The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Travel Oregon tourism workshops and better transit coming to the Gorge in 2016

Posted by on January 12th, 2016 at 9:41 am

Gorge Roubaix - Sunday-13

More bikes in the Gorge is a very good thing.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re interested in helping the Columbia Gorge keep ascending into the pantheon of world-class cycling destinations, Travel Oregon wants to help you.

The extremely bike-friendly state tourism organization has selected the Columbia Gorge for its “Tourism Studio Program” in 2016. This is “a professional bi-state development program designed to bolster the region’s tourism economy while maintaining its rich environmental and cultural assets.” After the same program was implemented in Clackamas County in 2011, that region witnessed a blossoming of bike-related tourism projects and initiatives.

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s continued connection and improvement of the Historic Columbia River Highway has been combining with enthusiasm by people up and down the Gorge who see their area’s huge potential for tourism that has low environmental impact but big economic impact. We’ve been covering all of this as it has come together in recent years, and it looks like we’ll have plenty more to cover in the years to come.

The workshop series will include hands-on skill-building, planning, and product development workshops full of information and networking opportunities. Community leaders, public agencies, industry associations, tourism entrepreneurs, tour operators, lodging property owners, restauranteurs, and anyone with an interest in strengthening the local economy through tourism are invited to participate in the program. Workshops run between January and April of 2016. The participation cost of $10 includes lunch. You can learn more here.

Pre-registration is required. For more information: 509-427-8911 or

In addition to this state-sponsored tourism development, the Gorge is also pegged for better transit. ODOT is hosting a survey about possible improvements to public transit along the corridor. To weigh in or share expertise, check it out. The Gorge is primed to jump on the statewide trend of bike tourism benefitting from transit improvements.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty January 12, 2016 at 10:32 am

    I know this is a fantasy, but the Blue Mountains area outside of Sydney is served by passenger rail, and it is fantastic to be able to take the train out for the day, do a world-class hike, have a glass of wine, and get back home without stepping into your car.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • dan January 12, 2016 at 11:36 am

      Amtrak runs to White Salmon…not sure how the hiking is immediately around town though. If you were very motivated, you might be able to get a kite+kite board on the train…

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Pete S. January 12, 2016 at 12:04 pm

        The problem is that that line doesn’t offer roll-on bike service like the one to Seattle does. Last I checked that station doesn’t offer checked baggage service either. That pretty much leaves folding bikes.

        Recommended Thumb up 4

      • Pete January 12, 2016 at 1:32 pm

        Bingen (White Salmon’s at the top of the hill ;). One problem I’ve had with this train is that its schedule often gets screwed over by the freight trains running on the same tracks; the evening trains run a little more reliably. The cool thing is you can take it all the way to Montana for a weekend of skiing!

        Someday we will even have a bridge connecting Bingen and Hood River that allows bikes and pedestrians, though not likely any time soon – until then your best bet is to hitch. (It was recently hit by a vessel in a “hit and run”… guess there are irresponsible drivers of all modes).

        There’s some good info here:

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Adam H.
    Adam H. January 12, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Single-seat public transport from Portland to the gorge would be transformative. There are many people who would love to ride in the gorge but lack a motor vehicle in which to transport their bike. Riding to the gorge is not always an option. If the bus was frequent enough, it could even be used for non-bike tourism. Go check out the waterfalls for a few hours, then hop on a bus back home.

    The same should be done for Mount Hood, but that’s another story.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Kate January 12, 2016 at 11:07 am

      Check out the Mt. Hood express bus. It connects to the Gresham Transit Center and Max station and will take you up US 26 to several biking destinations. It even has a bike trailer attached to the bus for easy hauling of several bicycles so you don’t have to worry about space.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • Adam H.
        Adam H. January 12, 2016 at 11:15 am

        I looked into that bus, but I thought it only went as far west as Sandy. There is a bus from Gresham to Sandy, but that requires me to take a bus to the MAX to a second bus to a third bus; a three hour total trip time. Perhaps I read it wrong, though. If that bus now connects directly to Gresham from Mount Hood, that would make a huge difference.

        I think what’s really needed though, is a single seat bus with stops at downtown Portland, Gresham, Sandy, and Mount Hood. Remove most of the transfers and it becomes so much more convenient.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Kate January 12, 2016 at 2:20 pm

          Check out this expanded service as of last summer. It will take you all the way up to Government Camp and Ski Bowl- or drop you in Welches, Wemme and other places that are close to E Barlow Trail Road (linking to Sandy Ridge) and other bike ways.


          (Obviously I think this is a cool service and want to see it supported). It’s not one-seat from downtown, but with the Max link at the transit center- it’s fairly robust.

          Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Gary B January 12, 2016 at 2:28 pm

          I think you have it right Adam, at least last time I looked into the Mt Hood Express. I’d love to be able to take that bus up to Skibowl/Timebrline, but as you said it becomes a 3 hour affair, making it impractical.

          Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Pete January 12, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Check the link I just posted above. Yes, the gorge is sorely in need of reliable and more frequent transport like this (in 2001 I almost started this service, but that’s another story – there was another one at the time that ended up folding; 9/11 had a big impact on gorge tourism that following year).

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pete S. January 12, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    A bus connecting White Salmon and Hood River would be a great (and relatively easy) start for transit improvements, given that there currently a bike/ped-friendly crossing between Cascade Locks and the Dalles. That would open up a lot of options for riding in the area.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Champs January 12, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Obviously the first piece is finishing the HCRCH trail. Then there needs to be some painless way to reach Troutdale and Hood River, maybe Corbett, Bridal Veil, and Cascade Locks along the way.

    Can teleporters be a thing?

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • B. Carfree January 12, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    It’s a bit disappointing that on a bike site, the number one concern (so far) seems to be motorized transport. Folks, we can ride our bikes, can’t we?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Pete January 12, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Yes, if you like chipseal, rumble strips, and strong headwinds.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • adventure! January 12, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      Well, sometimes, it’s about time. Yeah, I’d love to bike to every destination in the Gorge, but sometimes I only have a day, or maybe two. To get to The Dalles from Portland is 85 miles as the crow (on I-84) flies. Sure, I could bike to there and back if I had two days, but it would be basically two days of biking to there and back.

      Also, there’s still that issue of the 10 or so miles of I-84 riding required between Cascade Locks and Hood River. While I’ve done that many a time, it’s not fun, and I know there are others that feel the same. I know that they intend to finish the HCRH Trail through that area, but that’s still years away. A bus with a bike rack could happen tomorrow.

      And while this is is on a “bike site”, this one isn’t all about “us” cyclists. More transit out and around the Gorge would be useful for the residents out there, and give them more options of getting around.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Art Fuldodger January 12, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Here’s the Mt Hood Express info – lots of runs! Thanks for pointing that out, Kate!!schedule-map/c1h6a

    For the Gorge, there does not seem to be any meaningful transit service – Columbia Area Transit runs between Portland and Hood River 2X a week but apparently no Gorge stops – even in Cascade Locks? A shuttle bus seems a logical first step to addressing the auto traffic problems that plague the “Big Falls” area. I came thru here by bike last summer (on a Monday) and could not believe what a monumental traffic cluster**** it was. You can promote cycling all you want, but if you don’t do something to control the depredations of the private auto then it’s all for naught.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Pete January 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      The last few times I took this bus they stopped and dropped off passengers in Cascade Locks, I guess by request. I think it’s a demand thing. I would LOVE to see more routes and more people use this; I think it was funded by and primarily serves some of the local senior citizen programs. I’ve seen a bike on it and have brought dogs and yes, kites and boards, no problem.

      Hood River has increasingly become a traffic cluster**** over many years (the Dalles is way more bike-friendly), and promoting cycling there will only help make it more so. Still, it will also get more cyclists on the roads, which I don’t think is a bad thing. Also, climbing Oak Street westbound while trackstanding behind tourist drivers who don’t know there aren’t stop signs at every crosswalk is a great workout!

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson January 12, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    The main problem with the Amtrak “Empire Builder” up the Gorge on the northside BNSF track is its afternoon departure (4:45pm); makes a day trip impossible. Indeed to have a full day, say riding the beautiful Klickitat Trail out of Lyle, you would need to stay two nights in Bingen/White Salmon. The westbound train stops at B/WS at 8:04 am. Its a great way for those living in the Gorge to get to Portland for a day. For the OR side, yes you have to hitch a ride on the Hood River bridge! No Bikes/Peds!
    Ah, for the old Amtrak Pioneer along the OR side on the route of the UPRR’s classic “City of Portland” train to Chicago… back in my youth! The “Pioneer” left in the AM and returned in the PM…stopped in Hood River and The Dalles. It was dropped in the 90’s when OR, ID and UT had no interest in kicking in some dough to keep it going. Wonderful “R” transportation policies. Something for ODOT to take a good look at; maybe a Talgo trainset to The Dalles and back. Of course our friends at UPRR would have a fit. Got to make room for oil and coal!

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Adam H.
      Adam H. January 12, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Amtrak service on the Oregon side to the Dalles would be fantastic! It would definitely boost tourism in The Dalles, Hood River, and the gorge, too! Perhaps they should start with one trip per day in each direction (leave in the morning from Portland, return in the afternoon) to gauge interest?

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • adventure! January 12, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    Don’t forget about the Skamania County bus! It runs Monday through Friday from Fisher’s Landing Transit Center in East Vancouver along SR 14 all the way out to Stevenson and Carson. And during the summer months, they expand the schedule. I’ve used it a few times getting back from bike trips out in the Gorge. (Yep, they have bike racks!)

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • GlowBoy August 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    For the benefit of anyone who found this page after searching for info about the Mt Hood Express, I just got back from a 3-day backpacking trip using this service.

    It’s true that to access this service you first need to take the Sandy Area Metro bus from Gresham TC to Sandy TC, but fortunately the buses sync up pretty well. The 25 minute trip to Sandy costs $1. On weekdays the bus runs every half hour, less often on weekends.

    Once you get to Sandy, the Mt Hood Express runs 6 times a day, and can take you to Brightwood, Welches, Zigzag, Rhododendron, Government Camp or Timberline. Cost is $2 one way, and takes about half an hour to the villages, 45 minutes to Govie or an hour to TImberline.

    The entire trip to Zigzag (bus dropped me off behind the ranger station) took 3 hours flat from west Beaverton, despite a 35 minute layover in Sandy (I got to Gresham and therefore Sandy earlier than planned). From Portland you could make the trip in 2 hours if you timed it just right.

    I then spent 3 days hiking 32 miles up the lovely Salmon River trail in the under-used Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, around Trillium Lake and up to Timberline Lodge, then took the bus back down from Timberline. It was an awesome, inspiring and life-affirming trip.

    Both SAM and MHX appear to be fairly well-used, not only by Mt Hood recreationists but also by locals. Oddly, I was the only passenger going down from TImberline to Govie (at which point others got on), but before I got on that same bus discharged an incredible number of passengers at Timberline. The 18-bike trailer behind the bus was full, as was the 2-bike rack on the front (and someone else had brought an additional bike inside). I’d call this the MHX a success.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • GlowBoy August 21, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    I should add one more thing: if it weren’t for the Mount Hood Express (or Gorge transit options), I would have gone backpacking this weekend anyway. Cheapest 4-day car rental I could find for this weekend was $220. Kinda stupid to spend all that and then leave the car parked for 3+ days. Given that the car would spend an extended time parked at a crime-prone trailhead, I’d also need to opt for the CDW, pushing this up to a $300 rental.

    But instead of $300, the grand total cost of this backpacking trip (excluding food) was six dollars, thanks to the Mt Hood Express. Yes it’s a little tedious making all the transit connections to get there from Beaverton, but worth it. And with a car rental, I couldn’t have done a point-to-point hike like I did.

    If I ever have the opportunity to do a 4-day backpacking trip while I’m here in Oregon, my next adventure will be using the WET bus to get to Stevenson/Cascade Locks, hike the PCT to Timberline and take the Mt Hood Express back to Portland.

    Looking at the paucity of public transport options to most of the rest of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, we are really, really fortunate to have service to Mt Hood and the Gorge. Go use it, and tell everyone you did! Don’t let this be a secret!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Alan 1.0 August 22, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Thank you, GlowBoy, that is great info to share!

      Recommended Thumb up 0