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The Ride: Pedaling from Portland to Hood River

Posted by on July 17th, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Portland to Hood River ride-11.jpg

New to me, Kingsley Road above Hood River was a welcome alternative to Dee Highway.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

One of the ways I fit cycling adventures into my life is to ride to places where I’m already planning to do something with my family. So, when we planned to meet some friends in Hood River on Sunday, I knew it was a golden opportunity.

Like always, I opened up Ride With GPS and started planning. I ended up doing an absolutely sublime 100-mile route from Portland to Hood River that you definitely want to put on your to-do list (if you haven’t already).

See full route details on Ride With GPS.

When I plan a route my main goal is to come in contact with as few cars as possible. And by that measure, the route I did Sunday is one of the best I’ve ever done. Most of it was either on carfree paths or mountain backroads with very few motor vehicles. I can’t believe it’s taken me 13 years of living in Portland to do this ride!

The first 25 miles or so were on the Esplanade and the Springwater. By the time I turned off the Springwater (north of Boring), I was already among rural farmlands with hardly any traffic (especially on a Sunday morning). I headed east toward the Sandy River via Dodge Park Boulevard and Lusted Road. After a water refill at beautiful Dodge Park, a campground at the confluence of the Sandy and Bull Run rivers run by the Portland Water Bureau, I continued east on smooth and winding backroads. SE Shipley Road between Ten Eyck and Marmot roads was a highlight of this section.

Portland to Hood River ride-1.jpg

SE Dodge Park Blvd just before SE Lusted Road and the Sandy River.

Portland to Hood River ride-2.jpg

E Marmot Road north of Sandy River near Alder Creek area.

Once on Marmot Road (which is quiet and beautiful) the route paralleled Highway 26 (while being far enough away to not hear or see it) for 14 miles. At tiny mountain community of Zig Zag, I made a left and headed north on Lolo Pass Road. This was the big climb of the day: the road took me 2,000 feet up in about 10 miles. At the top, the road turned to dirt. I crawled my way down about 3.5 miles of loose rocks and gravel (thank goodness I had size 32 tires set up tubeless).

Portland to Hood River ride-3.jpg

Headed up the big climb.

Portland to Hood River ride-4.jpg

Be ready for some rocky dirt roads if you do this route.

Portland to Hood River ride-5.jpg

Portland to Hood River ride-6.jpg

Looking back (south) toward Mt. Hood on Green Road.

After the dirt section, Lolo Pass turns into Lost Lake Road and I eventually wound my way to the orchards of the upper Hood River valley. Instead of going into town via the popular route of Dee Highway I opted for an alternate: Kingsley Road. I had no idea what to expect, but I’m glad I gave it a try. The four-mile, 1,100 foot climb turned out to be rocky dirt and felt rather steep with 90 miles already in my legs β€” but it sure beat riding on the shoulder of Dee Highway (218)! And the paved descent on Kingsley back to the highway was smooth, fast, and perfect.

Portland to Hood River ride-7.jpg

The bridge on Punchbowl Road gave me a surprise view of a deep Hood River canyon.
Portland to Hood River ride-8.jpg

Headed up Kingsley Road.

Portland to Hood River ride-12.jpg

Portland to Hood River ride-10.jpg

It was hard and hot, but also carfree and beautiful!

I can’t recommend this route enough. And keep in mind you don’t have to do the 100-miler all the way to Hood River. This route is a great way to get from Portland to Dodge Park for an overnight bikecamping trip. Or do the Kingsley-Punchbowl Road loop from Hood River. Check out the route on Ride With GPS.

β€” Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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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 β€” Jonathan

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Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Sweet looking route.

I ride 23 slicks so the gravel wouldn’t be awesome, but looks like it would still be worth it.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Or change your tires, doh!

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I have so little clearance I might be able to fit 25s, definitely not anything bigger.

They work better than most people would guess, though it’s not very fast going.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I went to wide rims (Pacenti SL23s, and Sugar just finished a set of Pacenti Forza), and the difference was noticeable. The contact patch widens, and 23s look like 25s but ride like 28s. When I recently switched back to Ksyriums, they felt lighter and faster at first, but descending felt less confident, and Strava didn’t show any difference in my usual speeds.

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

And contrary to the current “gravel grinder craze” you can ride many (if not most) dirt gravel roads on 23 or 25s. We used to just call that riding.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Seems really dangerous if you don’t have a bike with gravel-specific geometry. And rim brakes? Are you insane?

Pete
Guest
Pete

Hydraulic, because mechanical discs are just too risky.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

disagree.

Pete
Guest
Pete

(it’s a joke… πŸ˜‰

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

whoosh right over my head!

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

So you’re telling me I should be rocking a fat bike?

JKS
Guest
JKS

I grew up underbiking, and going fatter makes all the difference in the world. Way faster going up and waaay faster going down rougher stuff. I now seek out gravel above all. Compass makes some amazing tires in heretofore heretical sizes that are only going to get more popular as people discover fat doesn’t mean slow, especially if the tires are #supple. Beyond sizes like 650×42 and 48, there are now even production all-road bikes built around 26×55, which seems crazy but is actually plush and fast. Roughly same OD as 700×25, just a lot more suspension and less wheel weight and inertia.

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

Definitely agree that you can go faster with wider/bigger tires.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

There’s a big difference between riding gravel/dirt and having sections of that stuff on a ride. Also, the range of bikes that can be used depends on the specific road conditions and rider.

BTW, loose gravel is outright fun on recumbent trikes, particularly if you have switchback curves to descend.

BB
Guest
BB

Agree, my bike with roadish geometry running 2.25″ tubeless tires flies on pavement but is untouchable on gravel. I like to hunt for good photo angles of my friends coming down fire roads and dirt trails while I’m inevitably waiting for them to catch up. It’s also a good time to grab a snack.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

There’s a big difference between riding gravel/dirt and having sections of that stuff on a ride. Also, the range of bikes that can be used depends on the specific road conditions and rider.

BTW, loose gravel is outright fun on recumbent trikes, particularly if you have switchback curves to descend.

Jason Skelton
Guest
Jason Skelton

So beautiful. Thanks for giving me something for my to do list.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

looks like a perfect ride, thanks for the post!

Toadslick
Subscriber

I cannot wait to ride this!

Pete
Guest
Pete

Major kudos, thanks for sharing!

hotrodder
Guest
hotrodder

Did the lolo pass portion on 23’s one year; I got away with it but I would alter my thinking moving forward!
Great writeup, great Century!

dan
Guest
dan

Yes, I’ve done it on slick 25s before – kind of like walking in high heels on ball bearings, but in a group of 5 riders, no one had any flats, even though there was some pretty spirited riding.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

I mapped almost the same route on Ridewithgps a few weeks ago…looks great…

Big Knobbies
Guest
Big Knobbies

Looks like an excellent trip thru some fine Republican country. I guess you’re used to the road bike, but I’d prefer a mountain bike – even if it had those smooth Serfas tires with the inny tread (as opposed to outty tread).

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Sold… I want to do this as well.

John Liu
Subscriber

What did you do for water?. I took a similar ride a couple years ago, it was >100F, and I ran out of water with two hours to go.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

There are lots of options. Churches are great because they have outdoor spigots, but if there is anyone living out there, you can simply ask — I’ve only been refused once in my entire life because the lady thought it was a scam to get her to open the door. If you pass by no houses whatsoever but you pass by any kind of stream or other water source, carry a filter. You can also carry a lot of water. Two big bottles plus up to 100oz camelbak even on a race setup, or if you have a rig that takes panniers, lugging a couple gallons is doable.

Definitely don’t run out of water. Good way to collapse from heat exhaustion and wake up by the side of the road.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I battle atrial fibrillation now because of episodes with heat exhaustion, so I can’t stress your advice enough. I also use Hammer Endurolyte Extreme tablets, but fully hydrating the day before a long, hot, hilly ride like this is critical. (I’ve also learned that alcohol, jet lag, stress, and other factors can contribute to dehydration, subtly).

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Heat exhaustion is serious stuff and you become more vulnerable once you’ve had it. It’s important to pay attention to hydration, pacing, and electrolytes.

One dead giveaway is it can make you feel like you’re freezing. You might also find that you can’t consume anything — not even water. It sounds like it would be easy to figure out something’s wrong, but unfortunately your head and judgment also get messed up.

Don’t ignore warning signs, or you could collapse without warning.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I was told a-fib comes back once you get it – four cardioversions later I can attest that’s true. Caffeine especially makes you vulnerable – my downfall was energy drinks. The later episodes were each different in their own way, each time with me thinking I had it under control, and unfortunately couldn’t really tell until after I stopped riding and things don’t come down quite properly. (On the plus side, though, the lovely ER nurse who pressed the button the first time is now my wife).

jered bogli
Guest
jered bogli

SAWYER MINI FILTER!! Super easy and super small, I’ve been carrying on all of my “out there” rides where I’m unsure of water. Best $20 I’ve ever spent.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

You can also carry a water filter. There are a few stream/river crossings along the way.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

MSR Trailshot or Steripen

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

I did this ride once and ran way low on water. As I was finally making my way into the orchards above Hood River, I pulled over and stole what looked to be a delicious, ripe, juicy pear. Bit into it, and it was completely unripe, starchy, and dry!!!! I seriously have not been tempted by a pear since, and that was like in 2010 I think.

Fortunately there was a country store another couple miles down the road.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Better leave fruit picking to the experts, apparently.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

You also don’t know what stuff on the trees may be sprayed with.

Not that they’d do this with trees, but having done quite a bit of riding with through agricultural areas, I’ve been caught in “reclaimed water” spray many times — get yer probiotics!

Big Knobbies
Guest
Big Knobbies

6 pack of PBR in the paniers!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56duVYLsd4Q

πŸ™‚

James Buckroyd (Contributor)
Member

I have done a fair bit of this route although the Punchbowls is new to me. I would make the suggestion to get to the top of Lolo and take 1810, it’s a much nicer road that intersects with NF18 further down.

James Buckroyd (Contributor)
Member

Plus 1810 is fine on 25’s, has some ridable gravel. 23’s at a pinch.

emerson
Subscriber

Beautiful and inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

Champs
Guest
Champs

I think we are just about to make reservations in Portland.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Ehhh, Hood River!

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

This looks like a fun ride. Will definitely have to keep this in mind.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Interesting diversion out Orchard Rd. in Hood River. Looks like you got headed off by the airport runway extension. It looks like Google maps hasn’t caught up with the change. The street view shows a road where the satellite view shows a break for the runway.

Pat Lowell
Guest
Pat Lowell

Thank you for sharing! I love your ride reports and wish there were more of them.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Love this, bookmarking for the future!

Mark
Guest
Mark

Is there a decent way to make a loop of this back to PDX through the Gorge? I was considering a similar ride this weekend to get to the Fall Creek Hinterland ride on Sat in Carson, but couldn’t figure a good way to get from Hood River to Cascade Locks/BOG. It looks like the choice are a stretch on I-84 or RT 14 on the WA side. Anyone know of a better option?

dan
Guest
dan

If your choice comes down to I-84 or RT14, take I-84. RT14 has almost no shoulder, at the end of the day it will be hard for cars to pick you out due to the setting sun, and there is debris from small slides on the shoulder – rocks from gravel size up to fist size. Also, there are tunnels. I-84 will at least give you more room on the shoulder and no tunnels.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Plus if you want to get to the Oregon side from Bingen, you’ll have to hitch because the HR Bridge bans peds and cyclists (and you’d be crazy to try it anyway).

Mike
Guest
Mike

Until ODOT completes the final portions of the Historic Columbia River Hwy State trail, you’re forced to ride I-84 for about 11 miles between Hood River and Wyeth. It’s legal, but I’m not sure I’d want to do it. Nor would I want to be on the WA side of the river on SR14.
http://oregonstateparks.org/ckFiles/files/HCRH_BikeMaps.pdf

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

I’ve done this, and it wasn’t all that bad in my mind. You are on a huge shoulder, and while traffic is moving fast, highway drivers tend to hold their lanes, especially when there are rumble strips (if I’m remembering correctly, they are common on I84 around there).

And then once you can connect to the paths and old highway things are golden.

Adam
Subscriber

Riding on the shoulder of the freeway isn’t that bad

We live in very different worlds, it seems.

Mike
Guest
Mike

A beloved local cyclist was killed riding this stretch a few years ago…so I might be a bit more sensitive about riding it than you. https://bikeportland.org/2014/08/27/fatal-collision-highlights-gap-historic-columbia-river-highway-state-trail-110428

I travel between HR-PDX on 84 regularly, and can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the 2nd or 3rd trailer of a semi wobble over onto the shoulder.

All in all, it’s probably not much more dangerous than many routes in Portland. I agree that we live in different worlds…I generally encounter less than a dozen cars on my road rides.

Pete
Guest
Pete

On the back wall of Celilo restaurant there is an extraordinary work of her art (I believe Maui and Ben and Jacquelyn brought it over from Sixth Street). I think of her every time I see it. I didn’t know her personally very well (friend of friends), but she was a vibrant woman to be around. Tragic loss to the entire community.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

What makes riding on the shoulders of freeways bad isn’t traffic, but rather debris and crossing on/off ramps. In the case of 84, wind can be a huge issue (though it could also be a tailwind).

My experience is that traffic drift is less of an issue on interstates than other types of highways. On the plus side, you can get an excellent side draft off heavy traffic. It’s not that fun, but you can cover a lot of miles fast.

Adam
Subscriber

I appreciate the mansplain, but I don’t even like riding in bike lanes next to 30 MPH traffic. There is absolutely no way in hell I’m riding on the shoulder of a highway. The roar of the cars along would probably induce a panic attack.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

It’s totally obvious to me why someone wouldn’t like riding by the roar of highway traffic. It is really loud. But it’s not as dangerous as many “normal” cycling environments except when crossing ramps. Sight lines are excellent, threats from the side are nonexistent, and the shoulders are super wide. Hook threats are nonexistent — problems only come from behind

Along interstates, you ride much further from the white line because the blast from trucks is hefty. That means that for a cyclist to get hit: 1) a vehicle has to be 5 feet or more into the shoulder where drivers who’ve dozed off will get loads of tactile feedback (how often do you see this, seriously); and 2) the cyclist doesn’t notice or doesn’t have time to bail.

The reason it’s legal to ride along certain sections of in Oregon is because it’s considered safer than alternatives. If you want to go places on a bike, it is frequently the case that there is no easy and pleasant option.

Pete S.
Guest
Pete S.

Is this even a ride you are interested in (setting aside the safety issues on 84)? Based on your comments on this site, my impression that your interest lies primarily in commuting and around-town toodling.

I would suggest that if that is the case, your opinion on this ride in particular bears little relevance.

Pete
Guest
Pete

It’s intimidating, but do-able. Problem is that those shoulders are rarely clean of debris. It tends to be cleaner westbound (and downhill), though gusty.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I was thinking about the intimidation thing because vehicles go nearly the speeds on many two lane highways as they do on interstates and shoulders aren’t nearly was wide (or might not even exist).

I used to ride between Monmouth and Eugene on an occasional basis for work and have done it via I-5, 99, and back roads. The back roads are by far the most fun, but they take significantly longer, I-5 is fastest, and 99 is somewhere in between. From a safety standpoint, 99 was the worst by far. There are some sections with no shoulder at all, and traffic is heavy and fast.

My recollection was that the biggest single drawback I saw to riding I-5 was the debris followed by the noise. Safety wasn’t a significant concern. It is a major concern on some two lane highways and it can be an issue even on back roads.

There are a bunch of roads that look like they’d be great for riding but are quite dangerous. Near the coast, there are a bunch of curvy back roads with really light traffic. Problem is that the locals and some tourists use them for a Mario Andretti driving experience.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Oooof… I lived in Corvallis and rode 99 to Eugene once. No shoulder and buzzed by speeding cars from what I remember.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Also, don’t be fooled by the Ride-With-GPS suggestion to climb up Wyeth Trail #411 to NF-2820. The Wyeth Trail is under US Forest Service “wilderness restrictions,” which, among other things requires a permit and prohibits “possessing or using a… bicycle” (see https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mthood/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5192346). I realize this may be a politically sensitive subject and I’m not trying to pick a fight with anyone. I simply don’t want people to be surprised by such rules. Unfortunately, the Google maps routing engine does not do a good job of distinguishing protected trails from those that allow bike-access.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

“Is there a decent way to make a loop of this back to PDX through the Gorge?”

No.

West of Wyeth, yes. The freeway shoulder might be “wide” most of those 10-12 miles from Hood River to Wyeth, but not around Shellrock Mountain. That’s where you’re going to die.

An alternative that might work, if you’re not an anti-car purist: I believe there is a taxi service in Hood River. If I’m not mistaken, cyclists sometimes use it to get across the bikes-prohibited bridge over the Columbia. I wonder if you could get them to drive you and your bike to Wyeth. Might cost a few bucks, but would totally be worth it.

Pete
Guest
Pete

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mt1icFkkzUM

Good luck with the “cab” companies here…

Mike
Guest
Mike

Awesome route! I’ve done most of it, but we crossed over Vista Ridge/Red Hill (USFS 16, 98% paved) to come out in Parkdale and then across to the east side of the valley to avoid Dee Hwy down to Hood River (Note that this adds another serious climb and
some distance).
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23268310

A couple others have mentioned the alternate climb and descent of Lolo Pass. The alternate climb adds about 3 miles, but it’s much better cycling road (Narrow, twisty pavement…and even less chance of seeing a car compared to Lolo Pass Road). When you meet Lolo Pass road at the top take the 1810 down. While gravel, it’s in better shape than Lolo Pass road. Here’s the map:
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23267987

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

Just a thought: If the Trans-America trail ever gets to Oregon, this could be an alternate to the Columbia Gorge trail. Adding water stops, rain shelters and signage to this might be worth considering.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

JM,

you should make this an annual group ride πŸ™‚

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Love it. Stay the night in HR then take the Columbia Gorge Express back into town (someday soon), and it’d be amazing.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Someone go make it happen!
“MCEDD is seeking a Mobility Manager to support the Gorge TransLink Alliance. Learn more at mcedd.org/jobopenings.htm
CAT is seeking an Executive Director. Learn more at catransit.org.”

Pete
Guest
Pete

Oh yeah, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings you can catch CAT into Portland ~8 AM on Wasco by the Walmart.

Shawn
Guest
Shawn

I do this ride in the reverse direction usually at least once a year. I live in The Dalles and start out riding the Old Highway up the Rowena Loops and then over the Twin Tunnels Trail between Mosier and Hood River. I then turn south and ride on the east side of the Hood River Valley on Eastside road. The Kingsley Road option is an interesting one – Skipping the Dee Highway is a wise decision considering the not-always-so-considerate highway traffic that rushes along it. Riding “toward” Portland via this route and riding along Barlow Trail / Marmot Roads is really nice.

Thanks for the report.

Pete
Guest
Pete

JM did it in the ‘kinder’ direction; climbing up Kingsley or Binn’s Hill Road from Hood River’s westside heading S/SW are some pretty challenging hills! (But then again Sevenmile from TD isn’t a cakewalk either…).

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

I’ve done the Lusted/Marmot stretch (going out to Welches) and it’s pretty nice. I remember very few cars, and half a dozen calves curiously running along a fenceline trying to follow me (but as soon as I stopped and looked back, they would run away).

Big Knobbies
Guest
Big Knobbies

How many orchards did you pass? Might be good to time the ride for when they are blooming if there’s not too much snow on the high parts.