Taking the long way into work: A Forest Park commute

If you can work it into your commute, Forest Park is a perfect respite from busy roads and its winter charms are sure to please.


Lately I haven’t been riding much at all. Sure I ride a few miles into work each day and I ride around town to meetings and such; but I mean really riding; as in pedaling hard, breathing hard, and putting on the bike shoes and chamois shorts.

That’s why, when a friend posted an early morning ride through Forest Park, I jumped at the chance. I live in North Portland, and one of the reasons I wanted to work downtown was to motivate myself to ride through Forest Park on my way to (or from) work. I’ve only done it a few times because I flake out on myself for various reasons. Knowing others are expecting me is all the motivation I need.

It was already raining pretty good when I rolled up to Overlook Restaurant at N Interstate and Skidmore at about 7:00 am this morning. Thankfully four other people were already there. Their smiles and presence made it seem more normal to be up and headed out for a ride at that hour.

All zipped and geared up (we were an impressive rolling rain gear fashion show), we rolled out on Willamette Blvd and made our way up and across the St. Johns Bridge. We rode in the right lane and — despite the misty shower from a passing garbage truck and the one yelling, middle-finger guy — it wasn’t too bad. The short jaunt on Highway 30 to NW Saltzman road was a bit hectic with all the gravel and puddles in the bike lane. I think all of us were relieved to leave the other traffic behind and head up into the quiet beauty of Forest Park…

Once on Saltzman Road, we had other (although much more enjoyable) obstacles to deal with: Muddy rocks, branches lying across the road, and the occasional rut…

We regrouped up where Saltzman meets with Leif Erikson Road…

… then headed toward downtown Portland (it’s just about 5 miles or so on Leif Erikson until you get to the gate at NW Thurman)…

Getting up in Forest Park is a treat and it’s a great way to start the day — even when it’s cold and wet.

Thanks to Ryan Good, Joey French, Mike Connors, and Maria Schur for the company and the motivation.

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Steve
Steve
10 years ago

Wait until you go home that way during the summer, 10 degrees cooler and no car exhaust. It’s awesome. I commute from Washington Park to my home in North Portland taking L.E. to Germantown and across the SJ bridge.

q`Tzal
q`Tzal
10 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Oh and so quiet!
Commuting on Saltzman once you get about 2 turns in to the no autos area of the park the sound drops off a lot.
Once you get about 2/3s of the way to Lief Erikson sounds of the city drop off where you have to stop and listen.
Then when you get clear of Lief Erikson on towards Skyline it almost becomes possible to convince yourself that you are not in a city.

Even though the softer surfaces of the lower section of Saltzman makes the wet trail a sloppy ride in the winter at least their are fewer downhill bombers ripping through with no regard for other trail users.
After a few close calls I started ringing my bike bell before I’d round blind corners in the hopes that the sound would propagate around the corners I can’t see around.

Maria Schur
Maria Schur
10 years ago

I need a nap. Thanks for the awesome pix!

sorebore
sorebore
10 years ago

Nice ride Ryan, missed out ’cause you got me drunky again last night!! I love this ride early in the morning.

RH
RH
10 years ago

Hey Jonathan,

Curious to know how long did the ride take? Looks like a fun route.

Schrauf
Schrauf
10 years ago

Wow, it looks like mostly skinny tires on the bikes. Very doable on such, of course, but there are definitely some rocky sections that will make you think you are on an old brick road. But I would say about 75% of Leif is “somewhat” smooth dirt. The surface stays hard in the rain, although of course fenders will help reduce mud spray.

Ryan Good
Ryan Good
10 years ago

Great write-up and pictures, Jonathan. Thanks for this, and for the ride!

A.K.
A.K.
10 years ago
Reply to  Ryan Good

Props for the Brooklyn cap. Very appropriate for a rainy, messy ride in the hills.

cold worker
cold worker
10 years ago

Very awesome. I recall you saying just a very short while ago after I made fun of you for whining about your Steel Bridge woes and saying to take the Broadway Bridge instead, that you HATE riding out of your way going into work. See, riding out of your way isn’t so bad…it’s more time riding your bike!

Geoff
Geoff
10 years ago

I love Forest Park but this time of year both me and my bike are completely filthy after riding through there.

Stripes
Stripes
10 years ago

Jealous. Except for the seven am part!

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
10 years ago

Funny, I did this just yesterday. I opted for the Springville route. Much harder climb, but the wild side of Lief Erikson is well worth it. Downed trees and mud pits abound. What fun. 2 hours from Fremont & MLK via St Johns to the Pearl. I’d guess 90 minutes for the Saltzman version.

redhippie
redhippie
10 years ago

I live in St. Johns and have done this ride many times and am always inpressed with enjoyment this ride gives me. Either I roll into work feeling totally alive or get home having forgotten all of the ills of the day. Only problem I run into are the evenings where I misjudge the light and have squint through the gloom for last few miles. For a good test of fitness, try to go up Springvale with out putting a foot down. Cheers All

craig harlow
craig harlow
10 years ago

If you haven’t tried Leif Erikson Drive, I heartily advise you to make your first attempt on tires at least 28mm, but wider would be better.

Also, plan for time afterward to give your bike a thorough wiping and rinsing.

Having heard of L.E.D. but never ridden it, I made an impromptu swing up that way during an aimless road ride one day a couple summers ago. I’d seen the image of the somewhat paved south trailhead in Google Maps, and so headed into the trail with impunity on my skinny-tubed vintage touring frame and [GASP!] 23c tires. The beautiful, peaceful natural scenery led me on, even after the pavement quickly became gravel then rutted mud. The bike survived the 10 miles of rattling, though my body was rather well shaken.

That foolish–but almost worth it–spontaneous jaunt on 23mm tires subjected my bike to ten miles sustained vigorous bouncing and shaking, and likely contributed to the eventual failure of my beloved frame a year later when the dropout sheared from the chainstay during SE Sunday Parkways. Had I known, or just asked a friend beforehand, I would have saved that ride for another day and fatter tires.

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
10 years ago

This time of year is when Forest Park is the most fun. I love to go through there on my way home from Beaverton in the winter. Adds 1-2 hours to the trip depending on which route I take, but well worth it.

A quick/fun route is to enter from Skyline coming down Firelane 3, then a couple miles on Leif and ride lower Firelane 1 (a fun, long roller coaster) out of the park. If I have more time, it’s even more fun to ride down Newton Road, then head towards downtown on 30 and go back up into the park on Saltzman or Springville for more fun. Neither of these routes is going to be any fun at all on anything less than cyclocross tires, and 38-45mm semislicks are more ideal, BTW.

Kevin Wagoner
10 years ago

Like

JohnS
JohnS
10 years ago

Does this group do this ride daily? Or was this just a one time thing? Looks FUN!

Ryan Good
Ryan Good
10 years ago
Reply to  JohnS

It was very fun! It’s not a weekly ride, but I do it occasionally, when I feel like getting some miles in before work. I wouldn’t be opposed to making it a weekly ride, or every other week.

Andyc
Andyc
10 years ago

That sounds fun! Have to try it. Always the ever fear-inducing St. John’s bridge. Too bad, because it could be such a great part of the ride.

Smedley
Smedley
10 years ago

Haha, I always assumed it’d be best to ride a mountain bike through a forest. This looks nice, I’m gonna try it as soon as the rain stops.

John S
John S
10 years ago

Springville road is a great / hike / ride up. Even walking some it, it is the fastest way up to skyline. Do not ride down it on a road bike. Way to steep and way to rocky/rough for skinny tires to grab.

Skinny road tires are fine if you stay on Saltzman and only go up.. Lief,: yes bigger tires or you will need to slow way down on certain parts…

Leif. From saltzman to germantown is a lot further than one thinks on lief. Its actually shorter to keep climbing to skyline then come down germantown. Germantown is the safe way down. Can usually go faster than car traffic, but if wet and dark and getting blinded by oncoming traffice, I have pulled off to let cars go by.

Be extremely careful of wet sticks laying at angles in the winter on Lief. I had one take me down once, a cold wet night several years ago. One foot released, the other got hung up (I, nor loved ones use those type of pedals anymore) so my body was able to rotate but right foot couldn’t and result was a snapped tibia (yes the big lower leg bone) and fibula. Nothing quite like riding one legged the rest of the way on Lief to germantown with the right foot hanging and cocked at about 80 deg from what it should be… The strangest thing was getting asked over and over again if i smoked. evidently if i had been a smoker, i probably would now have a peg leg… toh !

jim
jim
10 years ago

Jonathan- As allways you have a good eye for pictures. good job

draw2build architecture
draw2build architecture
1 year ago

fun!