bike in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California without much of a plan. The camping is easily accessible. Once you get into Southern California, it becomes necessary to call ahead for campsites and stick to a plan.