I didn’t exactly set out with a goal of riding all the Scenic Bikeways in Oregon, but it does sort of seem like somewhere along the line I’ve gone in that direction. Perhaps mostly because they’re a good excuse to get out somewhere that I might not otherwise go (like Cottage Grove, for example), to explore roads that I might not otherwise know existed.
Whatever the reason, when I had about two and a half consecutively free days last week, I decided to make a trip first down to Eugene, which I’m quickly falling in love with, and then to Cottage Grove a little further south to ride the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway.
This might be one of my favorite bikeways so far (though hard to say, really, since so many of them are so lovely:). The first 17 miles of it are on a dedicated bike path, totally separate from traffic except for a few road crossings. Though check this: unlike in Portland on the Springwater Corridor, say, you don’t necessarily have to stop when you get to a road crossing, just yield.
But lack of stop signs aside, the bike path is also totally awesome in its own right. It begins by simply feeling like a really nice, urbanish bike path, and then starts to feel increasingly like you’re somewhere remote in the beautiful woods. Despite the misty and somewhat gloomy day, the fall colors were beautiful, the world quiet and peaceful in the bedding-down-for-winter kind of way.
(I guess you’re never actually that far from a road, but it starts to feel much more remote, especially as you get near Dorena Lake)
While I was on the bike path, I actually caught myself forgetting a few times that the main attraction for this scenic bikeway is the covered bridges–that’s how nice the bike path was, enough to actually forget how excited I was for all the bridges! :) But don’t worry, there sure are a lot of covered bridges that you either go right past or actually get to bike through.
(the Dorena covered bridge is apparently a popular wedding site–at least, according to the RideOregonRide bikeway site:)
(and the Chambers covered bridge is the last covered railroad bridge extant in Oregon. Though no one actually uses it now except for tourists like me:)
After a short out-and-back section to Culp Creek park (mostly just a parking lot with a gross pit toilet), the bikeway returns to Cottage Grove via some lovely, rolling roads along the other side of Dorena Lake–though if you wanted to stay traffic-free you could certainly make it an out-and-back entirely on the bike path (though that means you’d miss the Dorena and Stewart covered bridges).
And then once you’re back at Cottage Grove, there’s one last little section that takes you through the city proper, to the Chamber and Centennial bridges and a cute little main street with shops, murals, restaurants. I actually did the main street part of the bikeway first since I wanted to get a sense of what Cottage Grove was like before I took off on the rest of the bikeway, though it turns out that the Cottage Grove inset map I printed from RideOregonRide didn’t exactly mesh with the real bikeway signs posted (though no worries; Cottage Grove is small is basically impossible to get lost in).
All told, it’s a pretty amazing ride–and at just under 38 miles, totally rideable in a super mellow day. (For that matter, it’s also rideable from Eugene, though that makes it closer to a 100-mile day;) There is public transit available between Eugene and Cottage Grove as well.)
And the extra super awesome bonus? On the cue sheet, there’s a random little side note when you get to the end of the bike path at Culp Creek. To continue on the scenic bikeway, you simply turn around and go back the way you came for a few miles. But the cue sheet also cryptically mentions “2 miles on Row River Rd to Wildwood Falls.” Wildwood Falls? I had to see what that was about–and sure enough, if you follow the road for about 10 more minutes (there’s also a marked left turn involved), you get to a waterfall!
(the 15 or so minutes I spent here were coincidentally also the only 15 sunnyish minutes of the day:)
So the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway? 5 stars from me:)
This was perhaps the last adventure of the season that I’ll have (relatively) good weather, and I’m glad to have spent it on roads new to me, roads with covered bridges:)
(Interested in more pictures, both of the scenic bikeway and biking in Eugene? Check them here.)