Portland to South Lake Tahoe by bike: highlights in pictures

Yeah, yeah, we all know that I can never adequately write about a whole 20 days worth of adventure in one measly blog post. Regardless, as I put my pictures up online, I can’t help but try:)

So the best parts? Gosh, too many to count! I was reminded how much I adore finding places with good biking infrastructure:

(welcome to Eugene!:)

I biked all over Eugene even though I am totally unfamiliar with the city and had no map of it, simply because I could follow the bike signs and always find my way back. Biking infrastructure like that is so welcoming (not to mention a great economic investment on the city’s part), and such a nice reprieve from the often shoulderless roads that stretch between cities.

Bend was a pretty rad city too, not only because of some old family friends who live there and let me hang out with them for a few days–they even took me canoeing!:)–but also because no matter where you look up, there’s going to be some sort of beautiful mountain in the background.

(South Sister, for example, as seen from our canoe trip on Sparks Lake)

And leaving Bend, the Cascade Lakes Highway is even more amazing for mountains and lakes. Plus, almost everyone who drove past me had at least a bike or a kayak strapped in some way to their car. They all gave me plenty of room when they passed and were clearly were used to seeing (and being) bikes. That makes a huge difference for how pleasant it is to be on the road.

There was also some pretty amazing road construction equipment:

(are those parasols? And a lawn chair?)

I have no idea what that’s all about, but it looks like a party to me!

Crater Lake was definitely a humongous highlight. I’d been looking forward to biking around it since I left Portland, and it did not disappoint. In fact, I spent most of both days I was there unsure as to whether I was going to cry, laugh, sing, shout, dance, or simply explode because of how happy I was, how overwhelmed with gratitude and beauty. I took about 5 million pictures in my two Crater Lake days alone because every time I turned around I thought surely this is even more beautiful than the last picture I took!

(Crater Lake and Rim Road, 35 miles of hilly awesomeness)

Can you even believe that road? This is seriously one of the most amazing places I have ever been on my bike.

Oh, did I mention that I had great weather? It was cold in the mornings and at night, but the whole ride was sunny and lovely–even too hot sometimes during the California afternoons.

Speaking of California: the only way to get over the state border on a paved road (without going east to Klamath Falls) is to bike for a few miles on I-5. Yikes! I spent the first part of my trip dreading the day where I’d have to make my I-5 crossing. But then it turned out to be super mellow! There’s a huge shoulder separated by a rumble strip, and not too much traffic at 9am on a Saturday. In fact, it was downright pleasant until I got to this:


That’s right. I took the lane on I-5. It kind of scared me shitless at the time, but now in retrospect it makes me feel like a giant badass. heh.

I had some crazy headwinds for much of northern California, but the lovely views of Mt Shasta and some very nice waterfall hike stops made up for it. But the best part? Highway 89 through Lassen Volcanic National Park. The road there climbs all the way up to almost 8,700 feet, the highest point of my ride, and goes almost right over the park’s volcano namesake.

(nearing the summit and the shoulder of Lassen Peak)

Like Crater Lake, it’s another absolutely phenomenal ride–not only because the road is spectacular, with amazing views, but because there’s so much variety to what you can see there. For example, there’s a “geothermal area” called Bumpass Hell, named after a fellow (Mr. Bumpass. I kid you not) who lost his leg there after stepping through the earth and plunging into one of the boiling mudpits. The whole area is full of steaming hot springs and fumaroles, with a boardwalk to lead you by them safely. You can hike around and marvel at the vestiges of volcanic activity burbling and steaming about your feet, not to mention be astounded by all the crazy mineral colors.

(just don’t step off the trail and lose your leg like Mr. Bumpass)

After I left Lassen, the road, Highway 89 still, was actually pretty lame until I got to Truckee. Highlights included little if any shoulder and lots of logging trucks, plus a few bike issues to the tune of three flat tires and a broken spoke. But I made it safely to Tahoe, where my aunt and uncle let me camp on their beachfront property for a few days. I swam to my heart’s content, ran a few times, explored all over with my spunky, de-trailerified bike, woke up early every morning with two coyotes whose beach run I could set my watch to, and watched many amazing sunsets.

(yes, this actually does happen in real life!:)

And I even got to see (and be fed by:) my family in Sacramento at the end! And I coerced Mom into whipping out her own bike so we could take a ride down the American River Bike Trail, Sacramento’s greatest offering to bike recreation.

(aw, aren’t we cute?:)

The whole trip ended up being somewhere just under 1,000 miles. Remember that I don’t have an odometer or any sort of GPS on my bike, so that’s my best estimate from adding up the mileages on all my different maps and detours. I followed the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway down almost to Eugene, the McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway from Eugeneish to Sisters, and the Adventure Cycling Association’s Sierra Cascades route south from Sisters, with my own improvisations to stitch the routes together, take a few side trips, and get from Truckee (where I left the Sierra Cascades route) to South Lake Tahoe. I have a lot of thoughts about and pictures from these places, so keep your eyes on the old blogeroo and I’ll post about some of them as I have time.

If you’re already champing for more pictures–there are many, many, many pictures–I’ve got some up now with the rest to come. As always, they’re hanging out over at my flickr site. Take a look and get psyched for your own bike adventure:)


  1. Awesome! Maybe you mentioned it elsewhere…but how’d you (and the bike/trailer) get back to Portland?

    • Ha! Funny (and somewhat sad) story. I really wanted to take the train, but between boxing my bike, dismantling and boxing my trailer, finding something else to put all my traveling stuff in, and then paying the luggage fees on top of the already super expensive train ticket, it was significantly cheaper to just rent a car and haul all my stuff back up that way. Isn’t that lame?

      If I’d had more time, I would have biked:)

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