An e-bike ride on a carfree path in the Columbia River Gorge

Stopped for a snack at Wind Mountain Overlook. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

There are many reasons I’m a true believer when it comes to bicycling in the Columbia River Gorge. Since I was first introduced to the vision of a bike route parallel to I-84 from Troutdale to The Dalles way back in 2007, I’ve watched what was first a dream get very close to reality.

Today, almost the entire route is ready to ride and businesses are sprouting up to help more people enjoy it. One of them is Bike the Gorge, a new e-bike rental service in Cascade Locks. Last Sunday I reserved a bike from them for my mom (who just turned 74) so we could enjoy a family day on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail (HCRH).

I love Cascade Locks for its proximity to Portland (only 50 miles or so east, I even biked there for a meeting once!), it’s amazing riverfront park, fun local businesses (including the main location of our Bike Happy Hour partner Gorges Beer Co!), and of course, access to amazing bike rides.

On Sunday, after my mom got a quick lesson on her new e-bike from Bike the Gorge owner (and BikePortland subscriber!) Ben DeJarnette, we set off east to start our journey on the trail.

It would have been much easier to start at Wyeth Trailhead, but I thought we’d just ride to the start from where we parked the car in Cascade Locks. I had never ridden between Cascade Locks and Wyeth and I figured it’d be easy and beautiful. It was the latter, but certainly not the former! Turns out Wyeth Road has a massive climb (about 500 feet elevation in 1.5 miles) on it that I didn’t account for. I was lucky my family didn’t mutiny.

Warmed up from the climb, we got to Wyeth where the carfree section starts and would take us five miles to Viento State Park (that’s where the carfree section ends currently, but if you ride it after September 9th, ODOT will have opened another two mile section east of Viento!).

This is such a beautiful section of the HCRH (it really needs a nickname). My favorite part is where the path reaches into the sky, high above I-84, as it hugs the Gorge hillside on perfectly smooth pavement as the Columbia River expands all around you. Another fun spot is Wind Mountain Overlook, a great spot for a snack that’s accessible via a dirt trail about 2.5 miles east of Wyeth Trailhead.

And of course there are several waterfalls to gawk and cool off at if that’s your thing.

As the miles wore on and we faced stiff headwinds on our way back, my mom had really gotten a hang of her e-bike. She just smiled and zoomed around with a big grin on her face as I struggled to keep up. Eventually I just let her go, so she was free to float on the famous Gorge wind and feel that magic of cycling that’s been a part of her life for so long.

Ride free mama, ride free!

If you’ve never experienced the HCRH State Trail, get out there before summer is over. And with e-bike rentals and great trailheads full of amenities like water, bathrooms, bike tools, and so on, you can take any type of rider and rest assured they’ll have a great time. My mom sure did!

Thanks to Bike the Gorge for the rental, all the advocates and elected officials who’ve helped make this project happen, and to ODOT for showing us that you are capable of building world-class cycling infrastructure when you want to.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Dan R
Dan R
9 months ago

Looks like a lot of fun! How do you get there from town?

Chris I
Chris I
9 months ago
Reply to  Dan R

If you can’t or don’t want to drive for some reason, the Columbia Gorge Express is a great option. I’m not sure about E-bikes, though. Most of the racks on the busses are vertical, so you need to be able to lift it pretty high.

https://www.ridecatbus.org/columbia-gorge-express/

SD
SD
9 months ago
Reply to  Dan R

Marine drive is a good route to 30, which I prefer. You can also make your way to Troutdale using the Spring Water Corridor trail for a lot of the ride but then you have to cut up on some fairly busy streets, albeit with decent bike lanes, but not as nice as low traffic routes.

A J Zelada
9 months ago

http://gorgepedal.com/gpcycle/ will introduce you to cycling in the Gorge. There are some transit opportunities from Gateway-Portland on the Columbia GorgeExpress~ that can get you to where Jonathan’s Mom was.

The Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH) has three different car free segments: Bonneville, Mitchell Point and Twin Tunnels. The Mitchell Point is not complleted but has a lovely portion from Wyeth to Starvation Creek with accessible intimate waterfalls. Another car free trail is parallel to the last eastern aspect of the HCRH which is the Riverfront Trail that in betwn the Discovery Center and The Dalles. This is a lovely east ‘beginning high desert trail’ and again Car-Free.

Recently (early2023) I submitted a Columbia River Gorge Scenic Bikeway to Oregon Bkeways Committee which includes rides across the river to WA from Cascade Locks, cycling along both HCRH vehicle road and car free trail segments and car free travels of the parallel segments as mentioned above. The intent is to make a total Columbia River Bikeway dominated by our OR dedicated infrastructure but also trying to set the stage for being a complete Gorge defined cycling area. Recent effort of Hood River to establish cycling across their bridge is another needed foundation. We have such a unique regional transportation area not just the backbone of the Historic Columbia River Highway. It rivals any wolrd heritage site across the globe. See more: http://gorgepedal.com/gpscenic/

Max S (Wren)
Max S (Wren)
9 months ago

Anyone have experience biking in traffic on that stretch of Highway 30? I’m tempted to try out that ride sometime but the segments with cars seem sketchy. I drove that way a couple days ago and there are a lot of hills and no space to pass, which seems like a recipe for asshole drivers (plus the posted speed limit really feels way too high; I was 10 mph below for a lot of it).

SD
SD
9 months ago
Reply to  Max S (Wren)

A few weeks ago, I rode from Portland to Cascade Locks- Marine Dr. > Hwy 30 starting at Lewis and Clark Park > Cascade Locks along hwy 30 including this path and back. It was an amazing ride. I loved it. It was a Saturday, so there was a decent amount of tourist traffic, which I think slowed down traffic by creating mini traffic jams at the parking for the various waterfalls along the way. Most of the drivers were careful, there were a number of other bikers and even a family plus a few others people on ebikes that rode past me up to vista house in a line of 10 or so people. The other bikers seemed fairly casual, i.e., not serious highly experienced cyclists. I don’t know what it would be like during the week. I’m sure fewer cars but maybe faster and more impatient. I would highly recommend. If you can get a few people to ride with you even better.

Steve
Steve
9 months ago

Wow, that ride looks amazing. I really need to get out there on one of those rental ebikes!