Sometimes it’s easy to forget about southern Portland.
This isn’t pejorative, it’s simple geography. Positioned miles away from the city’s biggest draws like Forest Park, the Pearl District, Mississippi/Williams and the St. John’s Bridge, well – you know that old adage about things being out of sight.
When it comes to cycling, however, a little anonymity goes a long way. Case in point: the thoroughly enjoyable, surprisingly secluded 6-mile ride from the Sellwood Bridge to Lake Oswego. Covering gorgeous climbs, tree-lined descents, and even a stop-off at a riverside beach along the banks of Willamette, you might expect to find the route teeming with calf muscles and lycra.
Thankfully, you’d be wrong.
To keep a good thing going, we’d recommend taking a minute to read up on the route before getting saddled up on your rental bike. It’s not a particularly long ride, but you’ll still manage to cover a lot of ground once you’re on it. We’ll show you what we mean.
RIVER VIEW CEMETERY
Founded in 1882 on a steep bluff overlooking the Willamette, Portland’s River View Cemetery is about as beautiful as final resting places come. This is perhaps why many of the city’s most prominent citizens have been buried here, from Henry Pittock to Virgil Earp.
Aside from being a solemn respite of city history, however, this private cemetery also provides a vital cycling link for Collins View residents and students at the nearby Lewis and Clark College. It’s for this reason that riders are strongly encouraged to remain observant of route markers at all times. All are welcome to enjoy the scenic, sequestered climb up River View’s 400-ft (122-m) ascent, provided you do it respectfully.
TRYON CREEK STATE NATURAL AREA
We’re just going to come right out and say it: the paved cycling path through Tryon Creek State Park may very well be the funnest 2.5 miles you can ride in Portland. On a road bike, anyway. And before you go accusing us of hyperbole, ask yourself this: Do I enjoy an unblemished asphalt path winding its way through lush forest? Am I a fan of secluded rides on a steady, slight decline? Can I appreciate the thrill and scenery of mountain biking and the velveteen smoothness of road cycling simultaneously? If you answered yes to these questions, rest assured we’ve picked you a winner.
Though you won’t see much of Tryon Creek itself on your ride through Oregon’s only urban state park, you’ll see plenty of towering red alders, red cedars, and Douglas-firs. You’ll also spend about 30 seconds pedaling parallel to Terwilliger Boulevard when the path emerges from the woods, but chances are you’ll be too busy enjoying the ride to even notice.
Once you reach Lake Oswego, you’ve officially biked your way south of the Portland border. Time to taste the fruits of your labor.
On the plus side, the city center offers beautiful waterfront views and an air that’s just the right mix of yuppy, casual, and small-town Americana. On the downside, cycling infrastructure leaves a little to be desired here, so no matter which direction you head you should expect a stretch of on-street pedaling sans bike lane. Stay vigilant, especially along State Street.
Our preferred stopping point is the riverfront George Rogers Park, with its “beach” access and refurbished stone furnace from the days when iron and steelmaking were key components of the city’s industry. From here, it’s possible to continue south along the Old River Rd bike trail, or simply board the No. 36 bus with your bike for a direct ride back to downtown Portland.
After a swim, of course.