Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 10th, 2017 at 3:53 pm
**NOTE: Due to an unfortunate decision from Portland City Council, Dodge Park is no longer open for camping as of 2019. We hope this changes someday!**
This is how easy bike camping 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.
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).
I tried to impress upon my boy how lucky we are to be able to go camping using our own muscle power!
Even after you leave the Springwater, most of the miles are on quiet backroads like SE Stone Road.
A hazy sunset over Skipper & Jordan Nursery at SE Short Road and Orient Drive.
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.
It’s not the most private or quiet campground in the world, but it’s still a great escape from the city.
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.
There’s a ton of exploration to be done around the campsite. Just pick a direction and you’ll find adventures.
Looking south toward the Bull Run River from the Sandy River.
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!
We climbed rocks and found fun ways to cross the Bull Run River for hours.
There’s even a family-friendly beach right at the campground.
One of the many gorgeous farmouses we saw on the way home.
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 bike camping 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.
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