The Spokesman-Review

Biking Off The Beaten Path

To bicycle along a forest road, you don’t need to be an expert rider or have an expensive mountain bike.

You don’t need to be in top physical shape. All you need is desire.

The Inland Northwest has thousands of miles of forest roads and trails, which can provide exceptional fat-tire biking adventures for families. With a day pack full of trail snacks or a picnic lunch, a family can wheel along abandoned railway corridors, across forested ridges or along rushing streams and rivers.

Here are some of my favorite fat-tire biking locations. The terrain is easygoing and suitable for all ages.

Paulina Plunge

Bend, Ore.

The best way to cool off from a hot, dusty mountain bike ride is to plunge into a pool of sparkling stream water or stand under a waterfall. That is exactly what everyone does on the Paulina Plunge waterfall and mountain biking trek offered by High Cascade Descent Guide Service (503-389-0562).

The day is spent alternating between biking short distances and standing in, behind and under waterfalls for fun and photos. There is even a natural rock waterslide.

The Paulina Plunge is an affordable family outing. It costs $37 for an adult and $35 for children under 12. Tour price includes shuttle ride from Bend, bike rental, helmet, water bottle and lots of splashing fun. A deli lunch for $3 can be provided.

For information on accommodations, events and points of interest in the Bend area, call the Bend Chamber of Commerce, (503) 382-3221.

U.S. Highway 30

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Broad-leaf maples cast cool shadows as you pedal along a corridor flanked by steep rocky banks covered with ferns on one side and moss-covered stone walls on the other. The damp air is filled with a mixed bouquet of scents from wild rose, lupine, rhododendron and blackberry blossoms. A light breeze blows the cool mist from a waterfall across your path. Each turn on the winding, scenic highway offers a new vista.

This designated National Scenic Area is located along a 22-mile stretch of old U.S. Highway 30, which parallels Interstate 84 east of Portland. The scenic highway offers a short bike trek between the many waterfalls in the gorge.

For information on attractions in the Columbia River National Recreation Area, accommodations and points of interest in the Portland area, call the Portland/Oregon Visitors Association, (503) 275-9750 or (800) 345-3214.

Rossland, British Columbia

The golden days of hard rock mining are over on Red Mountain, and the sound of chugging ore trains laboring along a network of railbeds is gone, replaced by humming tires and squeaking brakes.

Rossland’s rich mining history left a legacy for the mountain biker. Hundreds of miles of old mining roads, historic wagon roads, railway beds and logging roads crisscross the mountains surrounding Rossland. The town has become known as the mountain biking capital of Canada.

Several lodges offer biking and accommodation packages. For information on lodging packages, trail maps and other tourism services, call the Rossland Chamber of Commerce, (604) 362-5666.

Kettle Valley Railway

Kelowna, British Columbia

Rolling along the rail bed of the Kettle Valley Railway can be breathtaking as you pedal over 16 trestle bridges and through rock tunnels on the Myra Canyon route near Kelowna. The railway once linked Vancouver with Nelson.

For information on accommodations and other recreational opportunities in the Kelowna area, call Kelowna Visitors and Convention Bureau, (604) 862-5060 or (800) 663-4345.

Milwaukee Railroad

Avery, Idaho

Biking along the old Milwaukee Railroad bed is a trip into the past. The railway was built between 1907 and 1909 to provide passage across the Bitterroot Mountains for a new transcontinental railroad system. Steam engines coming from Washington state were linked with electric trains coming from Montana.

Using Avery as a starting point, cyclists can pedal up a slight incline to where Loop Creek joins the North Fork of the St. Joe River. For the return trip, you can bike down along the river on an abandoned forest road. Because most of the tunnels are about 500 feet long, I recommend a flashlight or bike light.

For information on recreational opportunities in the Avery area, call the St. Joe Ranger District, (208) 245-4517.

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