February 28, 2017

15 Bike-friendly Routes

By Alex Phillips

Did you know Oregon pioneered the first, and so far only, Scenic Bikeways program in America? Since 2005, 15 bike-friendly routes have been designated throughout the state. Each route showcases Oregon’s scenic beauty and the very best of Oregon’s road cycling.

Local riders are encouraged to nominate routes and after a rigorous application process, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department designates route winners as a Scenic Bikeway.

Cycle Oregon, an event ride organization, envisioned the program in 2000 and worked with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Transportation and Travel Oregon to get it rolling.

Each Scenic Bikeway has a web page featuring a video about the ride, printable maps, mileage information, description of the route, best seasons to go and a list of resources to help plan your trip. Easily searchable by level of difficulty, the routes range from mild to extreme, half-day to multi-day adventures and are designated as loops, out-and-back or one-way excursions.


This fun, casual ride classification is appropriate for nearly everyone, including family groups and offers rides that have minimal traffic and are mostly flat.

Covered Bridges

35 miles round trip
Seventeen miles on a paved off-road path with a few road crossings; a loop with one section of out and back. Features covered bridges, lakes views, wonderful fall foliage and the historic downtown of Cottage Grove.


This ride classification isn’t for absolute beginners, but won’t be a major undertaking for those who cycle regularly. These moderate rides feature varying levels of traffic, and may include some hills.

Madras Mountain Views

35 miles round trip
Route starts in Madras, a small town with hotels, a brew pub and several restaurants. Seven spectacular Cascade Mountains and basalt palisades are visible as you ride along the rim overlooking Lake Billy Chinook.

Sisters to Smith Rock

37 miles one way
Starts in downtown Sisters and passes through Terrebonne. Roll by fertile pastures of alpacas grazing with snow-covered Cascade Mountains and Smith Rock State Park providing scenic backdrops.

Twin Bridges

36-mile loop
Highlights Central Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, rim rock canyons, high desert rangeland and the Deschutes River. The ride starts in bustling downtown Bend and passes through the small town of Tumalo.

Tualatin Valley

50 miles one way
Accessible from the Portland MAX Light Rail, this Bikeway starts on the edge of the urban setting of Hillsboro and quickly enters the lush Tualatin River Basin dotted with wetlands, small forests, vineyards and views of the Coast Range.

Willamette Valley

135 miles one way
This mostly flat route showcases one of the most productive and beautiful agricultural valleys in the world, known for its pinot noir wine grapes, hops for beer, hazelnuts and Marion berries.

Wild Rivers Coast

60 miles out and back
Views from this Bikeway take in a wild and scenic river, lush cranberry bogs, towering basalt sea stacks and vast ocean views. The start is in the quaint fishing hamlet of Port Orford, the oldest town on the Oregon Coast with locally owned hotels, restaurants and eclectic art galleries.


This ride classification is for regular cyclists looking for a good, hard ride. These rides will involve a combination of length and climbing.

Grande Tour

134-mile loop in a figure-eight pattern
This Bikeway offers views of Eastern Oregon’s Eagle Cap Mountains, the Elkhorn Range, the Blue and Wallowa Mountains and passes through La Grande, Baker City and the villages of Union and North Powder. Towns spaced just right along the route give ample opportunities to stop for supplies or for the night.

Old West

174-mile loop
The ride starts in the town of John Day at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site that is part museum, part general store, part apothecary and part religious shrine. It offers a snapshot of the Chinese immigrant experience in the 19th and 20th century American West.

Cascading Rivers

70 miles one way
This route follows the Clackamas and Breitenbush rivers between the small towns of Estacada and Detroit with very little but wilderness, rivers and trees in between.


These rides are classified extreme for experienced riders who are in top shape and able to climb hills for most the day.

Blue Mountain Century

108-mile loop
There are big hills with a total elevation gain of 8,000 feet. Starting in the small town of Heppner with the tiny hamlet of Ukiah at the halfway mark, this route is remote with breathtaking views of the Blue Mountains.

McKenzie Pass

35 miles one way
Starting in Sisters, it follows an 1860s wagon route, with a view of Mount Washington and lava flows. The steep descent to Belknap Hot Springs switchbacks down to the dense, verdant Cascadian forest. This Bikeway is closed to motor vehicles each spring for car-free riding.

Cascade Siskiyou

55-mile loop
Starting in Ashland, the Bikeway climbs 5,000 feet through oak savannah into fir forests. Best season to ride: spring through fall.

Painted Hills

130 miles with a loop and several out and backs
This Bikeway meanders through the multicolored John Day Fossil Beds National Monument that connects the small communities of Fossil, Service Creek, Spray and Mitchell in eastern Oregon. From your bicycle seat, you can see millions of years of history revealed in the layers of earth, one color at a time.

Oregon Outback

89 miles total with a loop and an out and back
The Bikeway starts in Lakeview and is nestled in the beautiful Warner Mountains, located where the forested Cascades meet the high desert basin and range.


Oregon State Parks: www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=thingstodo.dsp_scenicBikeways
Ride Oregon Ride: www.rideoregonride.com/rides/scenic-bikeways

Alex Phillips is the Bicycle Recreation Coordinator for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.