Cyclists use the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway leaving Ankeny Winery. ##Photo by Dan Shryock
Eola Hills welcomes riders to its cycling hotspot. ##Photo by Dan Shryock
Spring Valley Road leads riders past Cristom and Witness Tree vineyards.##Photo by Dan Shryock

Cycling Series: Part 2

Tour the Central Willamette Valley

By Dan Shryock

Editor’s Note: This is the second of six monthly guides exploring places to cycle in Oregon wine country. Cycling can be a safe activity during the pandemic, as long as riders practice social distancing, officials say. Research suggests cyclists extend spacing to as far as 20 yards when riding in single file to accommodate extended airflow or the slipstream behind each bike. Wineries and events mentioned are subject to change; check websites for the most current information.

Imagine a wine region without heavy traffic; instead, stretches of open road to pedal a bike, enjoy the changing agricultural landscape and stop at tasting rooms dotting the side of the road.

That place is the central Willamette Valley wine region, Polk County to be specific. In this wine world, towns like Independence, Monmouth and Rickreall take center stage. Vineyards are interspersed with a variety of other crops. The fresh aroma from newly mown fields of mint wafts past when the wind is just right.

In many ways, Polk County has taken the lead in wine country cycling. Eola Hills Wine Cellars set a high bar more than 20 years ago when it started its annual Bike Oregon Wine Country series, attracting more than 100 bike riders each Sunday in August to wineries north and south of Rickreall.

Independence continues evolving as a cycling destination. The September 2019 opening of a new bike-friendly hotel, aptly called The Independence, supports the city’s bike-friendly strategy. Cycle Oregon sees the opportunity, planning its June 20 women-only wine country Joyride, once again, to start and finish at Riverview Park adjacent to the hotel.

“If you go to downtown Independence on any given day from spring to fall, if the sun is out, you’re going to see a lot of bicyclists coming through town,” says Shawn Irvine, a city spokesperson.

Downtown Independence makes a great place to enjoy some pre- or post-ride food and drink. There are a bakery and coffee shop to fuel up for the ride and restaurants, a taproom and brewery for celebration once it’s over. There’s also a restaurant inside The Independence hotel.

“I think most people who get to see Independence understand what a great place it is to base a ride,” Irvine says.

Here are some cycling routes in the area that lead through Oregon wine country. Each is listed by this writer’s difficulty rating. Be sure to look at each online route map to determine the ride best for you.

Cycling Routes


This route, a loop from Independence, includes Redgate Winery, flat stretches along the Willamette River floodplain and a detour to Rogue Farms’ Hop Farm before crossing the river on the Buena Vista Ferry. Follow the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway north for 11 miles as it glides through the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge and passes Ankeny Vineyards & Winery. Roll over a few small hills and finish the loop by crossing flat farmland and the Independence Bridge.

Not interested in 25 miles? Head south from Independence to Redgate Winery and Rogue Farms; the abbreviated route totals a little more than 14 extremely flat miles.

See the route with highlights at Search for route “Independence / Buena Vista Ferry Loop.”


A round-trip excursion from Eola Hills Wine Cellars in Rickreall to Monmouth totals 10 miles on a safe bike-and-hike path adjacent to Highway 99W. I suggest checking out Crush, a wine bar and tasting room in downtown Monmouth.

Another option includes heading south from Monmouth toward Sarah Helmick State Park, Emerson Vineyards and Airlie Winery, 36 miles round trip. Be sure to consider the number of hills along the way. The legs count every pedal stroke.

Search for “Eola Hills Winery to Airlie” route on


If you are a serious cyclist, this route may interest you. The ride from Hopewell in southern Yamhill County to Eola Hills Wine Cellars does not seem daunting until the elevation profile appears. It’s 22.7 miles from point to point with seven wineries along the way. There’s also more than 1,700 feet of climbing.

This ride allows a diverse look at the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, from the lower lands at each end to the higher vineyards in the hills above West Salem. Names to look for along the way include Lingua Franca, Stangeland, Cristom, Witness Tree, Kathken and two Eola Hills locations. There also are several other wineries throughout the area off designated roads.

Don’t take this route lightly. Gibson Road, a well-known climb for local cyclists, rises more than 700 feet in about two miles. Reach the top and discover there’s even more uphill work until the tarmac crests atop Orchard Heights Road. The downhill off the backside is a gripper, fast and steep.

Once back down, roll along Oak Grove Road to Eola Hills’ Legacy vineyards and tasting room. Cross Highway 22 over a pedestrian bridge and cruise flat and easy to the original Eola Hills winery.

See the route map for the details at Search for route “Hopewell to Eola Hills Wine Cellars.”


Bike Oregon Wine Country

Eola Hills Wine Cellars invites riders every Sunday in August for a winery tour and salmon barbecue. Start at the Rickreall winery and ride 40 to 70 miles depending on its preferred routes. Participating wineries along the way pour small samples. When riders buy bottles, Eola Hills staff collects the purchases and has them waiting for pickup at the end of the day. 

Cycle Oregon

The Joyride from Independence’s riverfront on June 20 provides a variety of route options, ranging from 18 miles to 64 miles. There are even some gravel routes. The shortest option is a quick loop to Rogue brewery’s hop farm and tasting room. Longer distances lead west into wine country with wineries along the way. 



Web Design and Web Development by Buildable