5 Reasons to Make Independence Your Base Camp for an Epic Cycling Adventure

By Matt Wastradowski

The community of Independence has lived many lives over the years. The first European-American settlers arrived via the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s, it was surrounded by dozens of hop fields in the early 1900s, and today features a growing downtown core with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Chief among those outdoor activities is cycling. In recent years, cyclists have flocked to the quiet community in droves to take advantage of all it has to offer those on two wheels—campgrounds specifically for cyclists, a hotel decked out with bike-friendly amenities, seasonal events designed to show off the surrounding landscapes, and more.

So whether you’re a beginning cyclist or a regular rider, here are five reasons to make Independence your base camp for an epic cycling adventure.

The Independence hotel. Photo courtesy of Gritchelle Fallesgon.

The Independence Hotel is Uniquely Suited to Cyclists

As the lone lodging in town, The Independence Hotel wears many hats—welcoming student-athletes competing at nearby Western Oregon University, groups on wine-country getaways, and travelers interested in exploring the historic community.

But the hotel prides itself on catering to cyclists and offers a variety of thoughtful perks and welcome amenities. Those include:

Photo courtesy of Gritchelle Fallesgon.
  • Wide hallways: The hotel’s extra-wide hallways make it easy for cyclists to move their bikes without running into walls or other guests.
  • In-room storage: That added space extends to each room, where cyclists can safely store at least two bicycles.
  • On-site bike repair stations: Next to the lobby, guests can take advantage of a heated, indoor workroom (open 24-7) with benches and plenty of bike tools. And just outside the hotel’s on-site Territory Restaurant, cyclists will find an outdoor maintenance and cleaning station where they can put air in their tires and perform other basic tasks.

Scenic Cycling Routes Surround Independence

Independence sits surrounded by sweeping vineyards, historic hop fields, rolling hillsides, and the mighty Willamette River snaking through it all. Is it any wonder, then, that so many routes pass by (or head into) the community?
If you’re looking to learn more about cycling routes around Independence, here are a few ideas to get started:

Baker’s Dozen Road Ride: The Baker’s Dozen Road Ride, created by Bike Indy Oregon, covers 13.8 miles (hence the moniker) as it heads south of town and into Willamette Valley farmland. The mostly flat ride is great for beginners and those looking to shake off the rust as they get back into cycling.

Riders on the Willamette Scenic Bikeway

Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway: Perhaps the best-known ride anywhere in the region is the 134-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, which begins at Champoeg State Heritage Area (north of Salem) and ends at a park just outside of Eugene. If 134 miles seems daunting, you can pick and choose segments to ride. While the bikeway doesn’t go through Independence, it just skirts the town—making it an ideal place to take a break or stay the night.

Looking for more ride ideas? Check out the Bike Indy Oregon website for additional suggested routes on both paved surfaces and mixed terrain.

A Cozy Campground Caters to Boaters and Bikers in Independence

At the northern edge of Riverview Park, just a short walk from Independence’s downtown, the Bicycle Boater Campground is open exclusively to those in boats and on two wheels. 

The grassy, somewhat forested park hosts five sites where visitors can pitch a tent for up to two nights; amenities include picnic tables, bike racks, shower facilities, drinking water, a bike repair station, and Wi-Fi. Sites run $10 per night and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Note that the campground is closed over Independence Day weekend and for other community events; check the Bicycle Boater Campground website for more information on possible closures.

Four women are standing on stop painted on the road chatting while holding their bikes

Seasonal Events Create a Community Around Cycling

Every season, Independence holds what it calls Drop the Hammer Weekends—two-day events where cyclists can choose among six scenic rides and even try to be the fastest rider on certain segments of their chosen route.

Here’s how it works: Before the ride, cyclists can choose among a handful of pre-selected routes (some on paved roads, others mixing in gravel surfaces) tailored to their skill level, experience, and time constraints; specific routes are chosen beforehand to reach cyclists of all abilities and skill levels. 

Start times are open-ended, meaning riders can begin between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on a given Saturday or Sunday. While on the road (or gravel), orange markers indicate where riders can “drop the hammer”—basically, pedal as fast as possible between two points while recording their time in the Strava mobile app—should they so choose. Prizes for the fastest male, female, and non-binary cyclists on each Strava segment are awarded after the ride. Kid-friendly, three-mile routes on a multi-use path are also available for families looking to enjoy a leisurely ride. 

Those who take part can receive a Bike Indy Pass, ​​good for discounts at locally owned businesses around Independence. 

Plenty of Stops Offer Post-Ride Bites and Beers in Independence

Most cyclists would say the day’s ride doesn’t really end until they’ve sat down for a filling meal or cold beer. Fortunately, cyclists have plenty of options for post-ride stops around Independence (and even a few pre-ride stops to fuel up). Here are a few of our favorites.

Tasty plates at The Valkyrie
  • Gilgamesh Brewing – The River: Salem-based Gilgamesh Brewing boasts three outposts around the area, with the latest opening in downtown Independence. Named The River for its close proximity to the Willamette River, the pub serves a menu chockablock with hearty pizzas and burgers—all of which pair well with Gilgamesh’s beers (many of which incorporate ingredients grown in the Willamette Valley). A large, covered patio offers plenty of room to stretch your legs out back.
  • The Tap Station: Housed in a converted gas station, The Tap Station boasts a filling menu of burgers and sandwiches, along with more than a dozen taps of regional craft beer. A sun-drenched patio offers plenty of outdoor seating on spring and summer afternoons.
  • Brew Coffee & Tap House: Whether you need to fuel up for the day or want to wind down after a thigh-burning ride, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Brew Coffee & Tap House. The cozy eatery serves coffee, cocktails, and locally made craft beers, and its robust food menu includes light breakfast bites, filling sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, wraps, and four varieties of homemade stromboli.
  • The Valkyrie: If you’re hoping for a picnic with a bottle or two to go look no further than The Valkyrie. Offering a wide selection of bottles, wine by the glass and flights, they also have wine-friendly treats like charcuterie boards, fines cheeses, antipasta and tapas style snack all to go.