Portland is a fantastic spot to launch an adventure from due to its proximity to so many great destinations, as well as its resources for the outdoor enthusiast. Local transit organization TriMet reaches to several outlying points on the map; these trips can be extended by connections to other surrounding transit districts. Fares are $2 to $2.30 depending on how far you ride in the Zone System and issue paper transfers as proof of fare, valid for transfer to other lines within the system. You can bring your bicycle along on all buses and trains, although capacity is limited to 2 bikes on each bus (no bikes can be brought inside the bus) and 8 on each 2-car MAX train. Most routes run frequently during the day and many more popular routes include frequent service into the night. Trips can be planned with precision using TriMet's online trip planner at their website's home page.
Some good ways to get where you want to go are detailed below:
A short ride out of downtown Portland on TriMet's Line 17 will take you to Sauvie Island, an easily accessible but radically slower-paced farming community. Nearby in the hills west of the highway are the northern parts of Portland's Forest Park. The line runs to the island Monday through Saturday.
The Columbia County Rider operates several routes into the northern region of western Oregon. One begins from downtown Portland with several departures throughout the day on weekdays and abbreviated service on Saturday, traveling up Highway 30 to Scappoose and St. Helens; fare leaving Portland on this route is $4.80. From here, you can connect to three other routes Monday through Friday: In St. Helens, their "North Flex Route" departs less frequently to locations farther up the highway to connect to points near Rainier, OR (another Flex Route operates south of St. Helens as well); fare is $1.50. Another route runs from Kelso, WA through Rainier to Westport (featuring ferry service to farm-laden Puget Island and Washington's mainland); fare is $5.80 for the full length of the route, or less for shorter trips. Lastly, the Sunset Empire Connection, a cooperative project between Columbia County and the Sunset Empire Transportation District and runs both ways between Westport and Astoria twice daily to complete a connection to the Oregon Coast; fare is $4. An email from the coordinator explained that while transfers are offered on the flex routes, they are not allowed from fixed route service. The buses are equipped with bicycle racks, and if the rack is full, the coordinator states that some buses (not all) have enough room to safely carry a bike or two inside if passengers with mobility issues aren't using the space.
(For Columbia County Rider trips to Vernonia, see the listing under "West.")
Clark County, Washington is the home to many great destinations for a quick day trip getaway or a pleasant overnighter in the woods. While there is plenty of suburban development between Portland and the wilderness, transit provider C-TRAN offers several routes to get you past it all. Along the I-5 corridor, TriMet's Yellow Line MAX delivers you to the Delta Park/Vanport Park & Ride lot from which several important connections can be made. Most C-TRAN buses charge $1.50 for rides within Clark County (the C-Zone) or $2.35 for All-Zone fare valid on TriMet; due to an arrangment between the agencies, C-TRAN will also accept an All-Zone TriMet transfer as valid fare. Some Express commuter buses charge $3 for a ride between Portland and a Clark County destination. All buses are equipped with bicycle racks, and if the rack is full the operator will allow you to bring your bike inside the bus as long as there is room.
C-TRAN operates the Route 105: I-5 Express between downtown Portland and Vancouver's Downtown, 99th Street Transit Center, and Salmon Creek Park & Ride on 134th Street, making weekday commuter hour connections at these locations very simple.
C-TRAN's Route 4 departs from Delta Park and travels through downtown Vancouver, home to several excellent food and drink establishments; a transfer here to Route 37 will deliver you to the 99th Street Transit Center at Stockford Village where several other rural connections can be made. Otherwise, the Route 4 terminates at the Vancouver Mall Transit Center for one more connection to the city of Battle Ground, named for a conflict between indigenous peoples and early expansionist settlers, via Route 7. From the Battle Ground town center, Battle Ground Lake State Park is just 3.5 miles away with camping and other outdoor amenities. All of these routes run 7 days a week.
From the 99th Street Transit Center, also accessible by weekday commuter routes, the C-TRAN Connector operates a few limited runs to neighboring rural towns Ridgefield, with a nice downtown near a wildlife refuge and a marina, and La Center, which has several casinos and is 3 miles from Paradise Point State Park. Just a few fixed route departures are scheduled each day, but a reservation system is also in place and rides can be arranged during operating hours by calling C-TRAN's offices in advance. The Connector runs Monday through Friday and regular C-Zone fare is charged.
From Delta Park in Portland, several Express buses reach clark county destinations. The Route 47 Battle Ground Limited operates just once daily weekdays, southbound only in the morning and northbound only in the afternoon, and travels all the way to the town of Yacolt, 3.5 miles from local summer swimming hole Moulten Falls Park and well situated for treks into the surrounding forest land.
Twin towns of Camas & Washougal sit east of Vancouver on the Columbia River's north shore, and, apart from the Georgia Pacific paper plant, feature pleasant old town attractions while serving as a gateway to Washington's Columbia River Gorge and the Washougal River areas. A once-a-day run from Delta Park exists as the Route 41, but more regular bus service from Portland can be accessed from TriMet's Red Line MAX and its associated Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center. C-TRAN connects from here to the Fisher's Landing Transit Center in east Vancouver with the Route 65 Parkrose Limited, which runs regularly until early evening Monday through Saturday; from Fisher's Landing the Route 92 connects to Camas and Washougal 7 days a week.
On weekdays, Skamania County Transit operates a bus line between Fisher's Landing Transit Center and Carson, WA with stops in North Bonneville (near the Bonneville Dam) and Stevenson. The bus runs three times a day (morning, mid-day and evening) Monday through Friday and charges $1 per ride. The bus is equipped with a bicycle rack; if the rack is full, a transit representative stated in a phone conversation that the driver might be able to secure an additional bicycle to the bus, though it seems this is not frequently anticipated.
Last, but not least, for those interested in the ambitious project of getting to the Puget Sound region or other southwest Washington points entirely by public transit, the gold mine find is the Lower Columbia Community Action Project (CAP) Rural Public Transit program. While many of their services are oriented toward elderly or medically limited residents, CAP also operates a small transit program open to the public; passenger vans run 5 times daily weekdays to C-TRAN's Salmon Creek Park & Ride from Longview, WA with stops in between, and also twice daily on weekdays northbound to Tumwater, a suburb of Olympia, WA to connect to Intercity Transit, your vital link to the Puget Sound region and a springboard for transit connections all the way around the Olympic Peninsula. Both links operate on Saturdays as well, though the frequency is greatly reduced. Fare is just $1 per ride (if connecting in Longview to run between Vancouver & Tumwater, you'll need to pay a total of $2), and the vans are equipped with bicycle racks; since they operate vans instead of buses, it seems that once the rack is full you may not be able to plan on bringing additional bikes along. To be safe without this kind of guarantee, plan on leaving the bikes behind if you're traveling in a larger group.
TriMet's Wilsonville Park & Ride lot offers weekday connections to many points south of Portland and is accessible by Westside Express Service (WES) commuter rail or the nearby terminus of Line 96, about 2 miles north of the lot.
Local connections to the Wilsonville area are provided by South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART) as well as a route from SW Portland's Barbur Boulevard, the SMART 2X that runs a weekday route and an abbreviated Saturday route. Some routes are free in the downtown Wilsonville district, while those traveling farther will charge a fare of $1.25, or $2.50 for travel to Marion County. Buses are equipped with bicycle racks.
People interested in getting to Salem, OR without spending a lot of money on motorcoach or train transport can catch Cherriots' 1X, a weekday commuter line, for $2.50 per trip. Trips run frequently during morning and evening commuter hours. From Salem, a connection can be made to Grand Ronde, OR on the Cherriots 2x, also a weekday commuter line with a fare of $3 per ride, which terminates only 25 miles from the Oregon Coast (there's also a casino there, incidentally). Buses are equipped with bicycle racks.
The Chemeketa Area Regional Transportation System (CARTS) dovetails nicely into many Cherriots connections and reaches many communities outside of the Salem metro area Monday through Friday. Route 20 reaches Mt. Angel, home to a Benedictine abbey and an Oktoberfest celebration, and Silverton, close to Silver Falls State Park. Route 30 ends in Gates, about 15 miles from Detroit Lake State Park. Route 40 connects to Independence, Western Oregon University in Monmouth, and Dallas, which is 8.5 miles from Falls City - close to plenty of Oregon State Forest land and Black Rock, a popular mountain biking destination. CARTS routes only run a few times a day and none of the routes run past 6PM; fares are $2 per ride or $4 for an all-day pass and buses are equipped with bicycle racks.
Farther east, the famed end of the Oregon Trail is accessible by many TriMet routes. From the Oregon City Transit Center a connection can be made to the Canby Area Transit (CAT) system. Several lines are coded by color, but all are absolutely free thanks to an unusual income tax; the Orange Line runs from Oregon City through Canby to Woodburn, connecting with CARTS, and the Purple Line connects Canby with Wilsonville and the Cherriots lines that stop there. Both lines operate Monday through Friday with several runs throughout the day, and while Canby area service is free, connection to Wilsonville requires a $1.25 fare due to a collaboration with SMART. Buses are equipped with bicycle racks.
To wrap up the whole package, the South Clackamas Transportation District (SCRT) offers a bus route from Clackamas Community College in Oregon City to the town of Molalla, featuring a quaint downtown and nearby rural farms and woodland areas. From Portland you can get to the college using TriMet's Line 33 for a smooth transfer many times throughout the day, Monday through Saturday. SCRT charges $1 per ride and its buses are equiped with bicycle racks.
TriMet's Gresham Transit Center provides a connection to Sandy Area Metro Transit (SAM) which travels to Sandy, OR; it's a gateway community to the Mt. Hood area and the many recreational opportunities it provides. SAM travels Monday though Saturday with many daytime trips, charges no fare, and connects to Estacada, OR on a weekday route. Buses are equipped with bicycle racks; if the racks are full, bicyclists may be allowed to secure their bikes inside the bus in the front securement area as long as no wheelchair passengers need the space.
From Sandy, you can connect the SAM to the Mountain Express, a line extending out along Highway 26 to Rhododendron, OR. Hiking, skiing, camping, and other outdoor activities are accessible on this route which runs Monday-Friday only. Fare is $2 per ride, with first mountain-bound departure from Sandy in the early morning and last city-bound return in the early evening. Buses are equipped with bicycle racks.
Another option for getting to Mt. Hood is the Greasebus, a private company that runs a vegetable oil conversion bus and makes one daily run to the mountain from Portland and back again (pending a minimum number of reservations); its route also passes through Hood River, OR on both legs of the trip, opening several more options for getting around in the Columbia River Gorge from Portland. It leaves in the morning and returns in the afternoon, charging $10 for a round trip ticket. It is important to note that the Greasebus runs ONLY during the ski season and doesn't run during the summer, although it may be chartered by groups if available. The bus has room for cargo and ski/snowboard gear, but doesn't take bicycles due to limited space (there's no bicycle rack).
If you want to go directly to Hood River, OR, or The Dalles, OR you can catch a once-a-week bus run by Columbia Area Transit (CAT) from several locations in Portland. The service is very limited, running once each direction on Thursdays, and fare each way is $8. Once you've made it into Hood River County, CAT provides fixed route service between Hood River and The Dalles three times daily Monday through Friday. Not all buses are equipped with bicycle racks, but an employee confirmed via email that all buses have one or two wheelchair bays in which bicycles or other mobility devices can be secured.
Estacada, OR also sits on the edge of much public forest land and can be reached on TriMet's Line 31 from Clackamas Town Center; the route runs Monday through Saturday. Fare can be inexpensive for this trip as it only travels through one fare zone, though fare may increase depending on where you depart from in Portland.
While not a public transit agency, The Breeze, a Portland-Bend private coach line, runs daily from train and airline connection points in Portland to Redmond and Bend with several stops at other locations in between. Fare is as much as $88 for a round trip of the entire length of the route, plus a variable fuel surcharge. Bicycles must be boxed if brought along and are subject to an additional $5 fee. Bend offers its own transit system for getting around once you arrive.
Perhaps most notable for its simplicity and ease of use, the Tillamook County Transportation District's connection to the Oregon Coast is its Tillamook-Portland line which runs between the two cities twice a day Monday through Saturday, and once on Sundays. For a $10 one way fare or $15 round trip, you can access a beautiful coastal town that boasts a cheese factory, an air museum, and plenty of beautiful oceanside access points, including state parks with camping. Buses are equipped with bicycle racks, and may also have space inside for additional bikes if the space is not needed for passengers with disabilities; a good way to ensure you have a space for your bike is to contact the district's office and ask that a space for you and your bike be listed on the driver's daily manifest.
TriMet's Blue Line Max reaches as far west as downtown Hillsboro, and transfers to the Line 57 which terminates in Forest Grove, the metro area's last plains town before the coastal mountain range and home to the McMenamins Grand Lodge and Pacific University.
The Columbia County Rider, in addition to its Highway 30 service, also operates a bus from Hillsboro's Willow Creek Transit Center (accessible by Blue Line MAX) through the Nehalem Valley to the inland town of Vernonia. Along the way the bus stops at Stubb Stewart State Park, and camping is also available in town at Vernonia Lake Park. Fare is $4.80; buses run Monday through Friday and are equipped with bicycle racks.
To get out to Yamhill County, TriMet's Line 12 has regular service out to the Tigard Transit Center 7 days a week. From Tigard, Yamhill County Transit Area (YCTA) operates its Route 44 bus through Newberg, home of George Fox University and close to the annual St. Paul Rodeo, and out to county seat McMinnville, featuring an air museum that houses the famous Spruce Goose and the McMenamins Hotel Oregon (host of an annual UFO festival). The Route 44 runs many times on weekdays as well as a few times on Saturdays, and charges $1 per ride; some of the buses are equipped with bicycle racks, and their transit manager confirmed in an email that those without racks are permitted to carry bicycles inside if there is space for them. YCTA also travels out of McMinnville to Grand Ronde with its Route 22 Monday-Saturday, and offers limited weekday transportation to Salem (with connections to Cherriots) on Route 11, and to Hillsboro (with connections to TriMet) on Route 33.