Whether your kids are just learning to wobble with training wheels or ready to zoom around at high speeds, spend this summer out on those wheels! While Portland is a super bike-friendly city, it can be hard to know where to go for new riders. We’ve rounded up some of the best beginner bike trails around. They’re all away from traffic, in gorgeous areas, and can be as long or short as you need. Read on for more!

photo: ian via flickr

Waterfront Park Loop/Eastbank Esplanade

Possibly the city’s signature bike ride, looping around the Willamette with bridges, skyscrapers, fountains, and a floating bike path. There are plenty of bridges to choose from when you’re reading to cross like the Steel Bridge, Hawthorne, or best of all–Tilikum Bridge, which doesn’t allow cars. There are lots of options for breaks, with two fountains on the downtown side, and on the other side you’ll find OMSI or the floating bike path –perfect for dipping hot feet into the river!

Distance: approximately 6 miles looped, easy to cut into shorter parts
Location: Downtown Portland
Online: portlandoregon.gov

Marine Drive Trail

A flat, wide, straight trail great for beginners, running right alongside the Columbia River. This is part of Portland’s 40 Mile Loop, but it’s super easy to access anywhere for a quick ride. On a nice weekend you can expect it to be busy with fast riders, but otherwise it’s a great place to practice bike skills. The western side starts at Kelley Point Park and goes through some industrial areas. Another good option is to start at Blue Lake Regional Park, where you can end your day with some splash pad fun!

Distance: 17 miles one-way
Location: NE Portland
Online: traillink.com

photo: chidi via pixababy

Banks-Vernonia Trail

This forested path west of Portland is Oregon’s first rails-to-trails, running from the towns of Banks to Vernonia. Once a set of train tracks to haul lumber, it’s now a beautiful flat path through bird songs and ferns, and over 13 trestle bridges. Six different trailheads allow access along the way, including LL Stub Stewart State Park. The small town of Vernonia prides itself on being bike-friendly and has plenty of options for hungry riders, big or small.

Distance: 21 miles one way
Location: West of Portland, Vernonia
Online: oregonstateparks.org

Springwater Trail

This trail winds along Johnson Creek, jumping back and forth along at least 10 bridges on it’s way out to Gresham. You can start either downtown at the Willamette River, or jump on the trail from several parks and other access points like Beggars-Tick Wildlife Refuge, Leach Botanical Gardens, Powell Butte Park, and Gresham’s Main City Park. The wide paved path is easy to follow and nice and flat for all levels of riders. If your older kids are ready for a challenge, tell them you’re going to ride all the way to where the trail ends at Boring, Oregon, to see if it matches up with it’s name!

Distance: 21 miles one-way, though it’s easy to cut into shorter bits
Location: Downtown Portland through Gresham to Boring
Online: portlandoregon.gov

photo: via pixabay

Trolley Trail

An urban interpretation of a rails to trails, this 6 mile path follows an old streetcar route from Milwaukie to Gladstone. The path has roots way back in 1893! Today it winds through neighborhoods and parks. Start at Riverfront Park in Milwaukie and follow the paved path as far you’d like. Several parks along the way make great stopping points, and the trail ends in Gladstone, or can be easily extended to Oregon City.

6 miles one-way
Location: Milwaukie Riverfront Park to Gladstone
Online: ncprd.com

Fanno Creek Trail

Winding through Greenway Park near Washington Square in Beaverton, Fanno Creek Trail is  really great for anyone just starting out. It’s a short trail at 1.8 miles one way, making it perfect for a quick out and back ride. The paved path is flat and is mainly in parks and along the creek, with plenty of trees and occasional shade. The trail continues through several communities if you’re willing to connect the paths, but for a beginner jaunt, just stick with the park section.

1.8 miles one way
Location: Scholls Ferry to Denny Rd, through Greenway Park, Beaverton
Online: accesstrails.org

photo: vsp via flickr

Champoeg State Park Trails

Take this path when you need to bribe the kids with ice cream! Not that you’d ever need to do that, of course. The 4 miles of paved path winds through Champoeg State Heritage Area, where early settlers to Oregon held their provisional government. You’ll ride through wildflower meadows, riverbanks, and forests on a path that never feels too busy. Off-path, you can dig into history at old farmsteads and interpretive centers. And if the kids make it to the very end, they’ll find the seasonal Historic Butteville Store, Oregon’s oldest general store, serving up ice cream and other treats!

Distance: up to 4 miles of trails
Location: 5 miles south of Newberg, OR
Cost: $5 vehicle pass required
Online: oregonstateparks.org

Row River Trail, Eugene

Another rails-to-trails path, this one adds some extra interest with some of Oregon’s oldest covered bridges! Starting in Cottage Grove just outside Eugene, the trails heads east for about 16 miles, ending just past Dorena Lake. You’ll ride through three covered bridges and about four others that span the Row River and smaller creeks. For a short fun ride, start at the Mosby Creek trailhead and covered bridge and ride 1.5 miles to Currin Bridge, also covered.

Distance: 15.6 miles one-way
Location: outside Eugene, OR in Cottage Grove
Online: cottagegrove.org

photo: baudman via flickr


Sunday Parkways

Every year Portland throws 5-6 Sunday Parkway events in various neighborhoods. On these days, a 5-7 mile loop is shut down to cars, leaving a free path for family cyclists to get out on the streets and enjoy. The routes always have park stops built in with food carts, games, bike repair, and a festive atmosphere to add to the fun. Whether your little ones are zooming around or are just learning how to peddle, it’s an easy fun way to get out on the bike and see how fun it can be.

Online: portlandoregon.gov

—Katrina Emery


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