(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)
This ride recap is sponsored by 21st Avenue Bicycles. They’ve stepped up to bring you more coverage of the great bike adventures that await right outside your door. Stay tuned all year long as we explore the best backroads and bikepacking spots in Portland and beyond.
Nearly everyone who rides around these parts knows about Hagg Lake and the beautiful road that winds around it in the hills west of Forest Grove. But did you know there’s another body of water a bit further west that’s also worth checking out on your bike — especially if you love exploring forests and logging roads?
During a recent stay at McMenamins Grand Lodge — which makes a perfect base camp for exploring the great cycling around Forest Grove — I mapped a route to Barney Reservoir. Nestled in the forest at about 1,600 feet above sea level on North Fork Trask Road, the reservoir supplies drinking water for nearby cities including Beaverton, Tualatin, Forest Grove, and Hillsboro. It’s open to the public for fishing and canoeing, but it doesn’t see much use because of its relatively remote location and due to the fact that it’s larger and closer sibling Hagg Lake steals all the attention.
Grab GPS and view details at RideWithGPS.com
My partner for the day was gravel riding pioneer and local legend Dan Morgan. Morgan is the leader of the Beaverton-based “Gravel Roal All-Stars,” an informal group of riding buddies who seek out the best backroads on the west side (and beyond). After a hearty breakfast at McMenamins Ironwork Grill, Dan and I set off from the Grand Lodge.
The ride started with a nice spin through the heart of downtown Forest Grove. What I love about riding in this area is you are always just a few pedal strokes from quiet and beautiful country farm roads. As we rode southwest from town, we found great alternatives to Tualatin-Valley Highway (thanks to RideWithGPS) which allowed us to pedal by wineries and quiet old farming towns like Dilley and Scoggins Valley.
Since I was training for the Oregon Outback we opted to make the ride a bit longer by doing a quick jaunt up and around Hagg Lake.
About three-quarters of the way around the lake we took a right on SW Lee Road which dropped us right down into Cherry Grove, an unincorporated community that was founded in 1911.
Eerily quiet, the quaint roads up Cherry Grove quickly turned skyward and we began our climb up to where the pavement ends on Stimson Mainline Road (our next 35 miles would be on rocky, dirt logging roads). To get from downtown Cherry Grove to the highest point on the ride we would climb about 2,500 feet in 13 miles. Our view of the surrounding mountains and peaks got better with each turn of the pedals.
As an aside, nearly all the logging roads we used on this journey are owned by Stimson Lumber Company (part of their Forest Grove Complex). Usually I don’t think much about that, but we were actually stopped by a Stimson employee on this ride. “We’re closed,” said a nice man in a new full-sized pick-up truck. He then proceeded to explain how these roads are only open to the public after 5:00 pm on weekdays and all day on the weekend. That was the first time I had ever heard of private logging roads having specific hours. Thankfully, the Stimson guy was a good sport and let us finish our loop.
And boy, what a loop it was! While we rode through lots of active logging sites, we were also treated to some big stands of trees and healthy creeks. As the miles wore on, I think Dan and I were both starting to wonder if we’d ever get to the Barney Reservoir.
When the reservoir finally came into view, I knew exactly where I wanted to be. I rode right to its edge and dipped my face and hands in the clean and cool water (water that happens to supply several nearby cities).
After the reservoir, the hits just kept on coming. Remember that big climb at the start of our ride? Now it was time for the descent, which was nothing short of a gravel road thrill ride (I was was actually enjoying the downhill a bit too much and flatted after hitting a rock at full speed).
On our way back into Forest Grove, we marveled at the verdant countryside and even found a sweet little bike path (the B Street Trail) that dropped us off right among the town’s stately historic homes.
If you ever find yourself in this area, or happen to be staying at McMenamins Grand Lodge and have a few hours to kill, I highly recommend exploring some of these roads — just be sure to respect Stimson’s hours and be grateful for their permission to use them.