Bikepacking along the rivers: Clackamas, Breitenbush & Santiam

Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway

We just came back from our most recent bikepacking trip.  We followed the newly designated Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway along the Clackamas and Breitenbush rivers, starting in Gresham, and finished by following the Santiam to Lyons and then along wonderful backroads into Corvallis.  Except for 15 miles of windy, winding, steeply downhill, two-lane highway (HWY 22 from Detroit to Gates), the roads were wonderful — low-traffic and scenic.


An unlikely county campground next to Lyons, Oregon.





We camped along the Clackamas the first night at a USFS campsite, then spent two nights (along with delicious food) at Breitenbush Hot Springs and the final night at a County campground at Lyons — a particularly beautiful campground right on the Santiam and very much feeling further away from a town than you are.  But with the benefits of a hearty diner breakfast in the morning!

The route was beautiful — full of quiet roads, burbling rivers and wonderful weather. If you want to do the entire route we did, I do recommend coming north to south so that you are traversing the hellish HWY 22 downhill.  I can’t completely recommend the route because of this section, but if you are used to such riding, then 15 of 170 miles being unpleasant isn’t so bad.


The entry we wish we’d taken to Breitenbush.

The only suggestion I would offer is for Breitenbush Hot Springs, which does not seem to expect people to arrive by bicycle at all.  Their suggested directions take you over a few miles (or what feels like a few miles) of rather hilly and very gravelly roads complete with rather clueless drivers who think they don’t need to slow down to pass you in such conditions.  However, there is a much flatter entry for the staff that is gated but is easily bypassed on a bicycle.  On this map, Breitenbush wants you to arrive by way of the National Forest Development Roads.  However, Breitenbush Road connects to the compound and is the road on their Grounds Map that passes just north of the community village.  Since this is part of a recommended hiking trail, I am sure they wouldn’t mind bicycle campers arriving this way.  You may want to ask directions once there to the check-in booth.

Not to criticize Breitenbush, but I do wish they were a little more open-minded in their directions.  After all, they promote their renewable micro-hydro energy sources and (delicious!) all-vegetarian cuisine, but begin with arriving by air, then car, with no mention even of their car-pool list on the direction page.  Would it hurt to recommend that people take the train to Salem?  Or the Valley Retriever to Detroit?  Then arrange for carpooling from there?  Or finish the 10 miles from Detroit to the hot springs by bike or foot?

Other than my usual disappointment in the car-default nature of this society, the trip was wonderful and amazingly relaxing.