Cottage Grove in Lane County, Oregon is a historic former gold mining hub that is now home to some 10,000 residents and a whole lot of covered bridges. In fact, Lane County is home to more covered bridges than any other county west of the Mississippi River. It’s a great destination if you’re into cycling because of the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway – a route that follows the well-signed Cottage Grove Bridges Tour.
All it takes is half a day to bike the 38-mile loop – or less if you’re speedy. There are also options to do and out and back if you prefer to avoid the roads. The biking is mostly flat, easy, and scenic. Along with covered bridges, there is a charming town to explore (Cottage Grove) and a pretty lake to enjoy at the base of the Cascades. Some of the route is in the forest, while other sections are in farm country. The bike ride makes for a great day trip from Eugene, just 30-minutes away.
Cottage Grove Covered Bridges Bike Tour details
Total distance: 36 miles but you can shorten it
Number of covered bridges: Six including Centennial Bridge, Swinging Bridge (not covered), Chambers Bridge, Mosby Creek Bridge, Stewart Bridge, Dorena Bridge and Currin Bridge.
Time needed: 2.5 – 4 hours
Best for: Almost all ages including families though some road sections should be avoided if kids are very young
Start: Bohemia Park, the Community Centre, or the Mosby Creek Trailhead if you want a car free bike ride
Facilities along the trail: 4 bathrooms, 7 parking areas, and 3 picnic areas
If you have more time: Check out some of the wineries in the area including Saginaw Vineyards, Iris Vineyards, and King Estates.
Fun fact: The charming town of Cottage Grove has been in a number of Hollywood movies including The General in 1926, Animal House in 1978 and Stand By Me in 1986. Look for markers along the bike way indicating filming locations.
Description of the Cottage Grove Covered Bridges bike tour
Park at Bohemia Park where you’ll find lots of free parking. Hop on your bike and head for the paved Row River Trail – a dedicated bike /pedestrian path that travels for 17 miles along the north side of Dorena Lake. There are long sections of smooth pavement but do watch out for yellow paint highlighting any bumps or cracks in the pavement. And when its wet, pay attention to the slimy green bits at the edge of the pavement – unless you’re interested in ejecting from your bike.
Over the 17 miles on the Row River section of trail, enjoy truly lovely forest, home to some very large trees, wildflowers, and the odd peek a boo view of Dorena Lake. This is a fast section as its on an old railbed with a gentle grade. In no time you’ll feel immersed in nature where the only thing you’ll hear is your breathing and perhaps the odd bird call. When the landscape opens, as it does on occasion, check out the foothills of the Cascades to the east.
You’ll probably want to stop at all the bridges you come to. Each one is photogenic and all have history attached to them. Reportedly Dorena Bridge is popular for weddings – and I can see why as its in a lovely location on a scenic section of river.
The official Bikeway route takes you back to Cottage Grove via Shoreview Road on the south side of Dorena Lake. It isn’t difficult cycling but there are a few small rolling hills. Most of the time we didn’t see cars but on two occasions logging trucks passed us – so you need to be comfortable with the odd large vehicle. Fortunately, there’s a good shoulder. After several miles on the road, turn left following the Cottage Grove Bridge Tour sign and begin the only major climb on the route. After stopping to catch your breath at the top, enjoy the fun downhill past a pretty farm to reach the intersection of Garoutte Road and Mosby Creek Road.
If climbs aren’t your thing, you can bypass Garoutte Road and take Shoreview Drive back to the Row River Trail.
At The Mosby Creek Trailhead pick up the trail that takes you right back to your starting point – but I would recommend cycling through historic Cottage Grove and checking out two more covered bridges and one swinging bridge.
The following photos will give you a good idea of what to expect on the Cottage Grove Covered Bridges bike tour.
While I didn’t spend much time in Cottage Grove, I did enjoy cycling down Main Street in what is called the Downtown Commercial Historic District. This part of the town is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. If I’d had more time, I could have stopped in at one of the cute restaurants on Main Street or quenched my thirst with a beer at Coast Fork Brewing and Feed Store.
There is a bike ride through the downtown that is well worth doing. If you continue to the western end of the downtown, you pass two more covered bridges (Centennial and Chamber Bridges) and the Swinging Footbridge. The Chambers Bridge is the only covered railroad bridge west of the Mississippi that is also included on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was completely rebuilt for both bikes and pedestrians in 2011.
Should I get a chance to return to this pretty town, I’d check out some of the local antique shops, take in a show at the theatre and do a self-guided walking tour to see the 10 murals that tell the town’s story from early settlement days, to the Gold Rush and then the Hollywood period.
A giant thank you to Bicycle Adventures for leading me on the tour (they might be offering it in 2023) and to Eugene, Cascades & Oregon Coast for hosting me. This is a bike ride I’d recommend to anyone who loves to get out and explore new countryside.
Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.