: Deschutes River Trail (Photo by Russ Roca / pathlesspedaled.com)

Riding Oregon 101

May 16, 2017 (Updated May 25, 2021)

Just as Oregon’s early settlers relied on their horses, so we now have our bikes — sturdy, faithful companions that are ready and willing to accompany us on every one of our adventures around the state. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lean, mean road warrior; a low-key city cruiser; a laid-back stump jumper; or an elbow-to-elbow cyclocrosser; Oregon has something awesome for you to do while perched on top of two wheels. Here’s a crash course (well, not a literal crash) in everything you need to know to get pedaling.

Urban Cruising

With 1,000 eye-catching orange bikes spread out over 100 bike stations, the Nike-sponsored BIKETOWN bike-share program is one of most accessible ways to explore Portland’s scenic biking routes, such as the Eastbank Esplanade. Sign up and pay per ride, day or month on BIKETOWN’s website, app or kiosk; hop on a bike; then hop off and leave the bike at a kiosk when you’re done.

If you’re new to cycling or new to Portland (or both!), Portland’s Bureau of Transportation offers free guided tours of Portland neighborhoods on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Check Portland By Cycle for exact dates and times. Or if you’d like to explore specific neighborhoods with everyone who lives there, look up the schedule for the popular Sunday Parkways neighborhood rides.

Bike shops like River City Bicycles rent bikes and hold weekly rides, as do many of Portland’s diverse cycling clubs like Friends on Bikes, Mujeres en Movimiento or Black Girls Do Bike. If you prefer the thrill of competition to camaraderie, the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association holds a series of bike races open to all ages, genders and skill levels.

Cycling commuter on a bridge with city buildings in the background
Cruise along the Rose City’s waterfront for a unique vantage point. (Photo by Woods Wheatcroft)
Two young children in a bike trailer through fields
Biking around Sauvie Island is a family affair. (Photo by Jan Sonnenmair)
Bicyclists of many ages over a pedestrian bridge
The Eugene pedestrian bridge is a safe and fun way to cross the river. (Photo by Chris Pietsch)
A group of Asians all pedaling on the same cart
Pedal to several different sip spots on Portland’s Brewcycle. (Photo by NashCO)

Of course, Portland isn’t the only city with an abundance of city trails. Eugene’s extensive urban trail network consists of 187 miles of on-street bicycle lanes, 71 miles of signed bikeways, and five shared bicycle-and-pedestrian bridges that span the Willamette River. Salem’s Riverfront Park offers a few beautiful, activity-filled miles of riding. And Bend and Sisters have urban bike trails that pop in and out of the light-filled woods.

If you have a specific city-centered hobby or interest — like, oh, say, beer — odds are that someone in every city has started a bike tour based on it, like Cycle Pub in Bend and BrewCycle in Portland. And if your hobby is something as simple as being naked (no judgment here!), Portland’s famous World Naked Bike Ride (stay posted for 2022 date) is one of the best places to practice it.

Two cyclists on a dirt trail with the sun rising above mountains
A few minutes outside of Bend, Phil’s Trail complex is stunningly scenic, with varied terrain for all riders. (Photo by Tyler Roemer)

Mountain Biking

Anywhere there are trails, you can find mountain bikers — but their main hub is Oakridge, nestled in the lush, green Willamette National Forest. Check in at Oregon Adventures shuttle service or Oakridge Bike Shop to take your pick of single-track alpine downhill or breathtakingly beautiful, mellow, creekside cruises. Afterward, stop for a cask-conditioned ale at 3 Legged Crane Pub and Brewhouse to boast of your exploits. Or come to Oakridge’s Mountain Bike Oregon each July, considered one of the nation’s top mountain-bike events.

Bend is also known as a mountain biker’s paradise in the high desert, and in particular, the Phil’s Trail complex. Phil’s is located just a few minutes’ drive outside of the city limits and offers a diverse array of extremely entertaining, easy to intermediate loop options. Check out Pine Mountain Sports or Hutch’s Bicycles for gear and tips, or sign up for a tour with Cog Wild. If you’d rather forgo all that tedious and tiring pedaling, Mt. Bachelor’s Bike Park offers lifts for beginners through hardcore riders looking to bomb through technical, lava-sculpted terrain.

Ashland and Mt. Hood also have more than their fair share of single-track trails, whether they run cross-country or downhill at ski resorts like Mt. Hood Skibowl’s Freeride Bike Park (open July-October). The Columbia River Gorge is also a top spot for bikers, especially the dense network of trails at Post Canyon near Hood River. But what if you’re visiting for a short trip and don’t have time to make it out of the city? Rent a bike at Portland’s Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park, with courses and obstacles ranging from beginner pump courses to technical tracks and even an outdoor vertical ramp.

A mountain biker making a sharp descent with mountains in the distance
Take the lift at Mt. Bachelor for technical, lava-sculpted terrain. (Photo by Tyler Roemer)
Two cyclist biking up a dirt road with a scenic coastal backdrop
The Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway takes cyclists along Oregon's less-traveled Southern Oregon coastline. (Photo by Russ Roca / pathlesspedaled.com)

Epic Rides

Oregon’s Scenic Bikeways program is unique. Long or short, advanced or beginner level, one-day or multiday, locals have selected, ridden and reviewed each trail for inclusion. The routes showcase some of the most beautiful and distinctive views in the state — from Oregon’s wild and scenic South Coast to the historic covered bridges around Cottage Grove. But there are plenty of other ways to have an unforgettable biking adventure.

Consider the Oregon Timber Trail, a 669-mile single-track trail that runs across the entire state through four distinct sections, from the rugged wilderness of the Oregon outback to the stunning vistas of Mt. Hood. If riding the whole trail seems daunting, set your sights on one segment at a time — the Deschutes tier is the easiest.

In fact, every notable natural feature has a way to be explored by bike. See the striking blue water of America’s deepest lake from the 32-mile Crater Lake Rim Route, or explore the national scenic area of the Columbia River Gorge from the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, originally built to be one of the most beautiful highways in the world. (Pro tip: Take a side excursion to the Mosier Twin Tunnels Trail to sip craft cider and eat locally sourced burgers and snacks on the large patio at Mosier Company.) Got the kids in a bike trailer? Tow them along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, Oregon’s first rail-to-trail route, which is an easy ride over wooden trestles and through sunny woods.

Three women cyclists with gear strapped to the bikes ride through deep canyon walls
Bring plenty of water and prepare for majestic views while riding the remote Painted Hills Scenic Bikeway. (Photo by Russ Roca / pathlesspedaled.com)
A lone cyclist riding through a stone tunnel
Enjoy the paved, car-free Mosier Twin Tunnels in the Gorge. (Photo by Larry Andreasen)
A cyclist riding on the road next to Crater Lake
Soak up the views as you pedal around Rim Drive at Crater Lake National Park. (Photo by Tyler Roemer)
Two sleeping bags lay in an open shelter with a campfire out front
Camping along the Oregon Timber Trail is a rustic but ultimately rewarding experience. (Photo by Gabriel Amadeus Tiller)

Want to get away from the summer crowds on the paved trails? Whether you call it bikepacking or gravel riding, exploring Oregon’s abundance of unpaved trails is a great way to see the Beaver State’s wild beauty. Work up your fitness on trails, like those at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, before signing up for hardcore rides like the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic or the Oregon Stampede.

Not up to planning and executing the ride of a lifetime on your own? That’s not a problem either — not in Oregon, at least! Guided tour events and biking tour companies around the state, such as TREO Bike Tours in Eastern Oregon and Good Bike Co. in Central Oregon, will set your itinerary and arrange all of the logistics, including maps, meals, water, shuttle service and support wagons. All you have to do is bring your bike and enjoy the views. For a wine tour on two wheels, join MountNbarreL in Hood River. And don’t forget that wherever you choose to go, in-the-know bike shops will have rentals and information on local events, tours and group rides.

Learn More:

  • Whether you’re a newcomer or avid mountain biker, Oregon has a trail for you. Here are some of the state’s most epic trails: Mt. Ashland Super D; the Elkhorn Crest Trail and continuing Summit Lake Trail near Baker City; the Phil’s Trail network in Bend; Alpine Trail in Oakridge; Timberline Bike Park at Mt. Hood; and the Whiskey Run Trail System near Coos Bay.
  • Fat biking is great for those who love riding through scenic areas at a leisurely pace, the feel of sand or snow underfoot. Here are some top spots not to miss: Head to Roads End State Recreation Site in Lincoln City; the John Dellenback Dunes near Lakeside; the Fort Stevens Fat Bike Route in Astoria; or Wanoga Snow Play Area Sno-Park in the Deschutes National Forest.
  • Ready to crunch some gravel? The Oregon Timber Trail is the perfect bike-packing destination. Here’s how to bite off a chunk: Meandering through the volcanic eastern flank of the Cascade Range, the 113-mile Deschutes Tier is the easiest section of the Oregon Timber Trail. It gains 8,000 feet in elevation and is expected to take 3 to 6 days for mountain bikers to complete. If you’re interested in a smaller chunk, there are a number of shorter segments, from 20- to 40-miles, that can be tackled in a day or two days.
  • Bicycle enthusiasts of all ages and abilities can enjoy a riding on a variety of trails thanks to local adaptive outfitters: Beaverton-based Adaptive Sports Northwest offers handcycling clinics and partnerships with local bike shops during the summer months; and Bend-based Oregon Adaptive Sports offers custom adventures and adaptive equipment such as recumbent, tandem bikes and custom bikes for youth.

About The

Adrienne So
Adrienne So is a gear, travel and lifestyle writer based in Portland. Her work has been featured in Wired, Slate and Cool Hunting, among other publications; her beverage writing has appeared in The New Brewer, All About Beer and Sip Northwest. When she's not camping, climbing or drinking beer, she is hanging out with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

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