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Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail Creates a Link Between Willamette Valley and Pacific Ocean

By Geoff Nudelman

Oregon's next big outdoor adventure destination may be where you least expect it. 

As the state's most popular destinations and trails continue to crowd, ardent adventurers may be looking for something new with more space to roam. The new, 62-mile Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail offers just that in a well-marked, temperate route linking the central Willamette Valley to the Pacific Ocean.

The original foundation for the "C2C Trail" was conceived in the early 1970s but was delayed until the formal Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail Partnership was established as a nonprofit in 2004. A group of dedicated Partnership volunteers worked with private landowners and various government agencies to build necessary portions of the trail through an early 2020 trail rerouting and final sign placement last August. The finished route is the result of 40,000 volunteer hours and $20,000 in donations; it was originally slated to open in 2020 as the final pieces came into place, but the pandemic pushed the official opening back to this spring. 

In short, the trail is quintessentially Oregon: expansive temperate forests, backcountry roads, picturesque rolling hills, and (for now) solitude. The C2C Trail begins in downtown Corvallis along a bike path and, once it leaves Philomath, heads through logged forests, passes in the shadow of Marys Peak, and follows a mix of country and private roads skirting a northern chunk of the Siuslaw National Forest before spilling out users at Ona Beach, a few miles south of Newport. 

The C2C Trail can be done in either direction and typically takes about two days to complete via bike—the preferred method of transportation as of early 2024. Here's a look at how to enjoy the trail from the saddle:

Perhaps the most unsung appeal of the C2C Trail is the impressive biking. The trail is ultimately designed to be a hiking destination as well, but as of this writing, infrastructure for thru- and day-hikers is still under development—which makes biking and bikepacking the best way to enjoy the trail's many charms.

The biking routes—which include a mix of highway, backcountry paved curvature, and gravel—overlap the hiking routes at times and feature a nice mix of winding forest roads along with feasible climbs and mellow descents. Not just that, but the highest point on the trail is 1,800 ft., and the gradual terrain is marked by just a few significant climbs in between several much more gradual shifts in elevation—making the trail an excellent, lower-challenge option for hearty cyclists.

Once out of Corvallis and Philomath, the trail winds largely into rural forest roads with nothing but open gravel and tarmac straight to the ocean. The specific bike paths are clearly marked, but the C2C website reminds riders that after leaving the old farming town of Harlan, "you are on your own, as we make no assurances regarding safety, difficulty, signage, or possible errors in our route description".

Prepared bikers needn't worry, though. The C2C is a largely accessible and approachable introduction to uninterrupted gravel riding and longer bikepacking. Until the trail grows in popularity, you'll probably find yourself passing only the occasional resident or hiker en route to your destination.

Use the map below (or check out the Ride with GPS map here) to get inspired and start planning your next bike adventure on the C2C Trail. The map includes points of interest, suggested campsites, trail surfaces, elevation changes, and other relevant information.

You'll want to keep the following in mind before attempting the Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail:

  • Potable water: The biggest challenge may be the lack of water sources along the way, with the midway stop at Big Elk Campground being the only reliable place to refill. (Some streams can be found along the trail—but may dry by mid-summer. Consult trail maps and reach out to the Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail Partnership for more tips on finding water.)
  • Camping along the trail: Whether at Big Elk or elsewhere, there are plenty of places to set up camp in the National Forest lands, and trail organizers did an excellent job of marking the path the whole way. Signs are clear, easy to spot, and designate where campfires and camping are allowed- and where they aren't. (Be sure to follow Leave No Trace guidelines wherever you are.)
  • Detour details: Be sure to check the Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail Partnership website site before leaving on longer treks, as certain detours are in place during the rainy season to protect habitats, and for the most updated permit requirements.
  • Required permit: A specific portion of the C2C requires a free permit from Starker Forests (good for one year). Call 541-929-2477 to obtain the permit if you might hike that section of trail, or visit the company's office (7240 SW Philomath Blvd., Corvallis, 97333) between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
  • Trail closures: All C2C dirt trails have Oct 16-May 15 closures to bicycles and horses. Some detours are in place, but certain portions of the trail have no detour for bicyclists. Check the official C2C website before venturing out to check the latest trail conditions.
  • Bug spray: Bugs are active, especially in the warmer months, so bring bug spray.
  • Wildlife encounters: While there are few wildlife issues to worry about along the C2C, cougars and black bears do call this area home. (Black bears are largely not aggressive, and cougar incidents typically occur only with solo hikers.) Both encounters are rare, but be sure to familiarize yourself with best practices before heading out.

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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