Nestucca River Road is a fantastic way to get from Portland to the coast.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)
Riding to the coast from the city is something of a rite of passage for many Portlanders. Getting there via Nestucca River Road is a privilege.
This past Sunday I was lucky enough to try it for the first time as part of the Dirty Sellwood ride. The ride was the fifth annual epic ride collaboration between two great bike shops and their owners: Erik Tonkin of Sellwood Cycle Repair in Portland and Mitchell Buck of Dirty Fingers Bikes in Hood River.
Dirty Sellwood V was billed as an overnighter with 200+ miles of riding from Portland to Cape Lookout State Park and back. (View and download routes at RideWithGPS.com.)
About 60 of us started from the shop in Sellwood and headed west via Lake Oswego en route to our designated lunch stop in the small town of Carlton. I can now highly recommend Farmers’ Plate and Pantry as an excellent stop between Portland the coast. At about the 40-mile mark we arrived just in time for lunch and the food was perfect. Big pizza slices, fresh salads, generous burgers and fries. And with plenty of hospitality to match (even for sweaty, lycra-clad hordes).
After Carlton the real fun began as we made our way into the hills and onto the Nestucca River National Backcountry Byway. This 48-mile road connects Carlton and Beaver and has very little auto traffic. It hugs the river most of the way and has a few gravel/dirt sections just to make things interesting. Another thing that makes Nestucca Road special for bicycle lovers are the several campsites along the way. They’d be perfect for overnight adventures and they have fresh water to refill your bottles. (One route option would be to take MAX to Hillsboro then bike about 50 miles to a campsite right on the river.)
At Beaver we swung north to the sandy dunes of the coast and into Cape Lookout State Park.
The shops had reserved a group tent site right on the waterfront. After setting up camp we were treated to a hefty plate of pulled pork, rice, and coleslaw from Samurai Lunchbox, a local cart in Sellwood that made the trip just to feed us. We all marveled at the sunset and enjoyed each other’s company before settling in for the night.
After fresh coffee and oatmeal Monday morning we did the route in reverse back to Portland.
My tool for this job: A very racey Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi Mod with Ultegra DI2, disc brakes, and 32c tubeless tires. (And notice the USA flag I always ride with in rural areas these days.) It’s been a long time since I had a go-fast road bike and it’s pure joy. Thank you Western Bikeworks for getting me set up on it.
I loved exploring these new places — especially without having to carry my own gear! Huge thanks to the crews at Sellwood and Dirty Fingers for making this happen. Already looking forward to next year. Check out the routes and plan your own adventures here. (This route would make a killer loop by adding the Trask River Road out of Forest Grove/Hagg Lake.)
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