Cycling Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Posted By: Pierre Campana-Jourda | Feb. 16 2016

If you Google “Willamette Valley” the first thing that pops up is Willamette Valley Wineries. The rest of the page is also dedicated to variations on that theme – winery tours, bicycle tours, vineyards, etc…

Yes, the Willamette Valley is a reputable source for outstanding wines, particularly of the Pinot varietal but that’s not all the Willamette Valley has going for it! While Napa and Sonoma is the chic and shiny older sibling of the Willamette Valley, the Valley proudly wears its Wild West-ness as a badge of honor. If you visit, you can bring a map but that won’t necessarily aid you, particularly if you are riding a bike, because that smooth paved road you were contentedly riding on for 45 minutes could turn into a wild and rugged path of dusty gravel.

Old, crumbling farmhouses stand as lopsided reminders that nature is still in charge in the Willamette Valley. The long expanses of patchwork gold and green prairie, with the occasional modest house or farm in between, feels like a throwback to Little House on the Prairie (minus the horse-drawn carriages).

The remoteness of certain parts of the Willamette Valley makes it an attractive destination for cyclists who truly want an immersion in nature. The Willamette Valley is a 150 mile long valley divided into North and South.
Independent riders can choose to ride the Southern Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, which explores more of the Southern part of the Valley and was the first of now 14 scenic bikeways to be designated in the state. It spans 134 miles, begins in Champoeg (sounds like shampooey) State Heritage Area — about 40 miles southwest of Portland — and ends in Eugene. The bikeway is a series of roads marked as road shares for cyclists to get from point A to point B.

Those who desire a bike tour can get the best of both worlds (that shabby chic charm) if they choose a bike tour in the Northern Willamette Valley. Small towns, local culture, and the possibility of sticking with the remote back roads or heading straight into the heart of the winery region that’s growing in sophistication is attracting a wide spectrum of cyclists. The Northern Willamette Valley boasts the 21 mile Banks Vernonia Rail Trail (one of our LifeCycle Adventures) routes, which is a terrific way to start a multi-day bike tour. The trail is 21 miles of completely traffic free riding along the rail trail from Vernonia to Banks. During the later summer the path is lined with fragrant wild blackberry bushes.

Forest Grove, Carlton, and Silverton are three pocket sized towns in the Northern Willamette Valley that offer relief from daily hustle and bustle, where you can get a local beer or glass of local wine and get to know the locals. There’s something undeniably enchanting and profoundly relaxing about the small town vibe. LifeCycle Adventures can set up your Willamette Valley cycling itinerary so that all you need to do is pedal. Now that’s what vacation is truly all about!