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The Ride: Exploring the Gifford Pinchot National Forest ‘Hinterland’

Posted by on May 3rd, 2016 at 10:01 am

Into the Hinterland we go.
(All photos courtesy Ron Lewis/

Welcome to The Ride, our occassional series where we share amazing adventures in Portland and beyond. If you have a ride to share and want to see it featured here, drop me a line.

Just across the Columbia River from Oregon the Gifford Pinchot National Forest beckons bike adventurers. Last year I spent a very memorable day getting to know it better during the Gifford Gravel 50 (which is back for its second running this Saturday).

Last weekend another group of intrepid Portlanders ventured even deeper into the Gifford Pinchot for the loosely organized and unsanctioned Falls Creek Hinterland ride. I haven’t been riding much this year so I wasn’t able to do the 76-miles and 8,100 feet of climbing; but I still secretly stalked it via my inbox and social media streams. There was something mysterious about the word “hinterlands” that made me excited from the get-go.

Fortunately one of the guys who created the route and organized the ride got in touch and shared some photos. Ron Lewis co-created this route with local adventure riding enthusiast Ryan Francesconi. Ron (who shares his routes and photos at Our Mother the Mountain or OMTM) and Ryan (known online by his Unpaved moniker), similar to Donnie Kolb of Velo Dirt before them, are part of a new guard of riders who study maps of nearby forests and mountain ranges in an effort to find new loops and backroads. Once a route is found, pre-ridden, and scouted, they pick a date and post the details to their email lists, websites, and social media streams. Whoever shows up rides together and new friends accompany the new roads.

The Hinterlands route looked amazing — about what you’d expect when two creative explorers like Ron and Ryan collaborate. The ride left out of Carson, Washington (just across the Columbia from Cascade Locks about 50 miles into the Gorge) and headed north into the Gifford Pinchot. There was singletrack along the Falls Creek Trail, stunning views, waterfalls, a lava cave, and more.

Map and elevation via Ride With GPS.

Here are more photos from the ride…


Big thanks to Ron, Ryan and all the local adventure riders who put together these amazing routes. There’s nothing like discovering our local wild places from the seat of a bicycle.

If you want a taste of the Gifford Pinchot, make plans to do the second annual Gifford Gravel ride this Saturday (May 7th). Also check out OMTM’s next big adventure, the Mosier Mayhem, on Saturday May 14th.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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  • Alex May 3, 2016 at 10:22 am

    God it is hard for me imagining doing a ride like this. I have ridden in that area quite a bit and have ridden Falls Creek Falls and Lewis River as an out and back in a day on a mountain bike, but descending FCF on a drop-bar bike just kills me a little inside. Looks like it would be a hard ride and I hope you enjoyed it – it sure is pretty out there! I hope you didn’t kill any salmon or elk on those road bikes!

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    • Granpa May 3, 2016 at 10:27 am

      The jokes about killing threatened and endangered species never gets old.

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      • Alex May 3, 2016 at 10:34 am


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        • Alex May 3, 2016 at 10:35 am

          Oh wait, neither are threatened nor endagered..but I am sure you have a point in there somewhere.

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          • Zimmerman May 3, 2016 at 10:50 am

            I just hope you ate whatever you killed. You know, not the endangered ones though, just the regularly occurring delicious ones.

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          • Psyfalcon May 3, 2016 at 10:56 am
            • Zimmerman May 3, 2016 at 11:02 am

              Weird, I didn’t see any specific salmon mentioned and the salmon that were mentioned are hypothetical. Are the hypothetical salmon killed by mountain bikers protected? I didn’t see them on the list.

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              • Dan A May 3, 2016 at 2:03 pm

                Well, there aren’t many hypothetical salmon around, not that I’ve seen anyway. They might very well be endangered.

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              • Zimmerman May 3, 2016 at 2:05 pm

                I’d say they’re rarer than a sense of humor on BP.

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  • Granpa May 3, 2016 at 11:27 am

    The trails/roads were dry and well designed. The threat to critters from these routes and the ride was not mentioned in my post because none was evident. STILL the previous post needed to get a dig into environmentalists who value critters (some of whom are in fact endangered). Mountain bikers making jokes about killing endangered species are making light of a real issue which, I believe, they are actually concerned about. Beyond being hypocritical they undermine the valid claim that they themselves are environmentalists and responsible stewards of the areas where they ride.

    FWIW, sarcasm does not work well in the internet.

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    • Zimmerman May 3, 2016 at 11:36 am

      Let’s go over this every single time someone makes this joke: false environmental concerns don’t do environmentalists any favors either. I’d love for someone to conclusively show me how riding bicycles in the woods directly causes the death of any species of salmon, especially if you’re talking about the River View Natural Area where that specific concern was used for preventing mountain biking.

      The joke is not about the salmon, it was never about the salmon.

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      • Granpa May 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm

        In this case, no one made any environmental concerns false or otherwise, yet the dig about killing salmon and elk was still provided.

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      • Brian E May 3, 2016 at 12:23 pm

        I’m one of the worse offenders. I use a computer which runs on Hydro-Power and kills Salmon. And I’m eating food that was irrigated by water that was once held by a Salmon killing Dam.

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      • jeff May 3, 2016 at 2:52 pm

        no, it was more about your bitterness and disdain for city government.

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    • Alex May 3, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      > The trails/roads were dry and well designed.

      Oh I am sure they were dry – except, I don’t know if I would say FCF was really well designed – it has more to do with the soil content in that area regarding how well it drains. That trail has morphed a lot in the past 13+ years that I have been on it – and sometimes not for the good. There are some real pain points in there where erosion has been great and the trail has basically turned into a river and then a new trail emerges next to it.

      > The threat to critters from these routes and the ride was not mentioned in my post because none was evident.

      Yea – I am sure you didn’t notice the silt content in the river and how bikes impacted it on your ride. Nor did you notice all the animals that noticed you. That is sort of their point. Through science, we can observe and estimate impact (which we have done).

      > Mountain bikers making jokes about killing endangered species

      I never made a joke about killing endangered species – I said hope none got hurt – which I sincerely hope is true! I was making a joke about certain “environmentalists” made-up concerns that mountain biking has a detrimental effect on these species (which hasn’t been shown by science).

      > Beyond being hypocritical they undermine the valid claim that they themselves are environmentalists and responsible stewards of the areas where they ride.

      You see, I don’t really agree with that assessment. But that is the thing about opinions – everyone has one…I do hope you see your own role in this conversation.

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      • RF May 3, 2016 at 6:25 pm

        I’m always amazed by people who are willing to bring up the “damage” caused by bikes to things like rivers, streams, wildlife, etc — while driving their cars on I84.

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  • Pete May 3, 2016 at 11:53 am

    You say that like we’re the top of the food chain. Last time I was hiking alone in G-P I nearly walked into a black bear. S/he looked right at me but I took a quick step back behind a big tree and just froze, trying to think what to do if attacked. Of course, the bear must have thought I was the threat because it (silently) made tracks, and after a while I mustered up the courage to peek around the corner and it was gone.

    Mosier sports a different threat these days: watch for poison oak.

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  • Devin May 3, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    This ride was amazing! Following a treasure map to find cold beer stashed in a cave on a hot day is not your usual bike ride. Descending the rooted singletrack trail on a rigid drop bar CX bike immediately following was extra fun 🙂 As evidenced by my cheesy grin in the photo above. Ryan Francesconi for President!

    BTW – The last paragraph of this story says Gifford Gravel is Sunday May 7th. It is actually Saturday May 7th.

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  • GlowBoy May 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Awesome country. I once put together a 50-mile ride including the Quartz Creek trail and some of the forest roads to the east. I also had a bear encounter in that area.

    Also had yellow jackets build a nest on the underside of my car while I was camped there overnight. At first I couldn’t figure out why they were swarming around my car every time I stopped. That was scarier than the bear. For whatever reason, I’ve seen more yellowjackets on the Pinchot than every other National Forest I’ve visited, combined.

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  • Pete May 3, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Of course the irony is that posting Internet comments about killing salmon causes packets to be routed through Google servers in The Dalles powered by dams that kill salmon.

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  • Ride With GPS
    Ride With GPS May 4, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    The route and ride Saturday were fantastic. Great weather, great group of riders, and great community in Carson, especially at Backwoods Brewing Company and the Carson General Store. Very much looking forward to more of these from Ryan and Ron!

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  • Kate May 6, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Sidenote question- does anyone know if we’ve passed the good time to bike Syncline? I’ve been wanting to try it out for the first time, but heard it gets rather covered in poison oak outside of winter/ fall. Any local knowledge would be appreciated!

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    • GlowBoy May 7, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Poison Oak is definitely leafed out and growing fast this time of year. I would think Syncline is already way past the ideal time for riding if you want to avoid PO.

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      • Alex May 7, 2016 at 10:24 pm

        This is definitely true – go ride the new stuff in Post Canyon!

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