One of the most striking aspects of riding in Portland is how quick and easy it is to get out of town. A short ride east or west and you’re on quiet farm roads rolling through idyllic Oregonian countryside. The Wildcat Passage is an out-the-frontdoor adventure traversing the impossibly lush Eagle Fern en route to the Mt. Hood National Forest before dropping into Little Switzerland and closing the loop on the best road circuit Portland’s eastside has to offer. Ben Swanson and Tony Thayer set out to give a 90-mile version a go amid peak fall color.

The Wildcat Passage starts mildly enough with a mellow cruise down the lovely, yet sometimes infamous Springwater Corridor trail. The Springwater gets a bad rap due to homeless camps and drug activity, but is generally fine. Beyond Powell Butte, traveling east on the trail, people start to thin out and it becomes apparent that it is truly a gateway to discovery. It is car-free, mellow, a perfect warm up and shake down…did I mention car free? After 16 miles on the Springwater you will reach the town of Boring. There is a restroom and water fountain here at the trailhead and a nice spot to stretch out a bit.

After the Springwater ends, the truly good stuff begins. A quick climb and descent down Aemisegger Hill over Deep Creek is an easy way to awaken the senses. Eagle Fern Park is an impossibly lush stretch of old growth douglas fir and cedar, very much encapsulating the abundant beauty of the region. Situated along Eagle Creek, it is a great opportunity to fill up your bottles and prepare for the upcoming climb. 

The climbing truly begins after leaving the park (around mile 30) and there is very little respite for the next 14 miles as you get up to near 3,500ft in altitude. The roads become narrower, the views start to open up and the Hood high country starts to take effect. Breathe it in, enjoy the silence and appreciate the sightlines as they truly are incredible!

*Side note: this high of an elevation clearly comes with a dip in temperature. Our running of this route experienced a 40-degree swing in temperatures: dress appropriately and consider carrying extra layers. 

SE Wildcat Mountain Drive/3626 becomes 105 after a gate near the top of the climb. Pavement has been the name of the game up until this point but that changes once you reach the high point of the route. The road ends and the trailhead can be found as you look up and to your right. We somehow ended up missing the ‘official’ trailhead which resulted in about 20 minutes of bushwack and GPS headscratching before reconnecting with the course. The sound of small pine cones crunching under tires and scent of damp Earth occupies the senses. Keep and eye out for roots, rocks and a expect minor bits of hike-a-bike; this section is about 2 miles long but well worth the effort. 

As the trail ends, you’ll transition to East Wildcat Creek Road. This smoothly graveled road offers a rollercoaster descent that is relentless, ongoing and honestly quite exhausting. It’s one of those descents that will wear out your arms and hands but if you have the wherewithal make sure to stop, rest the body and look to your right as you can catch some breathtaking views of Wy’east!

After a quick jog across Hwy 26 near Brightwood and a connection to Marmot Rd, the journey back to Portland begins. Marmot Rd is an absolute classic with its fast rolling, smooth tarmac and secluded nature. Along Marmot Rd there is the brand-new Audubon Society Marmot Cabin that offers a water stop accompanied with natural history, art by world-renowned John Audubon, and 91 acres of gorgeous Wildlife Sanctuary. Every major forest species of animal found west of the Cascades either inhabits or travels through this sanctuary thanks to its meadows, old growth and secondary growth forest, and creek habitats.

Marmot, Shipley, Ten-Eyck and Lusted are some of the more popular road cycling mainstays on Portland’s east side, and for good reason. They all offer low traffic, densely forested landscapes and nicely paced climb and descent sequences. Lusted Road is a bit of a thrill ride as it descends into Dodge Park, crossing the scenic Sandy River and climbing steeply out of the canyon through a series of ridiculously elegant switchbacks. Once out of the canyon, it is just a few final turns through gently rolling farm fields and you’re back on the Springwater Corridor for a cooldown cruise back into Portland where cold beverages and great food await.

By Ben Swanson

* Please note that while there are clockwise and counterclockwise versions shown below, they are subtly different. The 73-mile clockwise version is optimized for directional flow and as such has been edited slightly.

90 mile counterclockwise version

73 mile clockwise version