Gravel - Cycle Oregon

Exploring new connections between Marine Drive and the Historic Highway

Posted by on May 1st, 2015 at 3:19 pm

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New path along Sandy River in Troutdale. Sure beats dodging semis near freeway on-ramps!
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Marine Drive is a valuable gem in our regional biking network. Its combination of off-street paths and bike lanes make it an excellent way to connect to Troutdale, the Sandy River, and the gorgeous roads in around the Columbia River Gorge.

Unfortunately, the route most people take from Marine Drive through Troutdale to the Historic Columbia River Highway is a real pain. For years I’ve ridden through that section by going under I-84, then riding a sketchy bike lane adjacent to a huge truck stop and the busy driveways of shops and fast food joints. Now, thanks to a mix of old paths and trails (forgotten sections of the 40-Mile Loop), combined with a recently completed Oregon Department of Transportation project, there’s a much better way to make this connection.

MAp of my route. The I-84 bridge over Sandy River is in the lower left.

And if you’re open to a bit of dirt and adventure, you can extend the fun riding possibilities even further. I recently did some exploring and found a great route between the Historic Highway and Marine Drive that allowed me to completely avoid Troutdale and the I-84 freeway on-ramps and enjoy some quiet and peaceful paths and trails.

The big catalyst in this connection is ODOT’s recently completed update to the I-84 bridge over the Sandy River. As we reported last summer, that project added a new, physically protected biking and walking path to the bridge. What I recently discovered is that there are now a host of new paths leading up to the bridge.

Let’s begin on the Historic Highway, east of the Sandy River just outside Troutdale. Instead of taking the bridge (west) back to the main street of Troutdale, continue north on the highway toward Lewis & Clark State Park. Eventually you’ll see a new path along the river. Take that path (being cautious and considerate of walkers) and it will lead you right to I-84. If you stay to the left (west) you’ll get up onto the new bridge path.

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Looking north at I-84 bridge in the background.
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New bike path on the I-84 bridge.

Once over the river, stay on the path as it loops back toward the river and then heads north under I-84. This new path connects directly to NE Harlow Road on the north side of I-84. From Harlow you can choose to stay on the pavement and connect to NE Graham, or drop right into a dirt trail. This is where things get fun.

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New path under I-84 that connects to Harlow Road.
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Just off Harlow Road. The Troutdale Airport is on the left and the Sandy River is on the right.
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Looking south at Harlow Road and I-84 with Sandy River on my left.

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Turns out there’s a 1.5 mile section of the 40-Mile Loop in this area that I’d never even heard of before. It goes between Graham Rd and Sundial Rd. The 40-Mile Loop paved path is fine and good, but there are also a bunch of dirt trails below the path. These trails (on land owned partially owned by the Port of Portland and set aside as wildlife area) access the Sandy River and a bunch of other undeveloped land stretching out to the Sandy River Delta where it empties out into the Columbia River.

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The paved 40-Mile Loop section. Very popular with dog walkers so be mindful of other users.
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One of the singletrack trails led me to this awesome spot at confluence of Sandy and Columbia rivers.
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Looking west just before the path ends at Sundial Road.

After you’ve had some fun in the dirt, you’ll head west and eventually need to get on the paved path. Take the path all the way to Sundial Road. At that point, you could take Sundial back south to Marine Drive. If you did that, you’d be west of airport and would have avoided all annoying traffic and freeway on-ramps around Troutdale. But, if you are up for a bit more adventure, when you come off the paved path at Sundial, continue west. The road will veer into some industrial operations, but you’ll notice a dirt road continues at the edge of the treeline. Stay on this road (it’s very overgrown with grass) for about a mile and it will take you to NE 223rd. At this point, you’ll head south and back onto Marine Drive just east of Blue Lake Regional Park.

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Looking west where Sundial Rd ends.
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It gets pretty overgrown in parts. Sure beats the shoulder of Marine Drive.

I was very excited to make this connection and will use it every time from now on. If it’s new to you, I hope you enjoy it!

— Check out my route on RideWithGPS for more details.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

18 Comments
  • gutterbunnybikes May 1, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Funny, yesterday I did my birthday ride (44 miles on a 44 year old bike for my 44th Bday – kinda wish I had a 4 speed hub rather than a 3 for this year), and considered heading out to Sandy point to follow this or a similar path back to town. If I remember there’s quite a few little offshoot trails out there if you’re not tied to your GPS, which for this 44 ride I tried to be, which is uncommon.

    But instead choose to go as far east as Blue Lake. Because I like riding through Bridgetown and around the Slough and PIR trails, and don’t get out there as often as I’d like to, and heading as far out as you did the 44 miles would have me returning towards home down 33rd. Which is a less interesting route home than coming from North Portland.

    I still always find it funny that despite the fact there isn’t much within walking distance to the Columbia River Trails, I always encounter many more walkers than bicycle riders on that series of trails. Especially considering I think it’s one of the most interesting and fairly easy (depending on the wind) rides in town.

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  • Wyeast May 1, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Could you show a map of the whole thing? The bridge detail is not clear to me. Thanks!!

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  • eli bishop May 1, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    Very nice! Love discoveries like this.

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  • Grandpa May 2, 2015 at 7:27 am

    As BP readers complain (often justifiably) about lack of improvement in the cycling network, pieces continue to be added to the puzzle and bad connections are made better. Even as ODOT is vilified for many things, it does projects that make cycling better.

    I can already hear complaints that this serves the lesser “recreational rider” and more important transportation riders are ignored. Well I a grouper and not a splitter and what is good for one is good for all.

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  • Scott Mizee May 2, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Jonathan-Thanks for highlighting this route! We must have missed you on the Policy Makers ride a couple of years ago when we traveled this section of the 40 Mile Loop. http://www.40mileloop.org

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  • Zimmerman May 2, 2015 at 8:21 am

    How many salmon died because your rode a bicycle on a singletrack trail? Did you slam into any hikers, off-leash dogs or small children while riding wildly out of control? Could you go back next week in a helicopter and get some aerial photos of the devastating silt runoff caused by the erosion?

    No, you don’t have to answer any of that because they’re all silly arguments.

    This looks like a really fun ride!

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    • Grandpa May 2, 2015 at 9:29 am

      Zimmerman
      It sounds like you are discussing the rogue trails on private property at the cemetery on Mt. Scott (which employed no soil conservation measures in either design or construction on the steep private property terrain) not the flat established trails and paved MUPs described in the article.

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  • Nita May 2, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Jonathan: On the dirt road part, did you have to go around No Trespassing signs? I’ve done that segment many times but always had to be a scofflaw about it. Is it actually open now?

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  • Paul May 2, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Didn’t understand the reference to riding on the Marine Dr. shoulder in the caption under the last photo. I believe the paved path westbound begins on the south side of Marine Dr. at the Sundial traffic light.

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    • Psyfalcon May 2, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      I think that dirt trail is smoother than the Marine Dr one at that point.

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      • Paul May 2, 2015 at 5:26 pm

        You may be right, there are a lot of “root bumps”!

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  • Paul May 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    If you have chosen to travel west into and through Troutdale, access is off 257th/Graham north over the RR overpass. A new path begins at the NW corner of the Outlet Mall just before the eastbound I-84 onramp.

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  • Dan Forester May 2, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. I’ve wished there was an alternative connection from Marine Dr to Hwy 30 ever since I first went out there. I checked it out this morning and I think this will be my preferred route too.

    The dirt track between 223rd and Sundial doesn’t look very promising from the western side, but coming from the east it’s very pleasant. Didn’t see any no trespassing signs at the eastern entrance.

    They (ODOT?) could certainly do more to provide signage for the bike/ped bridge along I-84, but I’m guessing that’s in the plans for later (it all looked really new).

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  • Jolly Dodger May 4, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Made this the east end of a two day stealth camping micro tour. One pic that would have changed my mind (ended up tenting at Chinook landing beach), was of all the NO OVERNIGHT CAMPING signs at EVERY trailhead to the Sandy river. Not that a sign alone has ever stopped me, but also….soooo many power line crossings overhead made feeling comfortable difficult. Just my opinions. The singletrack portion that popped me out right at Chinooks driveway was spectacular!!! Thanks for the secret trail info!

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  • chung cu hh3 linh dam May 10, 2015 at 3:01 am

    The road will veer into some industrial operations, but you’ll notice a dirt road continues at the edge of the treeline. Stay on this road (it’s very overgrown with grass) for about a mile and it will take you to NE 223rd. At this point, you’ll head south and back onto Marine Drive just east of Blue Lake Regional Park.

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  • Ian Yolles May 10, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Who knew? Rode it today. Far superior to the old route. Thanks Jonathan.

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