Capitol Idea!

Length: 27 Miles
Direction: Clockwise
Elevation Gain: 1876 ft
Highest Point: 764 ft
Recommended Gearing: 39X25 or equivalent

DirectionsSee full ride directions
View map and ride data at
Download print-friendly directions

Looking at a map, Capitol Hwy doesn’t jump out as a destination for a bike ride. And in the first couple of years that I’ve lived in Portland, I did avoid it. However one day, I found myself along Capitol Hwy and was surprised to find its name didn’t actually mean high speed autobahn.

The 27 mile ride first heads east from the Hawthorne Bridge near downtown. Venturing through Ladd’s Addition and into the Clinton area, you’ll get a great snapshot of some of the older neighborhoods of Portland. Work your way into the Sellwood area, which has really been revitalized with rows of shops and eateries. You’ll cross the Sellwood Bridge here over the Willamette River. The bridge does have a sidewalk if you’d prefer to keep your distance from cars. After the bridge, cross over to the River View Cemetery and climb through.

There are numerous turns in the cemetery, so a good look at the map or a GPS unit is highly recommended. However if you do miss a turn here or there, you can reconnect to Boones Ferry Rd by other means. Please be respectful while riding through the cemetery. This isn’t a place for interval training. Enjoy the climb and the peaceful ride.

Exiting the cemetery, you’ll arrive at the Tryon Creek bike path, which parallels Terwilliger Blvd. This path is not to be missed as you descend through the trees. Stop in at the information center also if you need some water. Exiting the path, you’ll arrive in Lake Oswego. One thing I’ve learned from riding in and around Portland is, ‘What goes down, must go back up’. The climb up D Avenue is a little steep but a necessary evil. From here you’ll hop onto Country Club Rd and then Kerr Pkwy, your next major climb on the day. Crossing the I-5, Kerr becomes Capitol Hwy and soon you’ll pass through Mutlnomah Village. This quaint shopping and eating area retains its original charm. Keep an eye out for the crosswalk sign on your right. It’s a little different.

Eventually, you’ll connect with Terwilliger Blvd and then bomb down Taylors Ferry Rd back to the Sellwood Bridge. Cross over and then hop on the Eastbank Esplanade path back to the start.

Kerr PkwySculptures line the Eastbank Esplanade pathPortland's highest point is at the top of this massive towerMultnomah Village is a trendy shopping area with a sense of humour. Notice the ped crossing sign

6 Responses to “Capitol Idea!”

  1. Jamie Says:

    Great ride! Fun two hour loop. I did this by using the Springwater trail down to the Sellwood Bridge, then linked a short Council Crest climb on the return by turning left off of Terwilliger at the Charter House. The main climb was pretty mellow but a narrow shoulder on the road.

  2. Raleigh Says:

    It may not be obvious but there is a paved path on the south side of Kerr that follows Kerr all the way from where it begins climbing (just past the intersection w/ Boones Ferry) to where Kerr becomes Capitol. I live on Kerr and would suggest jumping on it as there is NO shoulder on Kerr and quite ‘trafficky’ but surprisingly pleasant on the sidewalk/path.
    Also a real gem that very few know about- Mount Sylvania which is what you are climbing as you head up Kerr has a small summit park with amazing 360 degree views. It is VERY worthwhile to check out! St. Helens, Mt. Hood, downtown and vistas to the west and south as far as you can see make this the highlight of the ride.
    Nansen Summit Dr. is the short road that circles the peak and is just two blocks or so off Kerr.

  3. Jacob Says:

    Great suggestions. Thanks!

  4. Anders Says:

    Great overall ride. Either way you cross Sellwood, it sucks. I think I might skip the Ladds/Sellwood add on next time and cut thru Willamette Park. I wholeheartedly agree with the comment on Kerr Pkwy. I suggest the pathway and maybe checking out McNary parkway which leaves Kerr and then reconnects. Too many LOers time trialing their SUV’s on Kerr.

  5. thecolorifix Says:

    I did the westside portion of this ride today on a single speed. I would not recommend it! I had to walk it up 3 or 4 hills, though less than I would’ve thought. Had I had gears it would’ve been a lot nicer. Nice ride though, the cemetery was almost completely empty and quiet.

  6. Rand Says:

    Great ride! Wish I had read the comment about the Mt. Sylvania summit park before my ride. Guess I’ll just have to do it again.

Leave a Reply