Bikes & Birds: A Tour of Oregon’s Tualatin Valley by Bicycle
COVID-19 note: Masks are required in outdoor areas where physical distancing is not possible.
Where does your bike take you? Find the perfect ride along the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway. Intermediate and advanced riders love not only this scenic bike trail, but also the intriguing spots along the way.
We’ve coupled this gorgeous ride with some of the region’s best birdwatching spots to create the perfect itinerary for you. While there are fewer species flying around Oregon’s Tualatin Valley during this time of year, there is no shortage of spectacular birds to spot.
Start your journey along the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway at the south end of the bike trail at Rood Bridge Park and Rhododendron Garden — about a half-hour’s drive from Portland. The park is worth exploring in its own right. The garden provides a rather Zen atmosphere with the sounds of Tualatin River and the soft coos and caws of local inhabitants.
While you ride along the route, take note of the gorgeous acres of farmlands and watch for crop signs, which take the guesswork out of which crops are being grown at each farm.
Stop at Unger Farms and enjoy a sandwich or berry treat from the Berry Cafe. A farmers’ market favorite, this family-owned farm grows several varieties of the region’s most sought-after berries. After a bite, pick strawberries to snack on during your ride.
Along your ride, keep your eye out for the quilt barns that comprise the Quilt Barn Trail. Each quilt block tells the story of the farm and the families that work the farms.
The Bikeway will direct you to Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove. This popular birding spot has been recently renovated and features a 1.1-mile loop trail around the wetland, as well as a gorgeous water garden designed by famed landscape architect Hoichi Kurisi.
As you continue your ride through the valley, be sure to visit downtown Forest Grove, where the Main Street greets you with a eclectic selection of restaurants, from Peruvian to pizza.
After refueling in Forest Grove, the Bikeway takes you to the city of Banks, leading you to trailhead to the famed Banks-Vernonia State Trail, a 21-mile car-free trail along an abandoned railway. This majestic ride takes cyclists through forests and over trestles for an awe-inspiring journey.
Did you know?
The best time to view wildlife is during the most active times for the birds and animals: dawn and dusk.
Ditch the bike, and set out by car along part of the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route, which showcases this special commingling of farmland and natural areas along its 60-mile drive through the serene Oregon countryside.
Jump start the morning at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, home to nearly 200 species of birds, more than 50 species of mammals, 25 species of reptiles and amphibians, and a variety of insects, fish and plants. Explore the Wildlife Center, the nature store and the one-mile trail that meanders through the refuge, providing great photography opportunities along the way.
Enjoy breakfast at the South Store Café, a quaint country cafe situated in the heart of Tualatin Valley’s agricultural area. The sweet yellow building is a cozy lunch spot for farmers, winemakers and visitors alike. From old-timey meatloaf to health-conscience matcha lattes, this cafe is a must-stop location for any visit to Tualatin Valley.
Cross the street and stop at Smith Berry Barn. This historic barn houses aromatic candles, lotions, honey and teas. Basically, it’s a delicious heaven. Surrounding the barn store, seasonal u-pick and garden wares tempt even those with a black thumb.
If your trip falls in June or July, then take a quick detour off the route and follow the scent of lavender to Mountainside Lavender Farm. Lavender fields are good for the soul. Bring the fragrance home with you by way of Mountainside’s massage oil, eye pillows and lip balm (all made with lavender from the farm).
Continue along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route, stopping at farms to pick berries, estate wineries to sample a flight of Oregon wine, or to revel at the historic attractions along the route.
One must-see stop, however, is Helvetia Tavern. One bite from a Helvetia burger, and you will see why it continually lands on the top 10 list of best burgers around. This no-frills restaurant focuses on traditional, simple burgers, grilled sandwiches, fries and onion rings. For the vegetarians and pescatarians, the tavern has meat-free options, as well as fish and chips. Bring cash, as the tavern does not accept credit cards.
Before the sun begins to set, travel to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, a 725-acre wildlife preserve with 4.5 miles of trails, wildlife viewing blinds and picture-perfect views. This truly is one of the best places in the valley to spot winged wildlife.
Download these bird checklists to keep track of the many species you may encounter while visiting: Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge’s “Watchable Wildlife” (PDF) and Jackson Bottom Wetland’s “Bird Species Checklist” (PDF).