Monday, December 18, 2017

From the north (Seattle/Vancouver BC) to Portland by bike

The bottomlands of the Columbia River, south of Kelso, WA

Looking to make your trip from either the Emerald City or the Terminal City by bicycle? Or maybe you’re on a longer tour down the Pacific Coast and are doing a more inland route before you veer westward toward the coast? Here’s some routes to follow!

Seattle to Portland:
These directions follow the route of the annual Seattle-To-Portland (STP) bicycle ride.

It’s just a little over 200 miles (326 km), so it can be ridden in either two days (100 miles a day), or three days (roughly 65 miles a day). The “official” route map and cue sheet from the people who put the ride together (Cascade Bicycle Club) is usually posted near the ride time in July, but the RideWithGPS map below has the recent route.

I’ve ridden most of the route, and it is a pretty mellow ride! There’s not a lot of hills encountered, and the route uses the lightly traveled roads paralleling Interstate 5, so traffic is pretty minimal. Heavier traffic will be encountered between Seattle and the outskirts of Tacoma, around the towns of Centralia, Chehalis, Kelso/Longview, St. Helens, and Portland itself. CAUTION: The Columbia River bridge at Longview, (SR 433/Lewis and Clark Bridge), is steep, long, narrow, busy, and its shoulder is filled with sharp debris. I got a flat crossing it once.

Lodging options: In Seattle, you’ll find the HI-Seattle, American Hotel in the International District (near downtown and King St. Station.) There are no other hostels on the route between Seattle and Portland. The Olympic Club in downtown Centralia offers bunk rooms. (Note: NOT the same as a hostel dorm room).

Camping options: The only campground on the route is in Stan Hedwall Park, just south of Chehalis. It offers RV camping spots, not sure of tent camping. Lewis and Clark State Park is about 8 miles east of Evaline (between Napavine and Winlock) and offers camping in one of the few stands of old-growth forest in these parts! (Park only open May-Sept.) And they have a hiker/biker site with a covered picnic area next to it, a great thing to have on a rainy day. Seaquest State Park is about 8 miles east of Castle Rock on SR 504 (the road to Mt. St. Helens!), offers tent camping and yurts. Millersylvania State Park is about 10 miles south of Olympia and about 5 miles off the STP route, near the town of Tenino.

Bucoda, Washington, on the STP route. “The Center of it all!”

If you want to avoid the Lewis and Clark Bridge, here is an alternate route (via bikely) that starts in Portland, crosses the Columbia River at Vancouver and stays on the Washington side into Kelso-Longview, Washington. Most of this is on quiet side roads except for the segment around Vancouver. Please note: This route uses a five-mile segment of Interstate 5 to avoid a horribly steep and brutal hill just south of Kalama–over 700 feet (240 m) of elevation gain in just a mile or so! (Yes, riding on I-5 here is legal!)

No camping directly on this route. Closest campground is Paradise Point State Park, 2 miles west of La Center.

Vancouver to Seattle: Cascade Bicycle Club also puts on the RSVP ride linking the two cities. Map usually posted clos to the ride in the summer.

This route also goes between Vancouver and Seattle. Rather than sticking to the mainland, it goes over Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands in Puget Sound, so a ferry crossing is needed between Clinton (on Whidbey) to Mulkilteo (on the mainland). At 186 miles (300 km), the ride can be done in two or three days. And you’ll get some spectacular scenery the whole way!

K & G Tour de Vancouver & SeattleShare your bike routes @

No hostels on this route. Camping options abound, however. Birch Bay Sate Park is just south of Blaine. Larrabee State Park is just south of Bellingham. Bay View State Park is about 20 miles south of Bellingham (just before the bridge to Fidalgo Island). Deception Pass State Park straddles both Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands along SR 20 (a most beautiful setting!) And South Whidbey Island State Park is a couple miles west of the route off SR 525, south of Greenbank.


Foggy Bowman Bay, at Deception Pass.

MORE MAPS! Rather than break it into two separate segments, these two routes connect Vancouver BC and Portland in one map. This one (check the bikely page for more info) is the shorter of the two, at 316 miles (508 km). It’s the more direct route, sticking to the mainland into Seattle and crossing the Columbia River at Vancouver. And the end of the route is SE Hawthorne and 23rd, just 7 blocks from the hostel!

Vancouver BC to Portland OR 24 hour ride of insanityShare your bike routes @

Deception Pass Bridge between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands

This one is the longer, more meandering, and a bit more scenic route. It’s 450 miles (725 km), and goes west of Seattle via Fidalgo/Whidbey Islands, a ferry crossing to Port Townsend, a crossing on the Hood Canal Bridge, and uses the Puget Island Ferry to cross the Columbia River. More info at the bikely page.

Portland-VancouverShare your bike routes @