Distance: c. 60-mile loop
Elevation gain: c. 2500 ft
A shorter version of this ride is included in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon: the Best Road Biking Routes from Mountaineers Books.
The Willamette (“wuh LAM ut,” famously mispronounced by President Bartlet in The West Wing) Valley is among the prettiest farming valleys in the USA. It’s flat, roads go everywhere, and they’re mostly straight and all pretty much the same, so it’s all about rolling along and drinking in the ambiance. All Oregon ride guides have Willamette Valley rides, and usually they strive to string together as many covered bridges as possible (it’s easy to find routes with 5-6 of them). Nothing wrong with that. But I like a little climbing, a little forest, so this ride takes you through the heart of valley, then does a fine climb into the hills on the east side to a pretty falls and and returns via a nice descent. There’s about 9 miles of climbing, all easy except for 1 mile of 7%, so overall it’s an easy day.
I was introduced to this ride by the weekend version of Cycle Oregon, that massive, wonderful, annual introduction to the glories of Oregon cycling. Check them out.
(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)
Ride from Salem to Silverton (15 miles by highway) via the map’s roads. Or you can wander, since all roads in the valley are pretty much the same—just stay off the big road, Hwy 213. From Silverton, ride to Silver Falls State Park via Rd #214, Silver Falls Drive. This leg begins with an easy (3-5%) 8-mile climb that will get you up out of the valley and into the lush Oregon rain forest (at least it was pouring rain when I was there). Silver Falls themselves are a very pretty falls you can view from a turn-out if you don’t want to get off your bike. If you’re not in a hurry, the State Park is a fully developed area with an extensive hiking-trail system—most famously the Trail of Ten Falls—and a four-mile paved bike path, all well worth a lengthy stop if you brought your walking shoes and bike lock.
Continue on and the road (now Silver Falls Highway) brings you back down out of the hills and returns you to the valley. Work your way back to Salem via our map’s roads.
Shortening the route: Begin in Silverton and ride the Falls loop.
Adding miles: There is no end to the mileage you can rack up exploring the farm roads of the Willamette Valley, but I warn you it’s all more of the same. Plus covered bridges.