(Photos by Hudson Henry)
After I shared a story about a recent ride in Forest Park, I heard from many readers with fun routes of their own. The story and photos come to us from southwest Portland resident Hudson Henry.
Do you desperately need a mountain bike ride, but don’t have the time to get to the coast range or Gorge? Do you close your eyes and picture that knobby tire leading you carefree through the woods? When I feel the stress build up and really need a quick dirt ride, I head out Highway 30 to the northern reaches of Forrest Park. While the legal riding there is technically on firelanes, the northern lanes are often very rugged and trail like.
My favorite little six-mile loop starts by climbing up Firelane 12 from Harborton Drive. Quickly you leave the hustle and bustle of Highway 30 behind in exchange for a narrow, overgrown double-track climbing through deep woods. The only sound aside from your tires and labored breathing are the wind in the leaves and birdcalls. After clearing a few trail obstructions and steep short uphill grinds, stay left at the fork by Miller Creek. Now pace yourself for the steep climb up to the junction with BPA road.
The junction with BPA’s power line road is just above its notoriously steep and muddy section. Turning right, follow this well-graded gravel road up the final bit of your 1,000 foot climb to Skyline Boulevard. Popping back into civilization for a moment you take a left on Skyline and follow it to Newton Road. Watch for cars coming the other way as you descend this steep narrow, twisting gravel road to the Newton Parking lot and head straight through the gate and back onto a rough dirt road through deep woods.
Now you are one very short but steep climb from the best part. Drop your saddle and prepare to descend. Newton’s decent starts as a fast narrow dirt road down a steep ridge with sweeping turns and trail features to play on. As it descends to the creek below it becomes narrower, rougher, and more overgrown until you find yourself on a technical, twisty trail demanding every bit of your attention and skill. The creek crossing resembles a technical trials course. This may have once been a road, but no car has gotten through this maze of dirt, roots, and stone in a very long time.
All good things must come to an end. As the trail widens and drops back down to Highway 30 less than half a mile from your starting point, you can’t help but wonder to yourself… “Do I have time for another loop before dark?”
My friend Jeremy and I have ridden this loop or variations including it too many times to count. It never fails to put a smile on our faces. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Hopefully soon Portlanders will have good singletrack to ride close to home, but for now the northern park is my favorite quick fix.
(Hudson also shared this handy map for reference)