Oregon Adds Two New Scenic Bikeways to its Portfolio
By Emilie Schnabel
Cyclists in the Pacific Northwest have reasons to celebrate, as Oregon recently declared two new scenic bikeways for summer 2015. The Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Byway and Cascade-Siskiyou Scenic Bikeway are the latest additions to the Beaver State’s program — the only one of its kind in the nation. The Scenic Bikeways program features routes recommended by locals, which have been officially reviewed and equipped with proper signage. Detailed maps and directions for the routes are available to visitors. These latest additions bring the number of designated scenic bikeways in Oregon to 14, providing over 949 miles of bike-accessible routes through some of the most spectacular areas in the state.
From Mt. Hood to La Grande, Oregon’s scenic bikeways connect riders from farmland to wine country to the outskirts of Portland. The new Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Byway is a moderately difficult route totaling 60 miles, beginning in Port Orford and following the Oregon coast. Highlights along this route include the western-most point of Oregon and the state’s oldest lighthouse, both located at Cape Blanco State Park. An experienced rider can complete the route in a day, and cyclists wishing to take a more leisurely pace will find many areas to rest, eat and refresh along the way.
The Cascade-Siskiyou Scenic Byway is a much more challenging route, spanning over 58 miles and featuring 5,000 feet of elevation. The route is a forested mountain loop that begins and ends in Ashford, and campgrounds are located conveniently along the route for campers. Cyclists can also opt for a shorter 35-mile route, turning around at the popular Greensprings Inn. This route is loved for its far-reaching views into the valley below.
As the scenic bikeways often utilize designated scenic roadways, cyclists should expect some vehicle traffic along each route. For riders who would like to avoid as many automobiles as possible, Ride Oregon has designated a few of its bikeways as very low traffic. These include the Tualitan Valley Scenic Bikeway, a moderately difficult 50-mile route originating just outside of Portland in Hillsboro. The route travels through lush farmlands, vineyards and wetlands around the Tualitan River. It allows cyclists to experience the rich land of the Willamette Valley, known for its prolific wineries. Farm stands and tasting rooms surround the route, affording a wide variety of stops along the way.
In addition to opening up two new bikeways, Oregon has also initiated a “7 Bikes for 7 Wonders” program this summer. For each of Oregon’s “7 wonders,” a one-of-a-kind bicycle has been created to reflect the attributes of each of the seven wonders. Upon completion, each bike was hidden on a scenic bikeway near its wonder. The bicycles are free to whoever finds them. Starting July 13, Ride Oregon began releasing clues to the whereabouts of the bicycles on their social media accounts, using the hashtag #7bikes7wonders. Oregon’s wonders include: Mount Hood, the Oregon Coast, the Columbia River Gorge, the Painted Hills, Smith Rock, the Wallowas and Crater Lake.
While Washington does not have a scenic “bikeway” program, many of its scenic byways are accessible to cyclists and feature adjoining trailheads as well as some urban cycling routes. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Washington was one of the first states to establish the scenic roadway designation. One of the cross-state byways, The Mountains to Sound Greenway, connects the east and west side of the state, taking travelers from Seattle to Ellensburg. Along the way, routes allow visitors to explore cultural landmarks. After spending some time in the city, cyclists can travel east, stopping in North Bend or continuing over Snoqualmie Pass through the John Wayne Iron Horse State Park.
Another route that is especially cycle-friendly is the Cascade Valleys Heritage Corridor, which ends in Woodinville, Wash. It shares some of the same real estate as the Mountains to Sound Greenway, but instead of summiting Snoqualmie Pass, it follows the river valley. Nearby, the Sammamish River Trail is a popular 11-mile asphalt trail and features views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains while connecting the Ballard Locks to Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington. Woodinville is well-known as the home of a wide variety of local wineries, artisan shops, as well as the Chateau St. Michelle Concert Series. A ride through the Snoqualmie Valley would not be complete without a stop at the iconic Snoqualmie Falls, a 270-foot waterfall accessible only by foot (but well-worth the detour).
For a change of scenery, cyclists can venture up north to Chuckanut Drive, which follows the Chuckanut Mountains, affording views of the San Juan Islands and the Pacific Ocean. The route connects visitors to expansive vistas, artisan shops and restaurants in charming coastal communities, and unparalleled opportunities for wildlife sighting. Numerous trailheads pepper the area, including the 2.5-mile Padilla Bay Shore Trail and the 6-mile Larabee Interurban Trail, which originated as an electric train route. Cyclists can also ride a ferry to the San Juan Islands to explore further. These byways are only a collection of Washington’s 28 designated scenic routes. More information is available online through the WSDOT and Washington’s Scenic Byways Guide at wsdot.wa.gov/localprograms/scenicbyways.
Introduced in 1991, the National Scenic Byways Program provides support and national designation for the preservation of scenic roads across the United States. They celebrate the natural beauty of their surroundings while also featuring culturally and historically important stops along the way. In order to be officially recognized as scenic byways as well as “All-American” roads, these routes go through a stringent qualification process. As outlined in the Federal Highway Administration policy, byways must meet a number of criteria including approved preservation plans, being accessible to tourism buses, and providing safe cyclist and pedestrian routes whenever possible. Currently, 150 such routes exist across the U.S.
The Oregon Tourism Commission manages and provides many resources for cyclists wishing to explore Oregon’s scenic bikeways through Ride Oregon at www.rideoregonride.com. In addition to detailed brochures, a scenic bikeways travel guide, turn-by-turn directions, and online maps, cyclists can also download GPS cycling routes to use with their mobile devices. Cyclists wishing to plan trips utilizing the scenic bikeways in Oregon and scenic byways in Washington should take advantage of the vast array of information available in the online byway guides. Mileage, route difficulty, food, lodging, viewpoints, and attractions are all listed, and cyclists of every ability level can find a ride to fit their needs.