Free Wheeling: Rides

3 Can’t-Miss Portland Bike Rides

From mellow riverside cruises to gravel grinds, here are some of the best routes the area has to offer.

By Rebecca Jacobson May 28, 2019 Published in the June 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

An idyllic scene along Marine Drive

Image: Michael Novak

Whether you prefer hammering up hills or taking midcruise dips in the river, Portland has a ride for you.

Flat and Mellow, Please

For a little nature-meets-industry flavor, head to Marine Drive on the south shore of the Columbia River. Much of this 20-mile stretch—running from Kelley Point Park in the west to Troutdale in the east—is a paved, multiuse path, so there’s less risk of being side-swiped by a semi. It’s wide and flat, with opportunities for watching all variety of winged creatures: feathered ones, including bald eagles and great blue herons, as you pass through the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area, and their hulking aluminum counterparts as you pedal past the airport. On toasty days, cool off in the Columbia (sandy Broughton Beach is a popular destination) or farther east at Blue Lake Regional Park. If you haul all the way to Troutdale, reward yourself with some miso-caramel-drizzled soft serve at Sugarpine Drive-In. Consider it fuel for the return ride.

Head for the (Humble) Hills

A compact 30-mile ride that logs a manageable 1,700 feet of climbing, the Willamette River Loop runs south along the Springwater Corridor, through Sellwood, and into Milwaukie, where you’ll catch the car-free Trolley Trail to Gladstone. Swing through Oregon City—option to detour for ales and ax-throwing at nearby Feckin Brewery—and soon you’ll hug the Willamette again on Old River Road, a sylvan, low-traffic stretch that leads you to the only stressful patch of the day: downtown Lake Oswego. No worries: you’ll quickly hop to a paved, three-mile climb through Tryon Creek State Natural Area, and a bike lane on gently rolling Terwilliger takes you all the way downtown, where you can stop off at Salmon Street Springs fountain for a spritz.

Gimme That Gravel

A good intro to gravel riding, the car-free, 23-mile Crown-Zellerbach Trail follows an abandoned logging road from Scappoose to Vernonia. (If you’re driving to the trailhead, look for the main parking area about four miles in along the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway.) You’ll encounter broken pavement at the start, which gives way to gravel doubletrack as you cut through dense forest. You’ll climb—you’re in the foothills of the Coast Range, after all—but the grade remains mellow throughout. Here in August? Allow extra time for blackberry picking.

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