Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Finding Forest Park

Posted by on November 26th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

No joke.

Is it possible to have fun on a mountain bike in Forest Park? Ask five different people and you’re likely to get five different answers. In the end, I think it depends on what you consider fun.

On Sunday, I ventured out to discover some new (to me) roads and found that the park β€” despite having only 1/3 mile of singletrack open to bicycles β€” still has something to offer knobby-tired visitors.

I first considered exploring Forest Park’s northern reach nearly three years ago. Back in February 2010, I joined a park ranger to survey damage of an unauthorized bike trail that had been carved south of where BPA Road intersects with Newton. On Sunday, I returned to that locked gate, which is right off Highway 30 less than a mile north of Linnton. My plan was to stay on BPA Road and connect up to Skyline Rd about 1,000 feet and 2 and 1/2 miles up.

Right after I got onto the dirt, I quickly realized why no one ever talks about riding the BPA Road. It’s steeeeep. So steep that even with my generous mountain bike gearing β€” and my generous climbing ego β€” I still had to get off and walk several times. The unrelentingly steep sections were made even more interesting with the tiny layer of slick mud on the grass and rocks. On a hot day, the conditions would have been pretty miserable; but Sunday was chilly, damp, and foggy. The road was silent and there was just enough of a view back to the river below to reward my effort. It wasn’t until I finally reached the intersection with Fire Lane 13 that I got out my camera to snap a photo…

Forest Park ride-1

On Fire Lane 13, I finally got a respite from the climbing. A few ups-and-downs later and I came to the turnoff for Fire Lane 12. It was here where things turned magical…

Forest Park ride-2

Fire Lane 12 descended down into a canyon where a creek raged and fallen leaves completely covered the road.

Forest Park ride-4

I then headed back up toward Skyline on Fire Lane 15. There were a few more extremely steep pitches to navigate before I finally reached the highest point. As I rolled toward the gate where Fire Lane 15 meets Skyline Rd (a few miles north of NW Germantown Rd), I saw a sign pointing to Kielhorn Meadow. I followed the road up and was rewarded with a large clearing in the woods. It was a perfect spot to try the panorama mode on my camera phone…

A few minutes after enjoying the solitude of the meadow I was on Skyline Rd, and I had finally reached the sunshine…

Forest Park ride-5

From there I headed back home; south on Skyline to Saltzman Rd and then down Fire Lane 5. The short (1/3 mile) but sweet (it’s legal) singletrack was muddy, slippery, and challenging. Then it was back onto Leif Erikson and then the steep descent on Springville Rd which dropped me back into civilization near the St. Johns Bridge.

All in all it was a great adventure. It left me with a new appreciation of Forest Park, and a renewed sense of purpose in improving bicycle access that would build upon what’s already there.

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  • Nick November 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I always go up Springville Road. It’s very grueling for me (walking my singlespeed up), but I’ve seen people walking up it effortlessly, which makes me feel like a loser, sweating and panting. How does BPA Road compare? I’m just trying to get an idea of what is generally considered to be steep.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      It’s steeper than Springville. I have nearly ridden Springville on a cyclocross bike if I recall correctly. But the BPA Road is steeper and there are several steep sections. Several. Seems like it keeps going and going!

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      • Nick November 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm

        Incredible. It’s always humbling to ride in areas frequented by competitive sport cyclists. They make it seem so effortless.

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  • Shetha November 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Interesting about BPA – we do a ride out at the coast to the top of Neahkahnie mountain. Some of the grades are pretty extreme (Strava said 46% but that can’t be quite right). I think it averages about 15% and tops out around 30% for 1.5 miles. Did you track the ride up BPA w/ GPS? Curious about grades, now…

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  • BURR November 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Haven’t you people ever heard of topo maps?


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  • dwainedibbly November 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    It almost looks like that would be ridable on my city bike (650b x 42 tires, Alfine-11 rear hub). I’ll probably regret the fenders pretty quickly, though.

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  • Jim Lee November 26, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Nice ride JM, and great photos.

    The appalling condition of “Forest” Park greatly saddens me. Its degradation began long ago, with logging, real estate development, and diffusion of alien species. Cannot blame MTBs for its quintessential scungyness .

    We will have to work for several hundred years to bring it back.

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    • john November 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Yeah I agree, It’s degradation probably began even before they washed down “the mountain” to fill in Guild’s lake.. πŸ™

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  • Frank Selker November 26, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    BPA is more fun to go down than up. Rumor has it that Mr. Tonkin made it up it, but doubt many others could. Nice to have challenges like that.

    Having lived through the public process, the only reason bikes have so little trails is that powerful neighbors and a few others don’t want more users in the park. They have seats in the proverbial front of the bus, and see no reason to let us come up and share it.

    The science is clear that cycling on trails is as harmless as hiking them. The public was clear that they want more cycling (about three quarters of the 1,000 survey respondents thought more trail access for bikes is needed – including many non-cyclists). The vast majority of letters supported trails for bikes. But Nick Fish sided with the elite neighbors and non-elected elites at City Club who knew next to nothing about it – their “technical” guy had never heard the term “single track.”

    It remains to be seen if Nick Fish will represent our – and broader Portland’s – interests in enjoying Forest Park with anything more than words.

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    • wsbob November 27, 2012 at 1:41 am

      The more likely reason off road biking has very little access to single width trail in the natural environment comprising Forest Park is because the vast majority of Portland’s citizens apparently do not support access to such trail within the park to the apparently very small percentage of the city’s population seeking off-road biking opportunity within the city.

      An initiative for Mtb access to Forest Parks trail on for example, the ballot for the most recent election, had such an initiative been there, and had Portland’s citizens voted in favor of such access, could have been said to represent Portland’s citizens. On the other hand, the cited survey of 1000 respondents represents a very small, select group of Portland’s citizens.

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      • Frank Selker November 27, 2012 at 8:15 am


        There have been multiple surveys that consistently show strong public support for better bike access. In the 2010 PSU intercept survey of 564 random park users, people said increasing bike trails was one of their top priorities – even though the majority were not cyclists. About 4 times more park users wanted more, rather than limited, bike access.

        The survey I first mentioned above included about half non-cyclists, many recruited by the “don’t share the park” contingent. Even so, 67.6% favored alternating cycling use of existing trails. 70% favored building more cycling trails.

        In other words, beyond a highly vocal group of opponents, including yourself, most people – even when recruited by opponents – support more cycling.

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        • davemess November 27, 2012 at 10:28 am

          Apparently Bob has done his own survey’s. Pretty impressive since he doesn’t even live in Portland!

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        • wsbob November 27, 2012 at 11:06 am

          “…In other words, beyond a highly vocal group of opponents, including yourself, most people – even when recruited by opponents – support more cycling.” Frank Selker

          Surveys are not a vote of the people. The surveys you cite do not show that ‘most people’…if by that phrase, you’re alluding to the voting public…support off-road biking on Forest Park’s single width trail…a form of biking you’ve chosen for some reason to refer to simply as ‘cycling’.

          It’s not impossible that a majority of Portland’s citizens favor off-road biking use of single width trail in the natural area that is Forest Park, but it’s doubtful they do.

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          • Brian November 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm

            I’m going to favor a 1,000+ person survey completed for actual research than your gut feeling. Out of curiosity, why do you “doubt” that most people would be in favor of a trail built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers (including themselves and their children and their children’s children) that will bring more money into the local economy, and more volunteer labor into a park that is in desperate need of it?

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            • wsbob November 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm

              Go ahead, do a survey. Aside from a relatively small group of off-road bikers, almost nobody is calling out for allowing off-road bike use on Forest Park’s single width trail. For example, nothing even remotely close to the 33,015 people and more, having signed petitions to put on the ballot, the decision of whether to fluoridate Portland’s water.

              “The Multnomah County elections office and the Secretary of State’s elections division have validated 33,015 signatures on a petition to halt the fluoridation of Portland reservoirs. …” willamette week http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-29435-fluoridation_will_be_on_may_2014_ballot.html

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              • kgb November 27, 2012 at 6:07 pm

                Apples to Oranges.

                This is a post about enjoying our park legally on a bike, why are you here again? The fact remains that every survey that has been done on this of the CITIZENS OF PORTLAND has found broad support for biking in the park. If you don’t like it don’t visit our park.

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              • wsbob November 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

                Surveys conducted to attempt to estimate public support for biking in Forest Park do not represent the will of the people, and they have not found broad support on the part of Portland’s citizens for off-road biking on Forest Park’s single width trail. Surveys sample the opinion of a relatively small group.

                With respect to Portland citizens, water fluoridation and Forest Park share a commonality. I picked Portland’s most recent controversy over decisions being made about fluoridating the city’s water because that’s an issue of broad interest and concern to the city’s residents, just as the city’s unique in size, character, and service, 5000 acre Forest Park natural area likely is to Portland’s citizens.

                Whether off-road bikers want to believe it or not, consistent signs are that public interest in allowing use of off-road bikes on Forest Park’s single width trail is very small. While it may be possible to broaden that interest amongst the public by somehow gaining increased access to such trail in the park, a big question is whether such an effort would be a wise use of this unique natural area resource.

                Bikes are vehicles…Portland’s Forest Park is not a place conceived of and created for vehicle recreation. Forest Park is a nature area reserved and dedicated as a nature park, of peace and serenity removed from the tumult of the city.

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              • davemess November 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm

                But Forest Park already allows “vehicles” on many of it’s “trails”. And would it kill to use the term “Singletrack”?

                You keep touting some surveys showing a majority do not support increased mt. biking in the park. Care to share a link?

                And your fluoridation comparison is completely out of left field and has no relevance to this topic.

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              • wsbob November 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm

                “…You keep touting some surveys showing a majority do not support increased mt. biking in the park. Care to share a link? …” daveness

                I’ve not touted any surveys. I’ve referred to 1000 people survey’s Frank Selker and a number of other people have cited and interpreted the results of to conclude that Portland wants Forest Park to provide access for mountain bike use on its single width trail.

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      • alex m November 27, 2012 at 11:08 am

        Do you even live in Portland area? If not, where do you live? I would like to start voicing my opinions in your community forums. I keep seeing your responses about mountain biking in the area, but it seems your facts conflict with history and the people I talk to in the area.

        You keep making things up about people in the area feel(i.e. most people do not support mtbs in forest park). How do you know this? The surveys that have been taken on the subject do not reflect that sentiment at all. To me, it seems most people don’t care about the issue enough to have a city wide vote on it. The ones that do care about the park enough to participate in surveys and attend meetins seem to favor more access, not less.

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        • wsbob November 27, 2012 at 12:46 pm

          “… I would like to start voicing my opinions in your community forums. …” alex m

          Please do. You might start by contacting Tualitan Hills Park and Recreation District, which secures our areas extensive inventory of parks, but does not yet include any area for single width/single track off road biking. The Beav doesn’t seem to have a community forum like bikeportland, but if you hear of one, post the info here.

          I live in Beaverton, which sits so to speak, ‘cheek and jowl’ next to the big city, and just over the south side of of the Tualitan Mtn ridge that Forest Park occupies a section of on its north side.

          One possibility, is that if Portland provides single width trail access in Forest Park to off-road bikers, since such trail access would exist virtually nowhere else closer, residents of much of Beaverton, Cedar Mills, and Bethany would likely be among the people heading to FP for Mtbiking.

          It’s interesting and kind of mysterious that THPRD hasn’t acquired land for off-road biking, or provided any of what off-road bikers like to refer to as single track, which is basically just single width trail, 30″ wide or so. I don’t think it’s the money per se. This area seems to have a fair bit of money, good parks, well managed. I don’t know that people in the Beaverton area are opposed to off-road biking. People here don’t seem to be asking for it either. If there is, were sufficient people within the THPR district that wanted ‘single track’ for off-road biking, it probably would have happened by now, but it hasn’t.

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          • Brian November 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm

            The parks within the THPRD system are very small in size, which does not make them a desirable destination for a mountain bike ride. Their parks tend to be more “city” parks with basketball courts and play structures. THPRD has been a great partner for mountain biking. They worked with the NWTA to build the first bike park in the metro region at Eichler. I am hoping that is just the first step…..the kids out here need safe places to ride and recreate.

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            • wsbob November 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm

              “The parks within the THPRD system are very small in size, which does not make them a desirable destination for a mountain bike ride. Their parks tend to be more “city” parks with basketball courts and play structures. …” Brian

              The people of Beaverton, Cedar Mills, and Bethany and outside of city limits areas within THPRD district, from time to time, acquire additional land through THPRD for new parks as needed, as money can be raised for acquisition.

              THPRD does have a lot of basic city parks offering facilities basketball, kids to play, and much, much more. It also has a substantial and growing inventory of natural area parks…some exceptional…none of which has yet that I know of, been acquired through an interest that may or may not exist on the part of area residents, for locally available off road biking opportunity.

              There’s no question that people on the westside appreciate natural settings, or that they’re willing to pay money in taxes and fees to have the park district acquire land and manage it for the public as nature parks. Based on that, it stands to reason that if people were calling upon THPRD to acquire land for off-road biking, the park district would consider the request, possibly put it on its agenda and eventually acquire land for off-road biking.

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              • davemess November 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

                So what do you call recent mountain bike trail building at Stubb Stewart and Hagg Lake (not to mention the tradition destination at Brown’s Camp, and Scappoose). Clearly there is NO interest in mountain biking on the West side of the metro area.

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              • wsbob November 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm

                Stubb Stewart and Hagg Lake Parks are respectively, a state park and a Washington County park, not part of the close-in area that is THPRD.

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              • davemess November 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm

                If you actually read all of my post, I’m using those locations as examples of how people are interested in expanding Mountain biking on the West side (which you don’t seem to believe based on your posts)

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              • wsbob November 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm

                “If you actually read all of my post, I’m using those locations as examples of how people are interested in expanding Mountain biking on the West side (which you don’t seem to believe based on your posts)” davemess

                What I’ve said, is that signs do not exist, indicating sufficient interest amongst Westsiders in off-road biking to persuade for example, THPRD to acquire a new…close-in parcel of land of substantial size…say 1000 acres or more, to provide close-in off-road biking opportunities.

                Forest Park’s 5000 size and it’s location within Portland’s city limits, literally next to NW Portland, is a key reason off-road bikers claim they have been after access to the park.

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          • alex m November 27, 2012 at 2:27 pm

            Portland area includes Beaverton. WS often used for West Seattle. Based on your responses, it would make more sense if you were from West Seattle as your comments seem to be out of touch with what has actually happened in regards to Forest Park.

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          • davemess November 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm

            I don’t think you know what “singletrack” actually is. It’s not 30 ins. wide. By it’s name you can figure out that it is enough width for a “single” “track”. Thus it is usually about a foot wide (maybe wider in turns or around features).

            Someone needs to take Bob mountain biking, sounds like he might enjoy it.

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      • f5 November 28, 2012 at 10:20 am

        The suggestion that a ballot initiative is reasonable in this case to determine whether or not Portlanders ‘approve’ building bike singletrack in FP could also said to be reflective of someone who has no problem proposing colossal wastes of other’s time and money.

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  • Skid November 27, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I’ve been discovering that that Forest Park ain’t so bad on my 1952 Schwinn klunker for about two years now. My desire for riding in the woods outweighed my desire for it to be singletrack.

    I still think there should be more trail access for bicycles in Portland. It just seems incongruous to live in a city with such great bicycle infrastructure to be greeted at the trailhead by a NO BICYCLES sign.

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  • takeaspin22 November 27, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Great write-up! I’ll have to check it out that area sometime soon.

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  • Joe November 27, 2012 at 10:18 am

    forest park is such a sweet place once you get out and ride it.

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  • GlowBoy November 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    A lot of mountain bikers dismiss Forest Park because except for a couple of short sections they do not consider it “real” mountain biking (i.e., singletrack), and in the summer it’s really just dirt-road riding, especially south of Germantown.

    But personally I happen to enjoy dirt-road riding just as much as I do singletrack riding, and I do like Forest Park. When you add in the slickness and darkness of winter, it can also be quite challenging. And there are some hidden near-singletrack legal gems in less-traveled parts of the park (in addition to the better-known Firelane 5).

    Do I wish for less self-righteous territorial my-USER-group-is-more-legitimate-than-your-USER-group pissing so we could build singletrack in portions of the park that are already heavily impacted? You bet. Do I wish that, alternatively, we had more decent opportunities to ride singletrack in the metro area (as most other cities I’m familiar with have) so we can enjoy and expose our children to mountain biking without getting in a gas-guzzling automobile? Sure as hell yeah.

    But I am still glad for what we have in FP, and I’m grateful that 25 years ago PUMP fought hard against the hiking clubs to at least gain us access to the fireroads in there.

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  • rwl1776 November 27, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    We can all thank PUMP for us being able to ride in Forest Park AT ALL. During the initial creation of the 1995 Forest Park plan, bicycles were going to be banned. We can thank Theo Patterson for organizing PUMP, getting the MTB community involved in the planning process, which enabled us all to enjoy some access to the park we all support with our tax dollars.
    Long Live PUMP! Without them, we would not have that 1/3 mile section of FL 5 to ride.
    We used to have a monthly Ride the Wild Side event, starting from Skyline Tavern. I wonder if NWTA still supports Skyline Tavern by holding the monthly ride and BBQ there?

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    • Brian November 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      No, they do not. Not because it isn’t a great idea, but unfortunately because no one has picked up the task of organizing and running it. Any volunteers?? πŸ™‚

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  • BURR November 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve never been stopped riding on any of the hiking trails in the park and I am always courteous to any hikers I encounter.

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  • Henrik November 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Those rodes are great if you’re training for cx or xc… otherwise, not so much fun. The paltry reward of heading back down them is done and over with, within a mere minute or two. *yawn*

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  • Henrik November 27, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    ps. nice bigtop!

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  • Jimmy Cavalieri November 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    This is a good ride especially from North Portland. If you don’t mind climbing but don’t want to climb the steep section of the BPA Rd, try this: Cross the St Johns Bridge, go up Springville, right on Lief to the Germantown parking lot. Climb Germantown about 100 yards or so to FL 10. Go down FL 10 which turns into Newton Rd and take that down to RT 30. Left on RT 30 for about 1000 yards and go up Harborton Rd it will dead end at FL 12. Climb that to the BPA or FL 15 to Skyline. Ride Skyline to the Newton parking lot and and make a right on FL 10 to Germantown. Go down Germantown or back to the Leif and Springville. I wouldn’t recommend riding a SS.

    See a map here:


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    • Matt F November 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      that’s my normal route too…except after FL12 descend BPA and go up Newton and then retrace back to Germantown…that’s as good as it gets over there…

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  • Brian November 28, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Here is where your logic is flawed, a lack of interest is neither evidence of opposition nor reason to not pursue it. There is no reason for most of PDX to take up the cause for more single track, as most people do not visit the park and it does not affect them. There does not need to be a majority of people interested to make it happen; much like soccer, skateboarding, horseshoes, tennis, basketball, etc. Yet those recreational opportunities exist all over the city in our parks.

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  • Matt F November 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Jonathon, why did it take you (how long have you lived in Portland? 10ish years?) to explore the NW side of Forest Park by mtn bike? I think you should include that in your article.

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