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It’s bike-camping season!

Posted by on July 12th, 2007 at 9:13 am

The open road awaits…
(File photo)

Ever wanted to pack up your bike, leave your worries behind, and take off for the open road on a multi-day riding adventure?

If so, now is the perfect time to give it a try. We live in a place with multitudes of bike-camping options. Whether it’s a jaunt to the coast, or an excursion to the rivers and foothills of the Cascades, you will not be disappointed.

And the best part is that no car is required. There are many possibilities If you’re not quite up to pedaling 100% of the way, you can hop on a bus or use the MAX for a nice head start.

Below is a mini-guide to some excellent bike-camping options that you can do from Portland (some of these blurbs were originally published in an article I wrote for the Willamette Week’s 2005 Summer Guide).

Oxbow Regional Park

The Sandy River runs through Oxbow.
(File photo)

Oxbow Park is nestled in the hills above the Sandy River a mere 25 miles from downtown Portland. In addition to wooded camping areas, the park boasts old-growth redwoods and an impressive collection of wild critters. Depending on your fitness level (or lack thereof), you can get there via the Springwater Corridor Trail or by hitching a ride on the MAX to the east end of the Blue Line. Work your way to Division Street and follow the signs to the park. 3010 NE Oxbow Parkway, Gresham, 663-4708. Oxbow Website

To the Coast: Astoria, Manzanita, Three Capes Area
The City of Portland website offers detailed maps of three great coastal routes: Astoria via Vernonia; to Manzanita via Hwy 26 and the Lower Nehalem River Road; and to the Three Capes Area via the awesome Nestucca River Road (see below for more).

The beach near Astoria.
(File photo)

Nestucca River Road
From the Hillsboro MAX terminus, you can also reach the Nestucca River Road, nirvana for any cyclist who appreciates low-traffic, high-beauty back roads.

Dinner.
(File photo)

From the small rural town of Carlton (south of Forest Grove) you’ll pick up Meadow Lake Road and soon be spinning west along the Nestucca River, wondering why you’ve never done this before. It’s about 20 miles from Carlton to Dovre Campground, where you can sleep for the night. Dovre Campground info: (503) 815-1100.

Ainsworth State Park
A few miles northeast of Multnomah Falls, amid a rushing waterfall wonderland, Ainsworth State Park is ready to indulge your bike-camping habit. Channel your inner Lance and ride the 40 miles from Portland via Marine Drive and the Historic Columbia River Highway. Or take the MAX Blue line to Gresham and shave off a few miles. If you’ve got the energy, Ainsworth is also a gateway to some stellar hiking.

Clackamas River
Ride in the direction of our postcard peak, Mount Hood, and get to know the mighty Clackamas River. From the old logging town of Estacada southeast of Portland, it’s only 15 miles east on Highway 224 to Armstrong Campground. Be sure to explore the four-mile off-highway side trip at North Fork Reservoir. With a relatively short ride into camp, you might have time to enjoy some river rafting – just remember to lock up your bikes before leaving camp. Armstrong Campground info: (503) 668-1700.

But wait, there’s more. Check out this thread in the Portland Bike Forums and be sure to bookmark Michael Wolfe’s excellent blog full of “escape routes” from Portland.

If you’ve got route suggestions, links to maps and other resources, or just want to share your bike-camping adventures, feel free to share in the comments.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Austin Ramsland
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Great timing Jonathan. I just ran into two friends on the Max this morning all packed up for a ride out to the coast. I think that their final destination was Yachats. As my final destination was an office, I was a little more than jealous.

We went on our first bike camping trip to the Clackamas last year and it was really fantastic. We wrote about it here:

http://www.sweetpeabicycles.com/blog/2006/06/27/first-real-bike-tour/

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

Jonathan, you should have contacted me, regarding Oxbow. I\’ve been leading a beginners intro to Bike Touring to Oxbow Park for 5 years. I have figured out a back roads way, where we usually only encounter 7 or 8 cars during the whole trip from Portland. Division is uphill, with no shoulder and fast cars, it\’s quite dangerous. This years trip is full (July 20-22) if you are interested in getting on the waiting list, I sometimes have last minute cancellations. Feel free to contact me.
Jeff
Ytamer@aol.com
503-774-5659

Steph
Guest
Steph

I just biked out to Oxbow for the night on Monday. The park was probably less than a third full. I had a nice quiet campsite with deer coming to visit.
It\’s an easy ride other than the mile-long hill coming out of the park.
Also for the first time, I tied one of those folding canvas camping chairs to my rack. It was absolutely fabulous to sit in my chair with my feet in the river reading my book for most of the afternoon.
I generally opt for more out-of-the-way camping spots, but if I go alone, I\’m more comfortable if I know other folks are camped nearby. Oxbow was ideal for an easy, solo getaway: quiet enough to commune with the trees and the river, but with nice families camped nearby to ward off any nighttime fears of the boogieman.

Tomas Quinones
Guest

Matt Picio and I rode out up the Clackamas in early June for an overnight trip to try out our gear.

My pictures

Ken Kiefer has a TON of info on bike camping.

true
Guest
true

bike camping is the greatest thing ever! for anyone passing over bike options because they think it\’s too much of a hassle, or they are\’t fit enough, think again – i am one of those average looking folks on a bike, not an athelete, not a gung-ho woodsman MTB type, just an everyday bike user on a beat up old panasonic, and a friend and i made the trip from here to san fran with no training or experience whatsoever, and it was great (except for the sections of highway 1 with no shoulder, steep hills and sharp turns, and fast vehicles…)

the closer options are so accessible and bike friendly. i think the worst thing about camping is getting stuck next to a bunch of hooligans that go crazy all night and ruin the experience, but with bike camping you can access the hike in primitive sites and avoid most of that – there are special hike-n-bike spots at many state parks that are set apart from the car camping spots, and it\’s totally worth it – and usually a few bucks cheaper.

i would add to the list of suggestions above the brand new \”stub\” stewart state park just a few miles west of downtown. i\’m hoping to head out there with the kid after swim lesson season slows down. they have a hike-in camp that might get you away from the noise makers. has anyone tried it out yet?

you don\’t need all of the newest high-tech light-weight expensive gear, you don\’t need to train for a month on mt. tabor – load up the bike, borrow a trailer, and at ten miles an hour you can be somewhere else before the end of the day.

Kirsty
Guest
Kirsty

I\’m going to be going on Jeff\’s Oxbow bike camping trip this year. It\’s my first time ever doing bike camping, I\’m really looking forward to it!

Anybody with experience of biking to the coast to go camping, feel free to chime in. I\’d love advice on good ways to do this, particularly great routes to get there & back!

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Thanks for the kick in the pants Jonathan!

I first came into Oregon on a bike trip, via Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho and am ashamed of how little I\’ve done since I\’ve lived here.

I really need to get out there again.

Matt Picio
Guest

If you *do* go up the Clackamas, Faraday road (the easy route) may still be blocked. Look Here at the landslide that occurred this April. PGE was still clearing it as of a few weeks ago.

bikieboy
Guest
bikieboy

Want to get to the coast but don\’t have the time to ride both there & back? Tillamook County transit carrys bikes between Union Station/ Beaverton/ Tillamook for the miserly sum of $10 for you & your bike ($15 r/t).
http://www.tillamookbus.com/systemsmap.html

such a deal.

bikieboy
Guest
bikieboy

Another nice little overnighter is Big Eddy County Park, just a few miles north of Vernonia. Take the MAX to the end o\’ the line in Hillsboro, then take the back route out to Hwy 6 & west to Glenwood, then up to Vernonia via Timber – a real quiet ride, saw a coyote sparring with a couple of crows over road kill on my jaunt.

Vernonia is kind of the town time forgot, & Big Eddy c.g. has showers & is a funky little spot (in a good way) on the Nehalem River. About 50+ miles, i think, with one good but not hellacious climb around Timber.

Return trip: you can take the shorter & easier way striaght in to Scappoose & back on Hwy 30, or you could go to Apiary Rd. & Meissner Rd. and get some views of the Cascade peaks, & on down to Hwy 30 – take a side trip to the old St Helen\’s downtown on the river, great spot!

Them, Hwy 30. Ugh. Sometimes there\’s just no good choice.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Kirsty;
Talk to Jeff Smith, he\’s listed several routes for getting to the coast. Or you could take the bus to Tillamook and ride from there.

Jim O'Horo
Guest
Jim O'Horo

My favorite route to the coast: MAX to the end of the line in Hillsboro avoids most of the urban traffic. Then follow local roads to Forest Grove, SR-8 to SR-6 & west over the coast range to Tillamook. You can make Cape Lookout in one LONG day or take 2 short days by staying o\’nite @ Gales Creek state forest campground on SR-6 about halfway up the climb west of Glenwood. Water & toilets, but no showers.

Jim Sayer
Guest

Bike camping is great. Also, we ran a great article by Grant Petersen in our mag (Adventure Cyclist) about S24Os (Sub-24 Hour Overnights). Here\’s the link: http://adventurecycling.org/resources/Petersen_S240s.pdf

carye bye
Guest
carye bye

Thanks to Jeff Bernards and his Oxbow trip, that I attended the past two years, I\’ve been in love with bike camping ever since. Throw a sleeping bag, tent, and pad on the back of your bike and go!

Matt Phillips and I just returned from a four-day unsupported bike-camping trip visiting the smaller towns south of the city (150 mile total). On the first day we took the bus to Oregon City (though now that we know, we\’ll take the bus that gets us up the bluff to the furthest point) Then we rode to Mt. Angel (home of the largest glockenspiel), Silverton (Home of Bobbie the Wonder dog and annual couch races \’Davenport Days\’), and then camped at Silver Falls State Park (where it was completely booked, and campers are packed in like sardines – sadly they have no hiker biker camping – but the park & falls are beautiful. On the 2nd day we headed to Salem to stay with a friend and on the 3rd day we travelled to Mcminnville to stay with with other friends. On our last day we biked to Sherwood via the amazing Bell road (I think!), and caught Trimet back to town from there. Our trip cost us collectively – $22 in camping, $8 in mass transit, $20 in icecream, $45 eating out. The rest of the food we brought. (aprox $100 trip for two! Plus exercise) We discovered thimble-berries (taste like pie!), happened upon a lavender festival – with amazing lemonade, stopped by garage sales and every berry stand, took a wild evening ride through Mcminnville with the locals, & saw a deer with a nursing fawn. On the downside we hit 100 degree weather (by our fourth day we final got on our bikes early enough to avoid the afternoon heat), and we also hit a 6 mile uphill gravel road unexpected, at the end of the day adding an extra hour+ on to our tired journey. We used google maps to plan our route – both of us had never travelled by bike in these regions, so we just tried backroads off the main roads, and for the most part, had grand success. We have since learned that just about every county has bike maps so before you venture out of Portland into unknown lands of gravel roads and giant hills, send for local maps of the area! Go forth and bike camp!

John
Guest
John

Hi – I\’m starting my ride down the coast from Portland via the Hillsboro MAX train. My first stop will be the Dovre Campground. Has anyone stayed there? There are several other campgrounds immediately after Dovre, Fan Creek, Elk Bend, Elder Glen, and Blaine. Are those better to say at than Dovre? John

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

In case anyone\’s interested, I posted a ride report from Portland to McIver State Park (on the Clackamas River) in the forums. About 30 miles from Portland.

matt picio
Guest

Cycle Wild leads bike camping trips on the first weekend of every month, and provides resources for beginning bike campers on their website. (disclaimer: I am the founder of Cycle Wild)