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Escape the city with an easy overnight (or two) at Dodge Park

Posted by on August 10th, 2017 at 3:53 pm

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The first 20 miles of this 30-mile route are on the Springwater Corridor. The final 10 miles includes a blissful descent into the campground at Dodge Park. Everett approves!
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This is how easy bikecamping can be: Just 30 easy miles east of downtown Portland lies a campground at the edge of the forest nestled between two rivers.

And the best part? The first 20 miles are on the carfree Eastbank Esplanade and Springwater Corridor paths. And by the time you leave this safe riding sanctuary, you’re far enough into the country where you can often see more horses and pigs than cars.

Download the route at RideWithGPS.com.

If you go

Some Dodge Park tips

  • Call ahead. This place fills up on summer weekends. I called four days in advance and got the last spot.
  • It’s expensive (relatively). With no designated hiker/biker sites, it’s $23 a night (plus fees)
  • No fires. Bring a stove because there’s no charcoal or campfires allowed during high fire season.
  • Bring all your food. Stop at Weece’s Grocery on the way, just six miles from camp.

I first discovered the charms of the Dodge Park campground last month on my ride from Portland to Hood River. I stopped in for water and made a mental note that it just might be the perfect all-ages bikecamping destination. So last weekend I loaded up a Trek tandem on loan from a friend (thanks Peter!), told my six-year-old son to hop on, and off we went for a two-night stay.

As I’ve shared here in the past, my main goal while route-planning is to find roads with as few auto users as possible. The route we took to Dodge Park is really an amazing example of that. Especially if done on a weekend, it’s possible to ride from Portland to this overnight oasis without ever riding on a busy highway or arterial shoulder. The most stressful part of the route is a crossing of Highway 26 without a traffic signal. I’ve done it many times now and I always find a nice long gap in traffic after a few seconds or a minute at the most.

If you do this ride, expect lots of peace and quiet on the Springwater (and blackberries galore in summer) that continues along with bucolic farm landscapes along the road in the final 10 miles between the path and camp.

A note about provisions: There isn’t a place near Dodge Park to stock up on food and drinks once you get there, so plan you’ll have to plan ahead. Also keep in mind that in the dry season the camp prohibits charcoal and campfires, so bring your own stove. As for places to fill up your cooler en route, I can recommend Weece’s Grocery at 7310 SE Pleasant Home Road. It’s just six miles from camp, right on the route, and has all the standard camping fare you’ll need.

Here are a few more photos and notes from the road:


We stopped at Cartlandia on the way out and the way back. At SE 82nd and right on the Springwater, the dozens of food carts have something for everyone (my favorite is Pupuseria La Miguelena).

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I tried to impress upon my boy how lucky we are to be able to go camping using our own muscle power!

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Even after you leave the Springwater, most of the miles are on quiet backroads like SE Stone Road.

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A hazy sunset over Skipper & Jordan Nursery at SE Short Road and Orient Drive.

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Right before camp is a fantastic descent to the Sandy River that ends with a roll across the Lusted Road Bridge. Fun fact: This bridge used to be the western truss of the Burnside Bridge in downtown Portland. It moved here when that bridge was rebuilt in 1926.

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It’s not the most private or quiet campground in the world, but it’s still a great escape from the city.

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This is the Sandy River just a few hundred feet from where it meets the Bull Run River. That’s the Lusted Road Bridge in the background and Dodge Park is across the river in the upper left.

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There’s a ton of exploration to be done around the campsite. Just pick a direction and you’ll find adventures.

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Looking south toward the Bull Run River from the Sandy River.

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This is a great product. It’s a backpack drybag/cooler from IceMule. I dropped it into my pannier and it kept our bacon and eggs and other perishables cold from Friday night to Sunday morning. Thumbs up!

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We climbed rocks and found fun ways to cross the Bull Run River for hours.

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There’s even a family-friendly beach right at the campground.

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One of the many gorgeous farmouses we saw on the way home.

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As you can see from the images, what I love about Dodge Park is that there’s so much to explore. Everett and I spent hours just walking along dirt roads looking for trails and interesting river spots. We walked up the Bull Run to find secret swimming holes and scoured the shores for berries and other treasures. The campground is so close to town (Sandy is a short six miles away) yet there’s no real development nearby so it feels like you’re really out there (despite the busy campground vibe).

I’ve camped with kids on bikes at two other popular local bikecamping destinations: Champoeg State Park and Stub Stewart State Park. While Dodge Park is run by the Portland Water Bureau and doesn’t have the caché of those two, the route is so low-stress and easy that it’s now my favorite local spot for a quick overnighter.

If you’d like to give it a try, download our route from RideWithGPS.com. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments if you’ve got them.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

15 Comments
  • Ted August 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    I did this route as part of a longer ride a couple weekends ago. Definitely a pleasant park and mostly quiet roads. The only part that got my adrenaline going was the crossing of Hwy 26 without the benefit of a traffic light. Felt a bit like the old “Frogger” video game.

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  • Joseph E August 10, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Kidical Mass has done a couple of bike camping trips to Dodge park, and we’ve always enjoyed the trip out there. It is still the best option for kids and cargo bikes.

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  • curly August 10, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    From East Portland, an even shorter distance:)

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  • William Henderson August 10, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan! By far the hardest part of being a car-free family for us is not getting out of the city enough. The calculus of finding a reasonably close by place that is bike, family and camping friendly can be quite discouraging.

    Stories like yours are great for getting the ideas and encouragement we need to make more bike camping happen!

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  • Tony Jordan (Contributor) August 10, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    I ride from SE to Dodge Park all the time (at least 45 times in the last few years). It’s a great out and back training ride and from there you can continue on either out past the bull run bridge or up Shipley and Marmot roads.

    A few years back I rode out with my son (who was 7 at the time), he rode his own bike, and we had a friend drive out with our camping gear for an overnight. It was a lot of fun, you can make reservations online to ensure space in the good weather.

    Every time I am there I thank Randy Leonard for building the best park bathrooms I’ve ever been in. I just wish they were open year round! People complained so much about the water bureau spending money on that pet project, but they sure are nice!

    There used to be a train that went from Portland out to this park and it was full of people all summer long to head out there to picnic and recreate. It’s a damn shame we lost all that infrastructure.

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    • Tony Jordan (Contributor) August 14, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      One thing to add. The final descent into Dodge Park is really fun, but in the summer there are sometimes folks heading down in cars and trucks who can be a bit impatient if you have smaller kids in tow or are going slower, they have repaved recently and the road is pretty good, but there are a few cracks to keep an eye out for.

      When you are climbing back out, same issue, tailgating motorists can make for a bit of an anxious climb when you have a little kid riding slow (or if you are towing a trailer).

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  • kyle August 10, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    Question: How is the Springwater these days? Seems like it’s been a while since I’ve heard any bad news about it.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 11, 2017 at 6:53 am

      Hi Kyle,

      It’s in great shape. (Wish I could say the same thing about the I-205 path, which has several sections where litter has piled up and a big section south of the Springwater intersection with a lot of tents and people on/adjacent to the trail.)

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    • SE Rider August 11, 2017 at 10:12 am

      Pretty good. As Jonathan points out the 205 is an absolute mess right now (especially north of Stark), but the Springwater is clean, except for the intermittent lapses in the section between 82nd and Foster, with concentrations at the intersection of 205 and Springwater.

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      • Ryan August 11, 2017 at 12:13 pm

        Last time I rode the 205 path (couple of weeks ago) I almost crashed into a mattress/sleeping area someone had setup just around a blind corner going under an overpass. Several areas you need to slow to a crawl to navigate between refuse/tents/feces…

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  • Brian August 11, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Sounds awesome! Can I borrow all of your bike and camping gear to try it out? 😉

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 11, 2017 at 10:21 am

      sure Brian. happy to loan you some gear for a trip.

      And i think it’s only a matter of time until local tool libraries start offering bike gear.

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  • GlowBoy August 11, 2017 at 9:54 am

    This is great to know about. I’ve biked to Stub Stewart, Champoeg and Barton Park for camping, the latter two with my older kid. I wasn’t aware of Dodge Park, which would be a nice alternative in the same direction as Barton.

    Barton is fine in itself, but it’s pretty dicey the last 3 miles between the campground and the end of the Springwater Trail in Boring. Even on a Sunday morning, the traffic level on Amisigger Road made it pretty unpleasant to pedal a cargo bike up the hill. If the Cazadero trail ever gets finished, it will solve that problem, though.

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  • Ryan August 11, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Glad you had a good experience out there Jonathan! Some friends and I bike around that area all the time (start near the Chevron next to the Boring exit on 26, and bike those back roads through Boring, Gresham, and Sandy).

    I’m not sure if it would add much mileage, but an alternative to crossing the highway at Stone, is once you get to the end of the Springwater in Boring, head south on Ritchey Rd. for a few hundred feet or so and take a left onto Church. Take Church over to 312th, and then go North to go up and over overpass (where that Chevron I mentioned is). The overpass is Hwy 212 but it turns into Compton road I think once you get on the east side of 26, then you can take Compton all the way to Bluff and then weave your way down the back roads from there. Beautiful ride either way. You could technically take Hwy 212 the whole way from the end of the Springwater to the overpass but that stretch has gotten pretty nasty; the drivers spend most of the time driving on the shoulders trying to avoid all the potholes created this last winter, but they’re still going 50-60mph while doing it (posted is 45mph I believe).

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  • Todd Boulanger August 11, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Nice! Thanks for sharing the place and seeing more of your kids. Too bad I did not know of this spot before ours when off to college…

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