Take your bike to Forest Grove for a car-free overnight vacation

Sometimes, you just need to leave town. But, it doesn’t have to be a whole expensive production, requiring plane tickets or a tank of gas.

If you live in Portland and you have a bike, you are surrounded by opportunities to recreate for basically the cost of a Trimet ticket, which is $2.50 for an adult.

HERE IS OREGON: HereisOregon.com | Instagram | YouTube | Facebook | twitter | TikTok

One easy option is Forest Grove, a place that’s far enough away that it can’t quite be considered a suburb of Portland. Forest Grove is really a college town, a bit like a smaller Corvallis, and it is right on the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway, one of Oregon’s scenic bikeways that lives up to its name.

At the end of August, I took my bike and not much else on a lovely overnight trip to check out the bikeway and Forest Grove. Here’s how you can do it too:

Bike loaded and ready to go.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

First, find a MAX stop on the Blue Line. The great thing about MAX is that it’s very easy to transfer from line to line if you live closer to a different line, since all MAX lines end up downtown at some point.

You have choices here, but I recommend picking a station that is on the surface of the street, so you don’t have to carry your bike down a bunch of stairs if an elevator happens to be out somewhere.

Blue line trains during the week generally show up every 15 minutes, and to make the most of your day, I recommend getting an early start.

bike on a max train

Hang your bike in the MAX and scroll through TikTok for an hour.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to Hillsboro, where again, you have choices. How much do you want to ride your bike? How do you feel about hugging a highway?

I recommend taking the bikeway from the beginning, which means getting off at the Washington/SE 12th MAX stop in Hillsboro. The bikeway takes an indirect path, making it about an 18-mile ride to Forest Grove.

If you want a quicker ride to town and want to bypass the beginning of the bikeway, you can ride to the final stop on the line, Hatfield Government Center. You will ride 5 miles to Forest Grove, but be warned that most of it is next to a highway. There’s ample bike-lane room, but it’s not something I would attempt with a kid or if you are a beginner on your bike.

(Also, if you don’t want to ride your bike at all, or don’t have one, but still want to have a car-less adventure, you can take the Blue Line to Hillsboro Central/SE Third Transit Center, and then take the 57 bus to Forest Grove. You can do everything here that isn’t riding your bike and have a wonderful time too.)

If you choose the bikeway, ride about 3 miles from MAX to Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro, where you will find the beginning of the route.

The first 30 miles of the 51-mile bikeway is on well-paved back country roads, which means the views are lovely and the ride is flat and dreamy, but you have to be aware that not every car or truck passing you believes that bikes should even be allowed on roads at all. Most of the vehicles that passed me were polite, with waving drivers taking a wide berth. But one or two got much closer to me than was necessary and zoomed by at top speed.

So stay alert and then ride a bucolic 15 more miles past farms and vineyards, a pioneer graveyard, many cows and some horses into Forest Grove.

Forest Grove is a good place to stop for lunch. I was staying at McMenamins Grand Lodge, which is especially affordable if you opt for the bathroom-down-the-hall option like I did, and I was able to check in early. I dropped off my bags and had an Arnold Palmer and a Rueben on the front porch.

There was a touch-and-go moment when the server brought me Tator Tots instead of fries, but she was very kind when she saw my crestfallen face and even though I said she didn’t need to, she brought me a plate of fries too

rueben sandwich and tots on a table

A Rueben sandwich at Grand Lodge in Forest Grove.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

After refilling my water bottle and eating far too many fries with ranch dressing, I got back on my bike and headed out to explore more of the bikeway.

Past Forest Grove, you’ll see very small towns and open fields and not much shade. I had planned to ride the next 15 miles to Banks, where the Banks-Vernonia Trail portion of the bikeway begins, but the late August day became incredibly hot and I was worried I might run out of water, so I turned around after about 7 miles

On the way back, I found some shade and ate a snack I had brought with me under the massive trees at Visitation Church in Verboort.

bike leaned against a bench

A rest stop at a church along the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

Then, I headed back to Grand Lodge to take a shower and soak in the pool while reading a book.

For dinner, I walked down to the Zesti food cart pod, which is brimming with choices.

bar at food cart pod

Zesti food cart pod in Forest Grove.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

It was a Monday, which is usually a bad day for food carts because most carts aren’t open. So, out of the open options, I picked Jerriks, which has both BBQ and Hawaiian food, and went with a classic Kalua pig plate lunch, which hit the spot after a day on my bike.

Hawaiian food on a cutting board

Jerriks BBQ and Hawaiian at Zesti food cart pod in Forest Grove.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

I also ordered a lemonade and a water, due to the fact that I was tired, thirsty and very hot. Jerriks also has a shaved ice cart, which was tragically closed. If it had been open, I might have stayed all night and experimented with how much shaved ice is too much shaved ice.

Instead, I walked back to Grand Lodge and consoled myself with a mint Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwich and a walk around the lush grounds.

hand holds ice cream sandwich

A Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwich at Grand Lodge.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

After that, I read a little more of the book I had brought with me, “The Lost Daughter” by Elena Ferrante, which is either the best or worst book to bring with you on a one-night trip away from your own daughter. Then I went to bed early, secure in the knowledge that someone else (my husband) was putting that daughter to sleep.

In the morning, I debated taking a “quick” 30-mile roundtrip bike ride to Banks, just to check it out. But instead, I opted to take a spin around Forest Grove. I stopped in at La Panadera Bakery for some delicious pastries, and then rode over to Telvet Coffee, where I sat outside and drank tea while eating the chocolate muffin I had purchased at La Panadera.

pastry case

Case at La Panadera Bakery in Forest Grove.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

Yes, that may have been bad manners, but I wanted to get as much Forest Grove in as possible (and La Panadera doesn’t have seating).

After that, I rode through the quiet, weekday morning streets of Forest Grove, which are filled with huge, old trees, making the town’s name feel quite literal.

I pedaled through the cute downtown and onto campus at Pacific University, where things were just starting to pick up for the school year and red chairs were set in groups, inviting people to sit down.

college campus with red chairs

Pacific University in Forest Grove.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

Finally, I headed back to Grand Lodge where I checked out and loaded my bike back up. On the way home, I decided to go the quick way, 5 miles next to the highway. It was fine but again, I don’t recommend it if you have time to take the scenic bikeway.

All in all, it was an excellent trip. The entire thing, including food, room and transportation, cost less than $200, and about $125 of that was the room.

I’ll certainly do it again, and next time I am bringing friends.

selfie in front of hotel

McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove.Lizzy Acker/The Oregonian

— Lizzy Acker

503-221-8052; lacker@oregonian.com; @lizzyacker

Our journalism needs your support. Please become a subscriber today at OregonLive.com/subscribe