Oregon Bike Trip
May 9, 2009 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Planning a bike trip in Oregon, need some help.

I am planning a bike trip with my dad for later in the summer. We would like to start in Portland, ride out to the coast, maybe around Astoria, ride down the coast, and then head back to Portland. We're planning for around a 7-8 day trip. We'd mostly be camping, but also are fine with staying at hotels.

One of the decisions we're trying to decide is whether to ship our bikes out there (I live in Chicago, my dad's in Indianapolis—we have someone to ship them to if this is the better option) or whether to rent them out there, if this is possible. Are there shops in Portland that would rent out bikes for this type of trip? My google search of bicycle rental really turned up just bikes for riding around Portland. Regardless, we're going to have to rent a trailer or bags to carry our gear, so any help with that would be helpful.

I've never been to Portland, or Oregon for that matter, and it's a little overwhelming knowing what to look for in planning this, but I feel like the good folks at askmetafilter could help cut through the clutter and give personal advice. Any particularly good routes to get to the coast, any places we should definitely see/spend time at, anything to keep in mind while planning a trip like this. Is there a lot of traffic on these routes, are there a good amount of places to camp? Your help is much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by Sreiny to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Bring the best rain gear you can. Pack plenty of spare tubes and/or tire patches.

I think traffic is going to be scary at times. Two lane mountain type highway, etc... I rarely see cyclists on the coast highway in the Southern half of Oregon. Not sure about North of Florence. I wouldn't expect drivers to be used to or smart about the presence of cyclists. Tunnel sections have a flashing alert that cyclists can activate, which is great because they also have no shoulder.

This ODOT coastal bicycle route map looks very helpful.

If you are hardcore enough to make it the whole way down the coast in your allotted time (and then take the train back?), I supplied some information about the Southern half of the coastal highway in this AskMe.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 4:24 PM on May 9, 2009

From my experience living in Oregon, there are tons of bikers on hwy 101 during the summer months.

I've spent most of my time biking in the valleys and coast range foothills in Oregon. I recommend getting out to Hillsboro/Forest Grove then taking OR 47/OR 6 to Tillamook. Or OR 47/OR 18 to Pacific City (more south). If you're set on getting to the popular Cannon Beach/Seaside area (Cannon Beach is beautiful - Ecola State Park is a wonder), you might take OR 47 North out of Forest Grove and hitting 202 out to the coast. The fastest route out is US 26, but I'd avoid that as much as possible.

Once on the coast, you're going to be on windy, heavily trafficked, US 101. As I said, I see lots of bikers on 101, but an equal number of RVs. I'd try to do my riding early in the morning to avoid the most traffic and then enjoy the coast towns during the day.

If you can make it, I'd come back to the Willamette valley via the Smith River Road (be warned, there aren't services on this road) which hits the coast near Reedsport, and comes back to the valley south of Eugene.

Hope this helps- summer in Oregon is amazing.
posted by jz at 4:49 PM on May 9, 2009

US30 (St. Helens Road) from Portland to Astoria is reasonably flat, since it mostly follows the the Columbia river. It's wide and well maintained. It breaks out of the city reasonably fast. By the time you reach the southern tip of Sauvie Island, you're pretty much past it all. (Lots of smaller towns along it, but no more city.)

But all the other roads from the coast back to Portland have to crest the Coast Range. That means you're going to be doing a lot of climbing. Typically the crest is 2000-3000 feet. And all of them have to pass through lots and lots of city at the east end.

In terms of coming back the way you plan it, your choices are US26, Oregon 6, and Oregon 22.

US26 aka "The Sunset Highway" goes from Seaside back to Portland. Problem with that one is that the 30 miles or so nearest Portland is a 4-6 lane limited-access freeway, and may not really be something you want to ride a bike on.

Oregon 6 (The Wilson River Highway) runs from Tillamook to Portland. It branches off of the Sunset Highway right about where the limited-access part ends, so same problem.

Further south yet, Oregon 22 (The 3 Rivers Highway) meets up with US 101 (the coast highway) right in the middle of nowhere. It leads back to Portland, meeting up with US99W at McMinnville, proceeding from there to Tigard. After which it's another 15 miles back to Portland right through the suburbs, and miserable miles they are, too. 4-6 lane boulevard with lots of traffic lights.

The western parts of all of those highways spend most of their time following river valleys. The rivers meander like mad, so the roads are really curvy. Your distance is about 1.5 times a crow's distance. And some stretches of them have narrow shoulders.

I've driven all the highways described above. And I've biked the highway between Corvallis and Newport -- and it was scary. It's another that follows a winding river valley, and there's a lot of truck traffic on it. That was when I was in college, and still in reasonably decent shape. It took 11 hours, and I was bone tired afterwards. (We recuperated for three days before returning.)

If I may offer some advice, I recommend that you come back the way you plan to go out, on US 30. It's safer, easier, and more pleasant.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:04 PM on May 9, 2009

By the way, there's plenty to do in the Astoria area. Fort Stevens is really neat, for example, and there are a lot of good restaurants there. There's also a really long bridge across the Columbia; pay toll, and visit southern Washington for a while.

And if you're feeling ambitious, you can visit the Astoria Tower -- but it's built on a mountain ridge. Great view, though.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:10 PM on May 9, 2009

One more thing: if you are visiting Astoria, there are two things you must do: Go to a restaurant and eat salmon, and go to a restaurant and eat Dungeness crab.

You'll think me.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:16 PM on May 9, 2009

My girlfriend and I are planning a big pacific coast tour this summer. I've found the touring thread on bikeforums.net to be a great resource, and heavily trafficked. I posted a question there once and got a dozen helpful responses within a couple of days.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:20 PM on May 9, 2009

Response by poster: Great answers so far, thanks! One thing we'd probably do is take the MAX to Hillsboro, hopefully cutting some of the time we'd spend on US 26. (advice from someone who emailed me after reading question here)
posted by Sreiny at 5:32 PM on May 9, 2009

Rats. That should have been "You'll thank me." Also, buy some salmon jerky.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:50 PM on May 9, 2009

Also Chocolate Pickle -- thanks for the answer, it's been quite helpful to me as well, since we were planning on swinging through Portland on our way down and weren't sure of the best way back to the coast before continuing south. It was tempting to cut southwest e.g. through US 22 but it sounds like it's worth burning an extra two days to get back up to Astoria.

Sreiny, I'll have passed through this territory by about mid-June, so if that's not too late for your trip please MefiMail me and I'll tell you what we saw (prompt response not guaranteed!)
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:09 PM on May 9, 2009

Google has done "street view" photo surveys of all those highways, in case you want to see what they're like. Here's part of US26, for example. And here's US30.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:55 PM on May 9, 2009

I biked from Portland to Tillamook and back via Sunset HIghway and 6. The Sunset Highway has marked bike lanes the whole way. I really don't care how many lanes wide a highway is if it has a clearly marked and well respected bike only lane as this one does. Yeah it is ugly as fuck but it is as safe as you are going to get on the same road with cars.
posted by idiopath at 12:37 PM on May 10, 2009

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