The trail ending as people walk in the distance. Camden Benesh/PSU Vanguard

Get out to Columbia Slough Trail

A bike ride you just can’t miss

The Columbia Slough is the perfect trail for anyone looking for some adventure. When’s the last time you got out and really got lost in your hometown? The trail is perfect for someone looking for the road less traveled—a bike route unique from others in Portland.


What stands out about this trail is how secluded and separate it is from oncoming traffic, similar to the Springwater Corridor in that sense. The bike route is also not paved—making gravel riding a must—but you can still practically take any type of bike you want on it. 


The lack of maintenance and feeling of isolation makes it seem like you are on a journey. Most journeys are not perfectly paved straight paths, right? Reality tends to be more windy and unpredictable. 


What makes the Columbia Slough route desirable is all of its flaws. As you bike by all the brutalist architecture, ongoing construction work and train bridges, the path’s personality screams.


Located in North Portland, the trail features a myriad of different environments. At times you are passing under graffiti-encrusted bridges where angular shadows serve as a place to cool down during the summer. 


Or maybe it’s the sound of the oncoming cars, attacking corners and gunning for a new personal record at the Portland International Raceway. It doesn’t feel like a bike path at some moments—it has an unrefined and completely different vibe from your neighborhood bike route. 


The lush greenery along the bike path combined with the industrial presence creates a very raw energy. It’s gritty, it’s honest, it’s fulfilling and it’s beautiful. You really get to take in your surroundings on this ride—I recommend not listening to music to really absorb it all. A perfect time to unplug and destress from the day.


Occasionally you see people, but this route is pretty in the thick of it. It can almost be described as a nature route in conflict with city development. Everytime you go, there’s something different. This added suspense of wondering what you will see that day keeps you coming back for more.


The trail eventually leads to the Smith and Bybee Lakes area, an ideal stopping point along the trail—a destination, if you must have one. It’s a perfect place to hang out in the summer or take a stroll through during the winter months. Surrounded by warehouses, the lakes become a breath of fresh air within this industrial part of town. 


The abundance of airplanes taking off overhead once you get to the lakes adds ambience to your surroundings, enhancing the experience. Everytime I go on the Columbia Slough Trail for a bike ride, I’m on a journey—but seeing these airplanes hurl over my head and propel themselves through the sky, I’m reminded of all of the other journeys going on out there.


So get out there and start adventuring because, who knows, you might just get lost in the city you thought you knew so well.