Beginning in 1922, one of the most scenic motor routes in the nation was the Columbia River Highway through the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.
It fell into disuse with the construction of interstate highways, but cyclists are finding that the historic route with its overlooks high above the river, waterfalls and tunnels is even more spectacular by bicycle.
The opening of a 1.6-mile bicycle-pedestrian trail along the old highway last summer closed a gap and created an uninterrupted stretch of historic highway and bicycle path that can be used between Troutdale and Cascade Locks — a distance of more than 30 miles.
On some stretches bicyclists and motorists share the road, whose shoulder is 0 to 5 feet wide. Traffic along those shoulderless stretches is said to be light.
Along the way bicyclists can enjoy awesome views of the Columbia from the Vista House, a rest stop overlook completed in 1918. Descending to the river, the route passes six waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls.
An 8-page Columbia River Gorge Bike Map (.pdf) is available that shows detailed maps of the routes, attractions, parks and campgrounds as well as other lodging options along the route from Portland to The Dalles. I’d recommend taking a look at this even if you don’t have immediate plans to bicycle there; it may change your mind.
The Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway and Travel Oregon are conducting an online survey to determine what bicyclists think of the improvements along the historic route. You can fill it out if you bicycled there in 2013 — https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3FDCNGG.
If you’d like to visit the gorge in a bicycling group, check out the 8th annual Gorge Ride on June 14. The 39-mile route follows the Historic Columbia River Highway from the Gorge Discovery Center to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail in Mosier and continues to the Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead east of Hood River and returns. The ride benefits the Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Jackson’s Ride the Gorge
A little more than a month later — July 27, 2014 — you can check out Jackson’s Ride the Gorge. The charity ride starts in Hood River and offers options of 25, 50 and 100 miles. The ride is held annually in memory of young cancer victim Jackson Hill.
Registration is open for both rides.