We are continually drawn back to this route by its fascinating history and remote access to the far reaches of the Coast Range. As with all Coast Range routes, expect rough gravel, steep grades, and active logging. But if you’re looking to avoid people and maybe crash headlong into an unsuspecting herd of elk, this is the route for you.
If you had the chance to participate in our old Rapture ride, you’re familiar with the ascent on Toll Road. It’s a long and unforgiving 8 mile ride towards the summit of Trask Mountain. Until you cross a gate on the downhill just before Murphy Camp at mile 39 the entire climb up Toll Road is on private Weyerhaeuser land which is typically gated. So unless you run into any active logging you should have the place to yourself.
This route is easily linked up with our Tillamook Baby Loaf (coming soon!) and Trask routes to create a remote dirt loop to the coast and back. If you’re riding it one-way, we suggest tying it in with the Wave bus back to Portland. Reservations are recommended and make sure they know you’ll have a bike. The bus only holds two bikes on a front rack, but they’ve accommodated us in the past by putting another bike in the back.
This route is slightly harder, slightly more committing, and slightly more difficult to navigate than the Trask route. The Tillamook Baby Loaf route is one step harder than this on all accounts. If you’re trying to decide which to ride – that’s how we’d grade them – Trask, Toll Road, Tillamook Baby Loaf – easiest to hardest.
You may cross a few tiny streams on the way up the big climb, but don’t expect any significant, untainted water sources until you cross Elkhorn Creek at mile 36.7. Even this may be dry later in the season. Otherwise, the only truly reliable water won’t be until you hit the East Fork of the Trask River at mile 45.
There is potable water at the Trask River County Park at mile 52, but for whatever reason it has a very strong, unpleasant sulfur taste.
Cell service drops off dramatically once you get near the Coast Range. Expect little-to-no cell service from approximately miles 16-62.
If you prefer organized camping there are two options on the route. The first is the Flying M Ranch just off the route near mile 26 and marked on the Ride With GPS route. Check with them for availability on camping.
The other option is the Trask River County Park at mile 52. We don’t necessarily recommend it, but it’s an option. Other further flung options could include Cape Meares and other State Park campgrounds out towards the coast past Tillamook.
We recommend riding with a GPS unless you’re very familiar with the area. While the ascent on Toll Road generally involves sticking to the most well-worn path, this changes occasionally depending on logging conditions and there are a lot of unmarked, confusing intersections. This is especially so when you roll into the 6-way intersection at Murphy Camp.
Second, at least part of this route travels through private Weyerhaeuser land. Current Weyerhaeuser rules allow bicycle travel as outlined on their website (you’ll be traveling through the “North Valley” section). This is a privilege, not a right.
You can also expect active logging throughout the Tillamook State Forest portions of the route.
While the current road is still called the “Toll” Road, most of the original wagon route no longer exists and once the nice folks at the Flying M Ranch in Fairdale pass on, knowledge of the old route will likely be lost forever.
Speaking of the Flying M Ranch, if you ever get a chance to talk to Bryce Mitchell, ask him to tell you stories of being a kid and riding his fixed gear bike over the Coast Range on the old Toll Road in the 20’s and 30’s to fish for salmon. To counter the lack of brakes on the steep descents, he’d cut down a small pine tree and tie it to the back of his bike to check his speed while jamming one foot against the front tire. You can also catch a cameo of Bryce driving the getaway jeep in the 1977 classic Fire! with Ernest Borgnine. The movie was filmed in the area and included most of the locals as extras. If they still do it, Sunday brunch at the ranch house when the bush pilots fly in from all around is a unique experience.
If you’re into historical fiction, I’d recommend Trask by Don Berry. It’s about the life of Elbridge Trask, an early settler, mountain man, and fur trapper who’s the namesake for Trask Mountain and the Trask River.