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Springwater Corridor/Eastbank Esplanade
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Heading North on the Springwater TrailWhat’s to Love: This is one of the best and most accessible bike paths within a short distance from downtown Portland. The Springwater Corridor trail “…is the major southeast segment of the 40-Mile Loop which was inspired by the 1903 Olmsted plan of a parkway and boulevard loop to connect park sites. The eventual developed trail will be over 21 miles long” (source). If you’re a southeast Portland resident, you’re probably very familiar with biking along this trail. Whether it’s making your way to the Sellwood Bridge, Oaks Amusement Park, OMSI or downtown Portland, this is your ticket to a great family ride.

Roller Blading Heading North by Oaks Amusement ParkOf course, you could ride various sections of this trail with your family. However, you can make a nice 1/2 day out of combining the Springwater Corridor trail with the Eastbank Esplanade. The Eastbank Esplanade trail, when combined with the waterfront trail on the west side of the Willamette, forms a nice 3 mile loop. The trails form a loop between the Steel bridge on the north and the Hawthorne Bridge on the south. By parking your car somewhere near the Sellwood neighborhood, you can add a nice section of the Springwater trail to the mix.

The section of the Springwater from SE Spokane (right by the Sellwood Bridge) to OMSI is a delightful ride – nice and flat for beginning bike riders, rollerbladers and/or walkers. If you want to combine activities, you can ride your bikes to Oaks Amusement Park, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, OMSI or even into downtown Portland.  Here is a short clip riding along the Esplanade going over the Hawthorne Bridge.

Trailer BikeCaveats: This section gets a bit crowded on nice days, especially during the winter months when people are starving for a little sunshine. I consider this a great family trail, but watch out for hard-core bikers in packs – they often fly through this section going 20+ miles per hour. Therefore, I recommend keeping a close eye on kids. The trail is not wide enough on busy days, and toddler’s movements are often hard to predict.

Technically, this isn’t a “loop ride,” but you can make it one by coming back through the Sellwood neighborhoods.

Website: Portland Parks and Recreation Springwater Corridor

Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade

Distance from Portland: This section is within 3 miles of downtown Portland

Recommended Ages: A great section for all ages – kids in strollers or carriers, kids on training wheels or “like-a-bikes,” beginners, teens, parents, hard-core bikers.

Parental Stress Factor: Low to Medium – I wouldn’t rate it high, not even on the busiest of days, but you do have to watch your kids closely (keep right!). Make sure you stay in your respective lane and be conscious of other riders. We have almost been hit, but it was our fault for not looking back.

Physical Difficulty: Not too bad…sometimes, you can get a stiff wind, but for the most part, this is a flat ride with a couple uphill sections here and there.

Family Fun Factor: Medium to High – depends on how much you bike as a family. We are on our bikes almost every day in the summer. Luckily the terrain is pretty flat most of the time. Portland is such a great town in which to ride bikes. Have fun!

Pet Friendly: This is a decent trail for walking a dog, but a leash is an absolute necessity. Off-leash dogs are unpredictable and could easily end-up in front of a fast moving bike.

Weather Considerations: Year round – rain or shine!

Insider Info: Sellwood Park is one of our favorite parks and is located just above Oaks Amusement park. If you bring some food, this is a great spot for an afternoon picnic. Our favorite place to park is in the Oaks Wildlife Refuge parking area off SE Milwaukie Ave. You’ll have a nice downhill ride into Oaks Bottom where you can head toward OMSI and downtown Portland, or take a left and head south into Sellwood.

Family Tips: Before you make any lane changes, always look back to see who might be coming up fast behind you. Some bikers are traveling at 20+ miles per hour without bells. If you suddenly run into the other lane without looking, they might not have time to get out of the way. It’s great that it’s a multi-use trail, but when toddlers on training wheels are using the same lane as amateur cyclists, you have the potential for problems.

There are pullouts and benches along the way. Bring some snacks and plenty of water or juice for the ride.

Technorati Tags: biking with kids, biking in Portland, Springwater Corridor, paved bike paths in Portland, Eastbank Esplanade, Vera Katz, floating bike and walking path, Hawthorne Bridge, Steel Bridge, loop hike, Willamette River

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