Monday, September 26, 2016

To and from the south (Salem, Eugene) by bicycle

Touring Bike in front of State Capital, Salem

Do you need to get to or from destinations south of Portland in the Willamette Valley such as Salem, Corvallis, and Eugene? Though not as common or as popular as biking to The Coast, The Columbia Gorge, or north to Seattle and Vancouver, BC, there is a decent route down the valley known as the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.

The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway is the first scenic bikeway created in the state, and is well-signed for the most part, though you should definitely carry a map of the route. The route travels 132 miles (212 km) between Champoeg State Park and Armitage County Park on the north edge of Eugene and can be ridden anywhere from one to three days (not counting time to get to Champoeg from Portland.) The route hugs the bottomlands of the valley, so it’s primarily flat, though a few hills are encountered. The landscape is predominantly rural, giving a view of the agricultural backbone of the state. Salem and Albany are the largest towns on the way to Eugene and are good places for picking up supplies.

Overview map of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway

The one flaw of the route (and the Willamette Valley in general) is the shortage of campgrounds. Besides Champoeg at the start, there are only three official campgrounds on the route: The first at Willamette Mission, 15 miles in. (Please note: Even though the website says “No individual camping”, they have a hiker/biker site, so it doesn’t apply if you are on a bike.) Riverfront Park in Independence (off route near milepost 40) has a bicyclist and canoeist/kayak camp (new for summer 2015.) The last campground before Eugene is in the town of Brownsville at about milepost 100. No hostels until the Whiteaker Hostel in Eugene.

Bicycle Camp, Willamette Mission State Park.

Oregon State Parks made a great set of maps for this route. Go to the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway page to download the maps. (NOTE: PDF files, requires Adobe Acrobat)

Of course now the issue is getting to Champoeg State Park from Portland. Never fear! Our friends at Cycle Wild have a route from central Portland to the park. Click here to view it in more detail.

The route from Portland to Champoeg is approx. 35 miles (56 km). Supplies can be picked up in Portland and Oregon City. After Oregon City the route is rural with little to no services. And Champoeg has a hiker-biker site.

An alternate route to Champoeg starts from the western suburb of Hillsboro. This avoids some of the steep climbs and traffic on the Portland-Champoeg route, but you’ll need to take the MAX light rail to get there.