Category Archives: Local Camping

Ideas for camping within a day’s ride from Portland

Portland to the Oregon Coast by Bicycle

A super awesome thing about Portland that I don’t take advantage of nearly enough is its relative proximity to the ocean. In less than 80 miles, you can get to bunches of different places on the northern coast, all of them beautiful. And to make it even better, there are lots of super lovely, even relatively low-traffic ways to get there on a bicycle.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has three helpful maps, complete with turn-by-turn cues, to take you to Astoria, Tillamook, or the Three Capes Scenic Loop:

PDX to coast

As of this last week, I’ve taken all three of them. They all offer a different sort of ride, but they’re all nice. Worth noting: all three of these routes start not in Portland but at the last Hillsboro MAX station, and the mileages don’t actually take you all the way to the coast. They do take you to nearby places where you can hop on Highway 101 to get to wherever exactly on the coast you want to be, usually within 10-15 more miles. Something to think about when you’re planning how far you want to go in a day–it’ll be a little bit extra to actually see the ocean.

Route 1: To Astoria

This route is the longest of the three and the once I’ve traveled the most. It takes advantage of the excellent Banks-Vernonia trail–20 miles of multi-use, car-free path–and then winds along the Nehalem River. At first I was intimidated by the fact that I would be biking along Highway 47, which I thought would be really busy, but the PBOT site is right when it says that traffic is usually light (and there’s a shoulder and share the road signs:). And Highway 202 is absolutely beautiful.

nehalem river(the Nehalem River, which you cross about 5 gazillion times:)

Also, there’s not much climbing to speak of on this route. You do go over the Coast Range, but it feels more like going over a moderate hill: by the time you’re tired of climbing, you’re at the top. Most of the time is a fairly flat ride along the river.

Plus, this route has the added bonus of ending in Astoria, somewhere that’s super cute in its own right. Even if it’s not on the ocean, it is right on the Columbia River just before it dumps into the ocean, and there’s an awesome riverfront path, great (and hilly:) walking and biking through the city, plus a delicious brewery, an awesome cafe with copious vegan options, the house that The Goonies was filmed in, and lots of other cute things just waiting to be discovered.

You can find pictures from two of my bike trips out to Astoria here and here. (Plus, a bonus: this is my favorite bike sign ever:)

Route 2: To Tillamook

This is the shortest of the routes, and also the most heavily trafficked. I have to admit I’ve only biked it as part of a much longer ride that I took with the Oregon Randonneurs, the 3 Capes 300k, but I remember being pleasantly surprised by how much less traffic there was than I thought there would be, and how courteous all the people who did pass me were.

Granted, it was fairly early still on a Saturday morning that I was out there. I’m not sure what it would be like at other times. It is super gorgeous though, and also not too much of a hill. And when you get to the top, it feels like you go downhill toward Tillamook forever. Whee!!

Also to this route’s credit, there are places to camp in the middle, in the Tillamook State Forest. I’ve never stayed in any of the campgrounds (chime in, anyone who has), but they seem nice. It might be worth exploring someday:)

Remember, though, this route only takes you to Tillamook (can anyone say “cheese factory??”:). It’s another 12 miles to Netarts, or 10 to Bay City, which are actually on the coast.

Route 3: To 3 Capes

I just took this route for the first time last week and was so super stoked about it. I’d been avoiding it because there are about 3 miles of unpaved road in the middle of the Nestucca River Road, and my racey Trek (especially with a trailer attached) doesn’t handle unpaved very well. But with my new Soma expedition bike (heh), I was so ready to tackle it–and then it turned out that it’s not even that bad and I probably would have been just fine with my Trek all along. So don’t let the unpavedness deter you.

The first part of the route along Fern Hill and Spring Hill Roads is somewhat trafficky with rural fastness, but it’s still pleasant (and beautiful), and once you leave Carlton on Nestucca River Road, there’s basically no one out there. Plus, Nestucca River Road itself is super gorgeous, quintessentially Northwest in the cedar-hemlock-cottonwood tree cover, the myriad ferns, thimbleberry, oxalis, salal, the meandery river. Amazingly, I didn’t take that many pictures of it, but this is right when it turns unpaved:

nestucca river road(doesn’t that just make you want to take a deep breath of fresh air?:)

Like the route to Tillamook, there are also a bunch of super cute campgrounds right on the river that almost–almost–enticed me to stay one less night on the coast.

Like the other routes, this takes you not all the way to the ocean but to Beaver, OR, a town that consists mostly of a Shell station and a mini store. But from Beaver, it’s only about 11 miles to Cape Lookout State Park, which has an amazing (and only $6) hiker/biker site that is literally a 30-second walk from the beach. I was super happy to get there just in time to set up camp and have dinner on the beach, watching the sun set.

cape lookout hiker-biker(the Cape Lookout hiker/biker site, as the sun sets)

Also, from Cape Lookout it’s only about 15 miles south to Pacific City, which is one of my favorite places ever, not only because of the Grateful Bread Bakery (motto? “everybody must get sconed” :) And there are great hiking trails out to the end of Cape Looking right from the campground. For going to the coast coast, not just Astoria, this is probably my new favorite route and destination.

You can find more pictures from my trip to Cape Lookout here.

So there you go.

Three awesome ways to get to the coast, all made super easy with the PBOT maps and cue sheets. Are these the only ways to get to the coast via bicycle? Absolutely not. But they’re definitely a good place to start if you’re thinking about trying it. Go for it!:)

Stub Stewart: First bike camp of 2014!
(Or, an exercise in being wet:)

Rain? What rain?

Despite a forecast that looked pretty crappy, this weekend I was determined. I’ll be taking a 3-week trip through Utah later this month (more on that later!:), and before I go it seemed prudent to test out my new bikey camping setup–since I’ve never really traveled without a trailer, I mean, and I wasn’t sure if two panniers would actually cut it for the kind of bike adventure I have in mind.

This weekend is when I had two consecutive days off, so for a test run this weekend it was, weather be damned.

bike overnight camping setup(The setup. Yeah, I know, not a very informative picture, but still:)

The perfect place for a test camping trip? Stub Stewart State Park, of course–it’s only about 47 miles from my door if I take a detour to the Beaverton Farmers Market (which I did, of course, for some fresh provisions:). It has a super awesome, incredibly peaceful hike/bike-in campground that only costs $6 per night in the off-season. (If I’d really wanted to stay dry, I could have instead rented a cabin–but those are something like $45, and they wouldn’t have given me a chance to practice my wet-handling abilities:).

Also, while I was at it I wanted to go running, and there are miles and miles of trails there. Perfect!

camping setup stub stewart(Home, sweet home)

The tarp in the above picture was a fun, last-minute experiment inspired by the weather forecast. It was actually really nice, since it provided a dry staging area to pack up my stuff in the morning deluge. But other than the tarp, I tried to bring about the same sorts of things I would bring on any longer trip: extra clothes, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, water filter, extra shoes. Even though it was only overnight, I brought a lot of stuff–in part because I wanted to have lots of dry things (I hate being perniciously wet!) but also because I wanted to try to emulate a longer trip to see if I could actually carry everything.

I think I can! I’ve been nervous about only having the one rack in the back, but also loathe to deal with another rack and set of bags right now. It turns out I think I’ll be able to fit everything I need into my two bags plus some stuff strapped on top of the back, no front rack or extra bags required. If anything, it’ll force me to be super judicious about what I bring, which is always good.

Also, biking with panniers (rather than a trailer) might be my new favorite thing. I’m still getting used to the fact that my bike when propped up will not necessarily balance the way I think it will, and I’m a little awkward at putting the darn things on, but I love the feeling of everything on my bike instead of trailing behind me. I feel so self-contained!

stub stewart(the horse area of Stub Stewart as seen from my hike, mist-erious;)

As for the rain? There was a lot of it. Happily, it let up by the time I got to Stub Stewart, so I could set up in the dry and was even able to take a long evening hike without getting more than misted on. It was cold, cold, cold–more so because of the damp–but I was pretty cozy in my sleeping bag. And despite being drenched all day today and bringing home basically everything wet (as we speak, my tent is re-set up in my basement to dry; my other things are spread everywhere for the same reason)–despite that, it was a lovely time. And I’m feeling good about my upcoming longer adventure with this bike.

So I’d say this was a great way to kick off the bike camping season of 2014:)

Oh, and the moral of the story? If it’s only an overnight trip anyway, any weather is bearable:)

Cycle Wild Sunset Falls Camping!

A bunch of people and their bicycles, huddled under a roof to wait out a downpour…

heisson store(the bitty Heisson Store, last supply stop before our campground)

Must be a Cycle Wild trip in April! :)

This weekend’s camping trip with Cycle Wild, a group dedicated to helping people get out camping on their bicycles, left from Portland in the sunshine on Saturday morning and became increasingly gloomy and wet as we made our way to Sunset Falls in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. But whatever, right? Who actually expects nice weather in April? Despite the wet, it was a rockin’ good time.

Cycle Wild is a good deal, especially if you’re curious about bike camping but not totally sure where to start. They plan the route and the campground and give you a cue sheet to get there and back; you provide your own bike, gear, and food; everyone has a chance to chat with other awesome people and you make your way out to the campground together.

It’s a really nice, supportive way to try bike camping if you’re curious about it but perhaps still a little intimidated. And even if you’re a bike camping pro, it’s a really nice way to meet other cool people and get outside for a weekend. I’m into it.

You can find a whole list of routes and maps for nearby camping on the Cycle Wild website, although it looks like this route to the Sunset Falls Campground isn’t on there. Regardless, it’s sort of like going to Battleground Lake, but then adding on a whole bunch of awesome biking along the Lewis River.

lewis river(ye old Lewis River. We took an unpaved biking/hiking path along this that was absolutely spectacular)

lucia falls(breaktime to check out Lucia Falls. Super awesome to have all these loaded bikes in one spot!:)

We got to our campsite around 6pm, plenty of time to set up our various tents/bivys/hammocks/whatever, change into dry clothes, check out Sunset Falls, try to build a fire with wet wood, make dinner, and otherwise hang out. Though we all biked out together, people left at different times in the morning according to how early they woke up and how long they wanted to hang out. I’ll admit that basically everything I owned was pretty darn wet by the time I got home on Sunday, but, again, that’s basically what I expect from a camping trip in April in the Northwest. I’m super psyched to have been out this weekend to inaugurate the camping season.

My camera stopped working partway through the trip, but I do have more pretty mediocre pictures here.

Awesome work, Cycle Wild! :)

Bike camping season: begin!

Ha! You guys probably think I’m a crazy person (and maybe I am, I suppose:), but now that I’m back in Portland, I’m immediately leaving again!

Just for the weekend, though: a camping trip with Cycle Wild to Sunset Falls in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I’m super psyched since I’ve often meant to go on a trip with these fools–other people who want to be in nature on their bicycles? yes please!–but have never had the appropriate time off (the downside of often working weekends during camping season).

And I’m excited to get bike camping kicked off for 2013. Bring it!

So yeah. Check back after this weekend for fun stories about an extended spring break and then subsequent camping! And think happy thoughts for the weather to not be too heinous! :)