There are many reasons I’m a true believer when it comes to bicycling in the Columbia River Gorge. Since I was first introduced to the vision of a bike route parallel to I-84 from Troutdale to The Dalles way back in 2007, I’ve watched what was first a dream get very close to reality.
Today, almost the entire route is ready to ride and businesses are sprouting up to help more people enjoy it. One of them is Bike the Gorge, a new e-bike rental service in Cascade Locks. Last Sunday I reserved a bike from them for my mom (who just turned 74) so we could enjoy a family day on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail (HCRH).
I love Cascade Locks for its proximity to Portland (only 50 miles or so east, I even biked there for a meeting once!), it’s amazing riverfront park, fun local businesses (including the main location of our Bike Happy Hour partner Gorges Beer Co!), and of course, access to amazing bike rides.
On Sunday, after my mom got a quick lesson on her new e-bike from Bike the Gorge owner (and BikePortland subscriber!) Ben DeJarnette, we set off east to start our journey on the trail.
It would have been much easier to start at Wyeth Trailhead, but I thought we’d just ride to the start from where we parked the car in Cascade Locks. I had never ridden between Cascade Locks and Wyeth and I figured it’d be easy and beautiful. It was the latter, but certainly not the former! Turns out Wyeth Road has a massive climb (about 500 feet elevation in 1.5 miles) on it that I didn’t account for. I was lucky my family didn’t mutiny.
Warmed up from the climb, we got to Wyeth where the carfree section starts and would take us five miles to Viento State Park (that’s where the carfree section ends currently, but if you ride it after September 9th, ODOT will have opened another two mile section east of Viento!).
This is such a beautiful section of the HCRH (it really needs a nickname). My favorite part is where the path reaches into the sky, high above I-84, as it hugs the Gorge hillside on perfectly smooth pavement as the Columbia River expands all around you. Another fun spot is Wind Mountain Overlook, a great spot for a snack that’s accessible via a dirt trail about 2.5 miles east of Wyeth Trailhead.
And of course there are several waterfalls to gawk and cool off at if that’s your thing.
As the miles wore on and we faced stiff headwinds on our way back, my mom had really gotten a hang of her e-bike. She just smiled and zoomed around with a big grin on her face as I struggled to keep up. Eventually I just let her go, so she was free to float on the famous Gorge wind and feel that magic of cycling that’s been a part of her life for so long.
If you’ve never experienced the HCRH State Trail, get out there before summer is over. And with e-bike rentals and great trailheads full of amenities like water, bathrooms, bike tools, and so on, you can take any type of rider and rest assured they’ll have a great time. My mom sure did!
Thanks to Bike the Gorge for the rental, all the advocates and elected officials who’ve helped make this project happen, and to ODOT for showing us that you are capable of building world-class cycling infrastructure when you want to.