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Riding the newest section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail (Photo Gallery)

Posted by on November 14th, 2019 at 2:14 pm

The section between Wyeth and Lindsey create is a stunning testament to carfree infrastructure. (Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation gets a lot of heat from BikePortland. And deservedly so. After all, ODOT behaves more like a private highway construction company and a statewide driving and trucking advocacy group than stewards of our transportation system.

But when it comes to special projects like the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, they seem like an entirely different agency. This is an exciting and inspiring project that — despite its vast complexity and cost — continues to move forward at a respectable pace.

I sampled the newest segment of it with my 8-year-old son on Saturday. I was not disappointed.

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Opened just three months ago, the 3.3 mile-long stretch from Wyeth to Lindsey Creek winds through classic Gorge landscapes on what is easily some of the highest quality carfree transportation infrastructure anywhere in the Oregon. Highlights include a 500 foot viaduct over Summit Creek and an elevated section around Shellrock Mountain that offers stunning views up and down the Columbia River Gorge.

It’s obvious that ODOT takes a lot of pride in this project. The setting of this path alone would have made it an amazing place to ride, so the quality of the construction and choice of materials is icing on the cake.

We parked at Wyeth trailhead which has plenty of spaces, bathrooms, a fix-it station and a good map on the main sign. We rode east until we got to Hole-in-the-Wall falls, then we rode back to Wyeth. Along the way we stopped at overlooks (including one that goes off-road to a cliff overlooking the river) and contemplated the geologic and social history of the Gorge.

The only negative thing I can say about this new path is all the smelly and noisy cars and trucks on I-84. Some sections are directly adjacent to the highway. But that’s a relatively minor nitpick. I highly recommend getting out there as soon as you can!

— 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 — Jonathan

33 Comments
  • Avatar
    ugh November 14, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    “We parked at Wyeth trailhead which has plenty of spaces…”

    “The only negative thing I can say about this new path is all the smelly and noisy cars and trucks on I-84.”

    eyeroll, lulz, etc.

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      Chris I November 14, 2019 at 3:37 pm

      Many families who would consider riding from home to this new trail section, choose not to because the route in question (especially between Troutdale and Multnomah Falls) is quite dangerous. I would love i it were possible to ride out here with my kids.

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        ugh November 14, 2019 at 3:44 pm

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/14/anti-natalists-childfree-population-climate-change

        People drive there, because it is unsafe to bike there, because people are driving there. Got it.

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          Chris I November 15, 2019 at 7:26 am

          I get what you are trying to do here, but in this case, your smarmy insight is actually wrong. Driving to this trailhead is entirely on I-84, while the bike route is on the old highway. If our leaders prioritized trail building and traffic calming on the old highway, more cyclists would be using it to access the Gorge.

          Shaming families for car use isn’t going to endear anyone to your cause. Try stepping out of your bubble for a few seconds.

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            dwk November 15, 2019 at 8:13 am

            ugh has a point…. Maybe this site should lay off the constant anti-car rhetoric if you don’t want to be called a hypocrite.
            If it is fine for J maus to drive a car to Hood River for pleasure (and it is), stop complaining about people driving cars to work.
            It sounds hypocritical because it is….

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              Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 15, 2019 at 8:55 am

              I’m hearing this feedback but I can assure you this site will absolutely not lay off the anti-car tone.

              If you read carefully you’ll understand that this site (and me personally) have always been anti-car abuse. Not 100% anti-car. Cars are interesting inventions that have some utility in our society. I think it’s great what cars make possible! And yes, I own two of them. However, I do not abuse my driving privilege. What does that mean? When I do drive, it’s only as a last resort and only after questioning the absolute necessity of the trip. I also make many other decisions in my life that have a direct impact on how car trips I’ll need to make. I also drive with a vast amount of caution and courtesy to other road users.

              I can say with absolute confidence that if everyone was able to approach car use like I do, the world would be a much better place.

              The world is messy. I have absolutely no shame in sometimes getting dirty as I navigate through it. I’m imperfect. We all are. Shit happens. Life happens. But I also have absolutely no qualms about calling the kettle black when it comes to the tremendous negative impacts that cars and their abusive users have on all of us.

              I appreciate your input. And as always, I will let it sink in and consider changing my tone. However, this is a topic I have already given considerable thought to and I can assure you I will persist in calling attention to the many evils of cars and their users. Thanks.

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              Chris I November 15, 2019 at 10:14 am

              I think you need a refresher on Car Clown Behavior:

              https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/04/22/curing-your-clown-like-car-habit/

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                dwk November 15, 2019 at 10:45 am

                I don’t even know what your point is…. If you all want to argue that driving your cars for pleasure is fine but everyone else is wrong , go ahead, but I would just stop digging.

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              Aaron November 15, 2019 at 10:29 am

              Of course driving to work happens a lot more often than driving for pleasure, so in terms of the overall impact, reduction in driving for commuting purposes seems like more of a priority. The reason people drive cars as often as they do in Portland is because cars are the most convenient means of getting from point A to point B here. Whereas in a city like Tokyo, the most convenient means of getting from point A to point B are train and walking/biking. Make non-car means of transportation more convenient and safer (and thereby make the car less convenient because it is a zero-sum game) and fewer people will drive. I don’t wish to put words in Jonathan Maus’ mouth, but I suspect that his anti-car tone is both in terms of individual behavior and the system as a whole. In the system we currently have, it’s oftentimes inevitable that driving needs to happen, but you can criticize the system and work towards changing it while recognizing the need to work within it in the meantime until the necessary changes occur. Working towards reducing the instances where we even need to drive seems hardly hypocritical. I don’t want to downplay the role that individuals play but systemic change is more impactful.

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                dwk November 15, 2019 at 11:00 am

                This site could spend more time telling how people can get around easier and faster on bicycles instead of cars, instead of telling people to not drive cars which is not working.
                I am also a responsible car owner I think, 5000 miles last year on my car and 6000 miles on my bike.
                I ride a bike almost everywhere in town year around because it saves me time.
                Simple as that.
                That is the message.
                The car traffic is worst than ever in Portland and cycling is declining…
                Whatever the city and this site is doing, it is not working at all.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 14, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      yeah. that’s funny huh!

      FWIW I think it’s completely possible and OK to abhor driving abuse and driving’s negative impacts on our society and earth and to also use a car responsibly.

      On that note, we were driving to Hood River for an overnight trip and stopped here on the way. I wouldn’t drive all the way to Wyeth for a 6 mile bike ride!

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        ugh November 14, 2019 at 4:33 pm

        Yup. Most of the 225 million licensed drivers in the US of’n A probably agree with that sentiment. Its those other, irresponsible types ya gotta watch out for…

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          rain panther November 15, 2019 at 10:13 am

          Actually, ugh, I think it’s safe to say most of the 225 million licensed drivers in the US of A don’t give the topic anywhere near the amount of thought Jonathan does. I feel if you really tried you could make your point without deliberately denigrating other participants in the discussion.

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        Pete November 28, 2019 at 11:05 am

        How ironic you have actually biked all the way to Hood River from Portland before; I wonder if anyone slamming you for driving here have tried?

        Am still looking forward to see how they solve that last segment connecting to the Twin Tunnels Trail. Been racking my brain on that for years and don’t see a readily available solution due to geography and property ownership challenges.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson November 14, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    My sister and I checked out a portion of the new trail on Monday…stiff east winds made the return to Wyeth a bit easier than the ride east. You have some fine views…across the River to Wind and Dog Mountains and up and down River at several points. The Shellrock Mt. section is right next to old highway stone walls. But it sure is loud!…ear plugs in order or wish for a closure of some kind on I-84. We need more of this kind of infrastructure…like along the Willamette in N. Portland!

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    Jim Lee November 14, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Fabulous pics, JM!

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    Christian November 14, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    It’s very exciting that this trail is open. A few weeks back I, for the first time ever, was able to ride from The Dalles to Beaverton with only 5 miles on 84. Can’t wait for the last segment. Not only did I feel generally safe , but the Gorge in fall may be one of the most scenic places on Earth. I would really love to see the road between horsetail falls and crown point shifted from being an open road to a bike, hike and bus only. Probably a pipe dream but it would become one of the most amazing rides in the country.

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      Pete November 28, 2019 at 11:08 am

      Major kudos – those 5 miles on I-84 are a beeatch! Am also cheering on ODOT to figure out that connector…

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      Pete November 28, 2019 at 11:11 am

      Do be mindful of the black ice patches caused by the chilly Chinook winds this time of year.

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    Fred November 15, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Every time I ride up Barbur and have to dodge the stupid potholes and rough patches of asphalt, I curse ODOT under my breath and wonder why they can’t maintain a decent bike lane. Then I read about projects like this one, and I wonder: Why the heck can’t ODOT walk and chew gum at the same time??

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      Chris I November 15, 2019 at 7:29 am

      I’ve already seen dozens of cars driving around with studded tires, this week. It’s impossible to keep up with basic road maintenance with the tax base we have when you have morons driving monster trucks with studded tires for 6 months of the year when we only get snow/ice for a few days per year.

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    Helen November 15, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Thanks Jonathan, the article and pictures make me want to get out there and ride! Looks like a really nice trail.

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    Serenity November 15, 2019 at 11:06 am

    These beautiful pictures make me want to ride there. Didn’t I hear that there were really steep stairs there, though? Steep stairs with no handrail, or something?

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      Chris I November 15, 2019 at 11:50 am

      The stairs are just west of Eagle Creek, at exit 41, not in this newest section.

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    Serenity November 15, 2019 at 11:14 am

    I’d hate to go all the way out there, and be surprised…not that I could get both me *and* my trike out there on public transit. Since I am still not allowed.

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    Adam November 15, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    I agree thd section between Troutdale and Ainsworth is not even remotely bike friendly.

    Whatever happened to the plan – announced here on BikePortland – to test out a one-way stretch with contraflow bikelane??????

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      Adam November 15, 2019 at 4:52 pm

      The BikePortland article was titled “ODOT Will Create Carfree Lane on Historic Highway When it Reopens”. It was published on BikePortland July 2018.

      So, where is the carfree lane? Where are the updates ABOUT the carfree lane? If it has been cancelled, where is the outrage about the cancellation of the carfree lane??!

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 15, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      Hi Adam,

      I agree an update on that is needed. What happened is so depressing to me that I sometimes find it hard to cover stuff like that. In a nutshell, sources say that upper-management at ODOT effectively killed the idea. In order to do the story justice, I’d need to do some digging. But at this point it’s dead AFAIK.

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        Serenity November 15, 2019 at 5:07 pm

        Jonathan, I understand how super depressing that would be to cover.

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    Serenity Ebert November 15, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    Outrage about the cancellation of the carfree lane is probably in the same nether realm as the outrage over Trimet’s access failures.

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    Jim Lee November 18, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Lots of really good stuff in this thread!

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    Anthony November 19, 2019 at 11:23 am

    Been having a hard time finding a good comprehensive route to this section of the trail. After getting through Cascade Locks, I’ve just gotten turned around. Do I take Forest Lane, to Frontage Rd, to Herman Creek/ Wyeth Rd? And just keep along that till I find the trail head?

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    • Armando J Zelada
      Armando J Zelada November 20, 2019 at 10:23 am

      Yes just take Herman Creek Rd eastward from Cascade Locks…it encounters a 600 ft hill for a mile…and then Wyeth will appear. This two road is really beautiful and has low VMT. Here is a map of the ride with the elevation cue: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/29840248. Cheers

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