Trask

The Coast Range on the quick and dirty

Overview

While not technically easy, this the most straightforward, easiest dirt route to the coast from Portland.   Starting from the end of the MAX line in Hillsboro, we route you through the least pavement possible to Mount Richmond and then on gravel up to the Barney Reservoir and along the North Fork of the Trask River directly into Tillamook.

Expect clear cuts, steep and loose gravel climbing, logging trucks, and plenty of pickups to keep you on your toes.  And despite all that, it’s still a little gem of a route and one of our all-time favorites.

At a glance

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Map

Details

Route

Obviously you can start this route anywhere in Portland, but we usually link it up with the end of the MAX line to cut out as much pavement as possible. From the MAX station you have several options to get yourself out to the start of the “real” riding. We prefer to just get the pavement out of the way as quickly as possible and ride on the wide shoulder along OR-8. Yes, it sucks, but it’s over pretty quickly and gives you a multitude of options for fueling up before hitting the business.

Seems everyone tries to outsmart us by cutting out the southern hook over Mt. Richmond, through Pike, and back up Turner Creek. While cutting straight west through Cherry Grove along Roaring Creek might look great on paper, trust us – it’s not worth getting lost on private land and ruining your weekend.  It’s also very clearly marked “No Trespassing” for whatever that’s worth.

This route is easily linked up with our Tillamook Baby Loaf and Toll Road routes (both coming soon!) to create a remote dirt loop to the coast and back.   If you’re riding it one-way, we suggest tying it in with the Wave bus back to Portland.   Reservations are recommended and make sure they know you’ll have a bike. The bus only holds two bikes on a front rack, but they’ve accommodated us in the past by putting another bike in the back.

This route is slightly easier, slightly less committing, and slightly less difficult to navigate than the Toll Road route. The Tillamook Baby Loaf route is a couple steps harder than this on all accounts. If you’re trying to decide which to ride – that’s how we’d grade them – Trask, Toll Road, Tillamook Baby Loaf – easiest to hardest.

Check out the route forum for the most up to date information

Services & Water

There is a multitude of services along OR-8 on the way out of town. Once you’re outside of Forest Grove the only real option is the Lake Stop Grocery at mile 11.   Expect corn dogs and chicken strips along with typical convenience store fare.

The first decent water en route is at the Barney Reservoir. From that point on expect a steady flow of creeks, streams, and rivers until you hit pavement at mile 50.   There is potable water at the Trask River County Park (just off route near mile 50), but for whatever reason it has a very strong, unpleasant sulfur taste.

Cell service drops off dramatically once you get near the Coast Range. Expect little-to-no cell service from approximately miles 16-58.

Camping

The best bush camping options are along the North Fork of the Trask River between miles 38.5 and 50 and one special little spot just off-route near mile 37 (marked on the Ride With GPS map). Other than that special camping spot, expect some big-truck hillbilly action near your campsite.

Lots of folks camp at the Barney Reservoir even though it’s technically off limits. Obviously we won’t recommend you break the law, but you won’t be the only one if you do. There’s a trail along part of lake that parallels the road that could provide access to some off-the-road spots that could be nice.

If you prefer organized camping, the only option on the route is the Trask River County Park (just off route near mile 50).  Other further flung options could include Cape Meares and other State Park campgrounds out towards the coast.

Navigation

We highly recommend picking up the Tillamook State Forest Map. It is by far the most accurate map you can find for this area. Do not try and rely on Google Maps or even our favorite Benchmark Oregon Road & Recreation Atlas for this or any unpaved route in the area – neither are worth a lick in the Coast Range.

If you are good with a map you can conceivably ride this route without a GPS. Some of the intersections between miles 31 and 50 can be confusing, so we generally recommend navigating with a GPS.

Bike & Tire Selection

Despite all the pavement, we still recommend the usual rigid 29er (or similar) with ~2” tires with some tread.  The rougher sections of the route demand it, though it will admittedly be less than ideal on the long paved sections.

Route Alternatives

Things change rapidly in the Coast Range. Active logging is a fact of life and with it comes constant re-grading and re-routing of the main roads. Because of that we put you on the most consistent route along the Trask towards Tillamook. Yes, there are a couple better alternatives along parts of the route, but whether they are better tomorrow or the next day is up in the air. This route is as reliable as it gets in the Coast Range.

If you’re feeling adventurous, a typically better option up to the Barney Reservoir involves taking the Old Railroad Grade out towards Fairdale, heading up Fairchild Creek and linking it up Flora Mainline to the North Fork Trask Road, like so.  The last time we were out that way they were actively logging on Fairchild Creek, but who knows what it’s like today…

Logging Roads

Riding on active logging roads requires special mention. First, and most obviously, get the hell out of the way of all logging trucks. This is not the time or place to take the lane or try and exert any sense of entitlement to the road. When a logging truck approaches from either direction, stop and get completely off the road. They move fast and may not even see you.  Wave and be respectful if they do. Regardless of how you feel about logging, these are nice, hardworking folks who could easily run you over before even realizing you’re there.

Second, at least part of this route travels through private Weyerhaeuser land. Current Weyerhaeuser rules allow bicycle travel as outlined on their website (you’ll be traveling through the North Valley section). This is a privilege, not a right.

You can also expect active logging throughout the Tillamook State Forest portions of the route.

Highlights, History & Other Resources

If you’re into historical fiction, I’d recommend Trask by Don Berry.  It’s about the life of Elbridge Trask, an early settler, mountain man, and fur trapper who’s the namesake for Trask Mountain and the Trask River.