Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tour of the Unknown Coast

Distance: 97.37 miles
Climbing: 9724 feet
Difficulty: Epic
Start: Ferndale

THE WALL! Is it a relief to know you are almost done or dread to know that the hardest climbs are yet to come?


The Tour of the Unknown Coast is advertised as California's toughest century. It features over 9,000 feet of climbing, including the infamous WALL which has a grade over 18%. It is completed in one day by hundreds of cyclists every year on the Saturday before Mother's Day in May. However, it can also be covered in two days by camping at AW Way County Park, which is 61.4 miles from Ferndale. Click on the Tour of the Unknown Coast Link for more information, including maps, tourist information, and past results.

"The tour began under the guidance of area bicycle mechanic Ron Berager and some friends who cycled the loop out and back from Ferndale informally until 1976, when the event became a fundraiser for the St. Bernard High School PTA (Times-Standard, March 28, 1993, page F14)."

The course record was set in 1990 during the final stage of the Co-Op Classic stage race. Victor Dewees (Specialized Bike Gallery) finished the route in 4:33:24. During the same stage future Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong (Subaru Montgomery) finished in 12th place with a time of 4:44:36. "Armstong showed the heart of a champion in Sunday's race. The 18-year old Texan battled back from a crash and flat that left him down more than four minutes to the leaders near the top of Panther Gap (Times-Standard, May 21, 1990, page 10)."

For more tour trivia check out my "scrapbook" at http://tucscrapbook.blogspot.com/

Surrounded by towering old growth redwoods on the Mattole Road you can't help ponder the meaning of life among ancient trees. And yes, they look better from a bike than from a car window!

Detailed Route:

  • 0- Start at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds, located at 1250 5th Street, Ferndale, CA. There is parking, bathrooms, and a small campground located here. Head south on 5th Street.

  • 0.8- Turn left onto Ocean Ave. which turns into Grizzly Bluff Road.

  • 5.97- Bear right at intersection with Price Creek School Rd (sign to Rio Dell)

  • 6.47- Bear left on Blue Slide Road. You will travel over the “Three Sisters” in the next 6 miles, which are short steep climbs.

  • 13.1- Turn right onto Wildwood Avenue in Rio Dell.

  • 14.4- Continue straight onto Main Street in Scotia at the Highway 101 interchange.

  • 14.5- You will pass Hoby’s Market where you can buy additional food or water. You will also pass the historic Scotia Inn, Winema Theater and Scotia Museum.

  • 15.2- The Pacific Lumber Company has an interpretive anadromous fish display and portable toilet on the right side of the road. This is a good stop before you head out on Highway 101.

  • 15.92- Turn left and then immediately right onto Highway 101. The highway has a fairly wide shoulder which you will be riding on for approximately 4 miles.

  • 20.08- Turn right off the highway at the Avenue of Giants/Pepperwood exit.

  • 20.2- Turn left and continue on the Avenue of the Giants under the highway.

  • 25.3- Immortal Tree. This tourist stop is open seasonally and has bathroom facilities.

  • 27- Redcrest. This small town has a restaurant and market, both of which may be closed or have limited hours in the winter.

  • 30.97- Bear right on the Mattole Road traveling under the highway in the direction of Honeydew and Bull Creek. Don’t turn left and go over the bridge on the Avenue of the Giants. Over the next 8 miles Humboldt Redwoods State Park has day use areas and campgrounds, which may offer facilities seasonally. You will also complete the climb to Panther Gap with an elevation of 2744 feet. You will leave the old growth redwood groves and transition to Douglas-fir forests and open oak woodlands as you near the Mattole River Valley.

  • 53.17- Turn right on the Mattole Road after crossing the bridge over the Mattole River. You are in Honeydew which has a nicely stocked market.

  • 61.4- AW Way County Campground with bathrooms and water. This is the lunch stop on the official Tour of the Unknown Coast.

  • 66.8- Bear right over the bridge which crosses over the Mattole River.

  • 67.87- Petrolia. This small town has a well stocked market. This is the last location for services before the finish in Ferndale.

  • 78.77- THE WALL. This is the start of the infamous wall which reaches grades of 18-20%. This is when the ride really begins.

  • 82.8- The beginning of the “Endless Hill” which is a real test of your endurance and climbing abilities.

  • 90.64- Continue straight and downhill at the intersection with Bear River Ridge Road.

  • 96.7- Turn right onto Ocean Avenue and then almost immediately left onto 5th Street continuing back to the end at the fairgrounds.

  • 97.37- End at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds.

Click here for a printable route sheet

Click here for a link to the Garmin Connect website, which includes more data and a Google map of the route.

Below is a map from MapMyRide.com. Clicking on the map will direct you to the website where you can view the map through Google Earth or download a Garmin Course or GPX file. You can also print the map with notes.

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