Biking in the Columbia River Gorge

An exciting mix of historic highways and sweeping views make the gorge a great cycling getaway.

Gabriel Amadeus syncline croppedTest your mountain biking skills on the expert-only Syncline trail.
Photo by Gabriel Amadeus via Flickr

Portland ranks as one of America’s most cycle-friendly cities, but even the most enthusiastic urban rider craves spinning on scenic roads and woodsy trails. The nearby Columbia River Gorge provides easy access to both. Set less than hour from downtown, the gorge is a recreational biker’s paradise, with options including car-free blacktop, smooth single-track flows and canyon trails riddled with tricky switchbacks. Here are three superb spots to pedal the day away.


Mountain bikers of all ages and abilities can appreciate the EasyCLIMB Trail, a 2-mile (3.2 km) loop at the port of Cascade Locks. The multi-purpose path winds through rock-strewn riverfront beaches, grassy meadows and even an 18-hole disc golf course. With only 200 feet (61 m) of total elevation gain, this family-friendly ride is ideal for beginning mountain bikers looking to gain confidence while admiring gorgeous gorge views. Also ideal: a post-pedal ice cream cone from Cascade Locks’ famous East Wind Drive-In.


Outfitted with wide, paved shoulders and sections of dedicated bike paths, the Historic Columbia River Highway offers road bikers several opportunities for pedal-powered sightseeing. The 4.5-mile stretch from Hood River to Mosier features the fantastic engineering feat of the Mosier Twin Tunnels, originally carved from the solid basalt cliffs in 1921. For a longer excursion, take the highway from Troutdale’s Glen Otto Community Park to Cascade Locks Marine Park. Riders share the road with automobile traffic on most of this 31-mile (50 km) portion of asphalt. (A 1.6-mile [2.6 km] section between John B. Yeon State Park and Moffett is car-free.) But the low speed limits and well-graded roads — not to mention stellar waterfalls — make this a must for any experienced cyclist. Don’t forget to stop at the famous, 620-foot (189 m) Multnomah Falls for a picture-perfect picnic spot.


Ready to take your mountain biking to the next level? Cross the Columbia River to the Washington side of the gorge, where you’ll find the Syncline, a hair-raising trail that challenges expert cyclists with 11 miles (17.7 km) of steep, technical single-track. On the ascent, choose between rocky switchbacks or hard-packed dirt — either way, riders must grind out more than 5 miles (8 km) of continuous climbing. The hard work pays off with a screaming descent enhanced by remarkable river views and varied scenery, including old orchards, open pastures, wildflower meadows and basalt bluffs dotted with pines.

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