There’s nothing more pleasant than a warm summer bicycle tour along the Umpqua River, especially when friends come along for the ride.
Stories by Jenny Wood, Photos by Chris Pietsch
Dry, sunny days make for great bicycling, whether it’s a mountain trail or a country road. Then there’s the area’s amazing scenery — lush green hills that turn golden as the summer goes on.
A long bike ride can be a fun group activity. Through personal connections — and social media applications such as Strava for the active-minded — a group of seven riders with differing skill levels and experience can join up for a classic 32-mile ride through the beautiful Umpqua Valley.
Riding with others and enjoying the fresh air and physical activity is a fun way to make new friends and bond over shared interests. And Douglas County is an unforgettable backdrop for cycling. Many exhilarating rides can start right from the garage. Within Roseburg alone are enough excursions to keep a rider rolling throughout the summer.
Three routes of note start and end at the Stewart Park train in Roseburg, but are varied enough in distance and scenery that riders may want to make these a regular part of their cycling, especially with a group of friends riding along.
MAIN ROUTE (32 Miles)
From the Stewart Park train, follow Stewart Park Drive west.
Turn at Northwest Stewart Parkway and cross the bridge over South Umpqua River.
At West Harvard, turn right and follow the road for about a mile until it veers left and becomes Old Melrose Road.
After a half-mile on Old Melrose Road, the first of several gentle hills must be climbed. This first ascent provides a gorgeous view of the South Umpqua.
Old Melrose follows the South Umpqua for two miles before splitting. About one mile after the road veers away from the river, turn left onto Melrose Road. Melrose Road has a nice wide bike lane and over the next two miles provides views of farmland, passing the local school and the District 2 Fire Station.
Turn right onto Melqua Road (the Melrose Country Store is on the corner). Ride nine miles on Melqua, a quaint country byway. Sights along the way include vineyards, the confluence of the North and South forks of the Umpqua and more farmland with a variety of winding hills.
As the road turns away from the river, a succession of statues can be viewed adorning fields. The first is a bull on the right then a half-dozen head of cattle to the left. Further along are likenesses of Native Americans, horses and a cowboy.
At Iverson Road, take a right and, after a coaster hill, you’ll see on the left the beautiful and quaint Coles Valley Church sitting amidst a grove of trees. The road takes a 90-degree left turn just past the church, and the scenery changes again to vineyards and an impressive blueberry field. Iverson Road ends at Hubbard Creek Road.
At Hubbard Creek Road, turn right and cross the Umpqua River. A stop on this bridge reveals great views either upstream or down.
When the route reaches Garden Valley Road, you will have traveled 16 miles. From here, it’s just a short ride to Umpqua Lighthouse Bakery and a chance to refuel and carbo-load with coffee, sandwiches, soups and delicious homemade baked goods. Then it’s time to head back.
Return to the Garden Valley Road junction and turnleft. Stay on Garden Valley Road, which briefly follows Calapooia Creek and passes the fields and plant of Norris Blueberry Farms on the right. The Umpqua River is soon again visible from the road. Garden Valley Road continues with rolling hills, scenic fields and farmland and passes over the North Umpqua River once more just before Roseburg Country Club on the left.
Continue on Garden Valley, make the push up just one more hill, then enjoy smooth sailing back into town. Turn right onto Goetz at the Fred Meyer parking lot, going straight to pass by the duck pond and the skate park. Follow the bike path as it winds for your last mile back to the Stewart Park train.
RIDE 2 (9 miles)
Follow previous directions to Melrose Road.
Turn right on Melrose Road and cross the South Umpqua River. Beautiful vineyards are on the left and Kruse Farm will soon be on the right.
Follow Melrose as it veers right onto Garden Valley Road. After climbing a short hill, cruise east on Garden Valley Road through six traffic signals.
After the sixth light, across from the Fred Meyer gas station, merge onto the sidewalk to get on the bike path that winds through Stewart Park.
Veer right at the intersection through the disc golf course. Go down the hill, cross Stewart Park Drive continuing on the path until you see the Stewart Park train to finish the loop.
RIDE 3 (20 miles)
Follow the initial instructions up to approximately four miles on Melqua Road. Turn left onto Cleveland Hill Road and follow it along lush fields and numerous rolling hills until it meets back with Melrose Road. Turn left onto Melrose, then follow the instructions on Ride 2 after the right turn onto Melrose.
To join a group ride, check out the Umpqua Velo Club. To learn more, go online to www.cycleumpqua.com
It doesn't take any special background or physical make-up to enjoy cycling. Here's some information about the diverse group of cyclists, including writer Jenny Wood, who got together for a recent road trip.
Name: Kelly Leonard
Occupation: Retired financial adviser
Experience: Started commuting to university in the early 70s and hasn't stopped
Snacks: Water, Cliff Bars, attitude
First ride memory: Did I mention it was the '70s? What memory? But an early favorite is my first Century Ride in the Umpqua Valley. Totally unprepared, barely made it. And I was in shape.
Favorite things about riding locally: Beauty, easy access to a multitude of great rides, amazing variety of roads, scenery and improved attitude of those with whom we share the road.
Name: Melody Cobb
Occupation: School counselor and substitute teacher
Experience: One year, after enjoying spin classes at the fitness center
Favorite things about riding locally: My delight in cycling the Umpqua came after moving back to Douglas County after living in large urban areas.
Favorite Douglas County ride: I like riding the backroads from Roseburg to Glide. This scenic ride has light traffic, and the hills provide a good workout. O.C. Brown Park is a good place to stop for a quick snack or rest.
Snacks: Lots of water and GU gels or Lara Bars
Name: Paul Whitworth
Occupation: Designer, teacher, bike mechanic
Experience: Riding for 46 years
Favorite things about riding locally: Great variety of roads to ride so it never gets boring, and it is all beautiful
Favorite Douglas County ride: Hard to pick just one. Maybe Lookingglass, Reston, Tenmile, Olalla or Strickland Canyon.
Ride accomplishment: The first century I did at age 15, it had a lot of climbing and the weather was terrible. I was the fifth finisher. I think I was the youngest rider to complete that route at the time.
Name: Jenny Wood
Experience: Riding for 10 years
Snacks: Banana, dates, granola bar, two bottles of water
I never leave for a ride without: My flat kit. You only get stuck on the side of the road once.
Favorite things about riding locally: So many miles to explore and I like to see all the animals grazing along the route.
Name: Hannah Johnson
Occupation: Roseburg High School dean of women
Experience: Almost seven years
First ride memory: I got into cycling in the Sacramento area. I was about one or two months into riding, and a friend took me on a beautiful and incredible ride that was far beyond my abilities as a newbie. It was awesome but so painful. I like to refer to that ride as the “death ride” and give her grief over trying to kill me.
Favorite thing about riding locally: The rivers. I find such great joy in riding alongside water
Name: Russ Jones
Experience: Riding for nine months
First ride memory: Falling over on my way to work because I couldn’t get my shoes unclipped
Favorite things about riding locally: Great scenery and nice weather
Favorite area/ride in Douglas County: Out Garden Valley
Cycling style: Whatever speed gets me to work on time
Name: Cimeron Kormendi
Experience: Been riding since childhood, first mountain biking and more recently road biking.
First ride memory: Riding South Douglas County fire roads on my Mongoose mountain bike
Favorite thing about riding Umpqua: Many challenging loops with rewarding downhills
Cycling style: Never in a hurry, just there to enjoy the ride
Cycling ambitions: I would like to enter a local race like the Tour de Fronds in Powers