Portland is a city built for biking, with 150 miles of bike lanes and extensive off-road paths. Then there’s the 40-Mile Loop, a network of paths encircling the city that evolved from the vision of celebrated landscape architect John Charles Olmsted. The city has grown in the 25 years since the paths were created, and while the full network is still called the 40-Mile Loop, it’s now closer to 140 miles long. It’s currently about two-thirds complete, stretching from the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers east to Troutdale and south to Johnson Creek.
The four easy to moderate rides we explore here are a great introduction to the 40-Mile Loop. They’re primarily on paved, multiuse paths separated from traffic; other than road crossings and weaving among pedestrians on weekends, it’s clear cycling.
For more information on any of these rides, contact Portland Parks & Recreation ( www.portlandparks.org or 503/823-2223); it has free maps of the Springwater Corridor trail system. Another good resource is the Bike There map ($6), available at many Portland area bike shops or from Metro ( www.metro-region.org/bikemap or 503/797-1742).
1 Willamette Greenway
Cruise along the Willamette River on this grand tour of central Portland.
BIKE ROUTE: From Willamette Park, follow the Willamette Greenway trail north to either the Hawthorne or the Steel Bridge; cross the river and head south on the Eastbank Esplanade. Then head east on S.E. Caruthers St. and south on S.E. Fourth Ave. to S.E. Ivon St., where you can pick up the newest section of the Springwater Corridor path. Follow this path to S.E. Spokane St. and cross the river again on the Sellwood Bridge’s narrow sidewalk (ride cautiously), and continue north back to Willamette Park. (At the Macadam Bay Club, you’ll need to turn right, then make a quick left to stay on the path.)
DISTANCE: 8 or 10 miles, depending on whether you cross the Hawthorne or the Steel Bridge.
START: You can begin this ride at almost any point in the loop. We like to start at Willamette Park ($3 day-use fee; S.W. Macadam Ave. and Nebraska St.).
2 Peninsula Crossing and Kelley Point Park
From Kelley Point Park in north Portland, follow the Columbia River southeast to the public art installation at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant.
BIKE ROUTE: From Kelley Point Park, ride briefly north to the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, then head southeast on N.E. Marine Dr. alongside Smith and Bybee Lakes Wildlife Area. Turn southwest on the Peninsula Crossing trail, which parallels N. Portland Rd. At the bike bridge, ride over the Columbia Slough. Visit the outdoor art installation and from there continue to the railroad tracks, where you can turn around and backtrack to Kelley Point Park.
DISTANCE: 7 miles round-trip.
START: Park at one of the two free lots at Kelley Point Park (N. Marine Dr. and Lombard St.).
3 Marine Drive
Watch planes land not quite on top of you as you follow a raised dike between the Columbia River and Portland International Airport.
BIKE ROUTE: The off-road trail starts atop a dike, then dips down toward the river level. Turn around at the I-205 bridge; more experienced riders may want to continue another 5 1/2 miles on a combination of off-street paths and bike lanes to Blue Lake Park.
DISTANCE: 8 miles round-trip to the I-205 bridge and back.
START: Park at M. James Gleason Boat Ramp ($4 per vehicle; off N.E. Marine Dr. east of N.E. 43rd Ave.).
4 Springwater Corridor
Cycle along the central portion of Portland’s longest off-road path, which runs uninterrupted for 14 miles. On the way, catch enticing glimpses of distant Mt. Hood and gurgling Johnson Creek just off the trail.
BIKE ROUTE: From the Johnson Creek trailhead, pedal east to Main City Park (off Powell Blvd. in Gresham). Return the way you came.
DISTANCE: 20 miles round-trip to Main City Park and back. If this is too big a chunk, turn around at any point.
START: Start at the Johnson Creek trailhead (off Johnson Creek Blvd. near S.E. 45th Ave.).