If your pedal pusher’s tricycle is a thing of the past, he or she is ready to move from the sidewalk to a real trail (training wheels or not!). A bicycle ride is one of the best outdoor family activities, so strap on your helmets and hop on — we have six bike trails that will fit even the youngest cyclists with minimal elevation gain.
The Trolley Trail
Starting from the Jefferson Boat Ramp in Milwaukie, beginning cyclists can get a taste for what road riding has to offer – without actually getting on the road. The Trolley Trail runs along McLoughlin Boulevard, but is completely separate. Be sure to let your kid stop to watch the geese who gather near the Willamette River. The trail also crosses a few signaled intersections, which gives you the opportunity to teach some traffic safety. More information on this trail can be found online at hhpr.com.
Watch out for… Goose poop. It’s all over the first hundred feet of the trail. If little siblings are tagging along, consider keeping them in a stroller.
Fanno Creek Trail
If you’re looking for a secluded, shady path devoid of adrenaline-driven adult cyclists, check out the Fanno Creek Trail in the Garden Home neighborhood of Fanno Creek Park/Denney Road trailhead is located in the NW part of the park, just west of Hwy. 217, on the southside of Denney Road. Look for the big fish bike rack. Once on the trail, you’ll enjoy the gentle hills and turns that take you through the woods, over Fanno Creek and all the way to the Burgerville on Scholls Ferry Road for a treat before you head back to the parking lot. Details can be found online at thprd.org.
Watch out for… Blackberry bushes galore! If you are riding in mid- to late summer, be sure to stop and pick a few berries off those prickly vines that border the trail.
photo: Sam Saunders via flickr creative commons
Marine Drive Bike Trail
This 12-mile long trail that runs along the Columbia River and Marine Drive in North Portland makes for a pretty bike commute. It also offers beginning bicyclists a smooth, straight trail and plenty to look at between the river and the water fowl that gather there, and the sailboats that float by. Skip past the industrial areas and access the trial at NE 185 Drive for a more serene experience and make it a goal to reach the Chinook Landing Marine Park so the kids can check out the boats. Find more info on this trail online at rideoregonride.com.
Watch out for… Speedy bike commuters that don’t always give you much warning to move to the side. This is a good opportunity to teach your kids to stay to the right of the bike trail and pass slower traffic on the left.
photo: Richard Masoner via flickr creative commons
The northernmost part of this trail takes bike commuters from the southeast Portland neighborhoods of Westmoreland and Sellwood toward downtown. Skip this part of the trail. Instead, access it at the bottom of SE 18th Avenue in the southernmost part of Sellwood and ride east where there is much less bike traffic. Let the kids take a pit stop at the Tideman Johnson Natural Area to have a snack, stick their feet in cool Johnson Creek or run around. Be sure to watch for colorful feathered friends along the way. Details can be found online at portlandonline.com.
Watch out for… Jogging strollers and hikers. While this section of the trail is less busy, it’s still a multi-use trail and cyclists need to look out for others.
Willamette Greenway Trail
Access this trail by starting at the Old Spaghetti Factory on SW Bancroft and start heading west. When you reach the train tracks, turn south and follow the bike path until you see the big brick building on SW Moody Ave. Make a hard left and follow the bike trail all the way along the river. The trail follows right along the waterfront, so the views are hard to beat. With an abundance of trees and wildlife, you’ll hardly feel like you’re riding in the city. More information can be found online at portlandonline.com.
Watch out for… Runners and other cyclists. Because of this trail’s proximity to the park, it’s often filled with people checking out the river, so be sure your little ones know to look out for others.
photo: brx0 via flickr creative commons
Leif Erickson Drive
If your little mountain biker is ready to give off-road a try, take him to Leif Erickson Drive. Drive just off of NW 23rd Avenue and onto Thurman Street and park at the gate. The dirt trail is closed to motor vehicles yet offers a beautiful tour of northwest Portland’s Forest Park and views of the Willamette River and the city below. The trail is mostly smooth and gives kids a good first experience with climbing while riding a bike. Find out details online at rideoregonride.com.
Watch out for… Mountain bikers heading down too fast for such a family-friendly trail. For the most part, people are pretty courteous, but there are always a few outliers. If you are concerned how your child might fare, consider bringing him or her up behind you in a bike trailer or a trail-a-bike.
Where do you take your family biking around Portland? Tell us in the Comments below!
— Marianne Walters