Oregon highways can be busy blurs when traffic speeds by at a nerve shattering rate. I prefer to slow down, get out of the race, set my own pace and roll on two wheels for travel across my home state. This week, cycling gained new ground and new supporters who took time to explore a new route that will have you grabbing your helmet, climbing aboard a two-wheeler and discovering a spirit of adventure on the new Tualatin Valley State Scenic Bikeway.
You can tell a lot about a community by the way its citizens roll, especially when it involves two wheels. “Biking is fun! People love biking and they love Oregon,” said Alex Phillips. Alex is the Oregon State Parks cycling expert and she has worked closely with 11 communities across the state to guide each through the Oregon Scenic Bikeways designation process.
She said that the new Tualatin Valley State Scenic Bikeway was three years in the making. “This is a beautiful bikeway; a little more than 50 miles long, and it takes riders past vineyards with glimpses of the coast range mountains. You also ride through neat towns including Forest Grove, Banks and Vernonia.” There’s an added bonus – the bikeway is less than a mile from a MAX Light Rail Station, so you can hop on Max in downtown Portland and ride to the start of the bikeway at Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro.
According to Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax, it was a project that demanded partnerships. “It’s a must to have everyone involved! ODOT must be involved because you’re often using state highways. The county is involved because you are using county roads and also assemble non-profits and private organizations, bike groups, tourism organizations and the local chambers of commerce. Partnerships helped us to get far more bang for the dollar.”
The Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway is divided into two sections and begins at Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro. This southern section is approximately 30 miles of easy riding to reach Forest Grove. This route offers fertile farmlands and lush natural areas like Fernhill Wetlands, where bald eagles roost and Canada geese wing their way south at this time of year. “You should be comfortable riding on roads and most recreational cyclists can handle it,” noted Phillips. “It’s fairly flat with a few small rolling hills and there are rest areas and services along the way so you can get a snack in Forest Grove.”
The northern section of the bikeway couldn’t be any easier to find or ride, because it’s actually the long-established Banks-Vernonia State Trail. It’s 21 miles long, ten feet wide and paved the entire length, making it an easy ride for every member of the family. This section also takes you through L.L. Stub Stewart State Park Campground, so you can drop in for a longer stay and perhaps enjoy a round of disc golf or try out the new off-road cycling trail.
Mike Olson, the owner of Olson’s Bicycles in Forest Grove, said that the new bikeway will offer something new each season of the year. “It won’t be a one and done. You can do this route three or four times a year and it will be different each time with different crops, different colors and varied activities in our varied communities.”
“Oregonians love to show off Oregon,” added Phillips. “Oregon is just a great state to ride and the new bikeway really complements our state.”