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  1. #1
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Best time to ride in the Columbia River Gorge...?

    I went down there in December once, and the wind was enough to take my breath away. So I'm going to take the timing seriously, and not just go down there the next nice weekend day we get. But it's an incredibly scenic place, and I'd like to do a ride through it.

    When does it start getting nice enough for a cyclist? Lack of excessive wind or ice on the road, mostly. Also, I think mountains look their best around this time of year, when they're capped with snow. Is that going to matter much for the gorge? Would I be better off riding in other places before the snow melts, and doing this one later in the season?

    Can anybody suggest some routes? I know there's an old "highway" on the Oregon side, and I think there are some cyclist friendly routes on the Washington side. Also I know there's a Stonehenge replica down there; I'm more interested in the natural scenery, but I wonder if there are any things I shouldn't miss while I do it.

    I'd be grateful for whatever advice or thoughts anybody has to share.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  2. #2
    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    You are going to get wind in the Gorge year-round. There is a reason for the huge wind farms down towards The Dalles/Biggs/Goldendale. My only advice is if you are going to ride an out and back, start by riding into the wind and turn around when you cannot stand it anymore

  3. #3
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    I went down there in December once, and the wind was enough to take my breath away. So I'm going to take the timing seriously, and not just go down there the next nice weekend day we get. But it's an incredibly scenic place, and I'd like to do a ride through it.

    When does it start getting nice enough for a cyclist? Lack of excessive wind or ice on the road, mostly. Also, I think mountains look their best around this time of year, when they're capped with snow. Is that going to matter much for the gorge? Would I be better off riding in other places before the snow melts, and doing this one later in the season?

    Can anybody suggest some routes? I know there's an old "highway" on the Oregon side, and I think there are some cyclist friendly routes on the Washington side. Also I know there's a Stonehenge replica down there; I'm more interested in the natural scenery, but I wonder if there are any things I shouldn't miss while I do it.

    I'd be grateful for whatever advice or thoughts anybody has to share.
    I haven't had a chance to explore the area much, but I will say that there is one other attraction to the area that piques my interest, there is a small area of desert that is a dune sea near there. IIRC, there is a campground right nearby and it isn't too far from the 3/4 scale Stonehenge replica.

    I don't know where geographically the gorge extends to/ends, but part of the Gran Fondo Ephrata swung by the Columbia River the year I did it, and I struggled with constant wind on that ride. It was about this time of year.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    When does it start getting nice enough for a cyclist? Lack of excessive wind or ice on the road, mostly.
    It's probably safe to say the risk of snow/ice is pretty low about now in the Gorge, and all of the main routes through the Gorge are below 1,000 feet in elevation. But like Woodway says, wind in the Gorge is a constant no matter what time of the year. (That's why Hood River is the Windsurfing capital of the world.) The big change is what way it's blowing. During winter, you get an easterly wind (which explains your experience in December). During summer, it's a westerly wind. So it's all good heading east, until you turn around. And during the summer, the wind gets stronger the further east you go. I remember crossing The Dalles Bridge several years ago, hitting the headwind, and having to pedal hard downhill.

    During the spring, the wind direction can vary, and it's hard to predict long-range what it will be. As for this weekend, it looks to be a westerly wind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Also, I think mountains look their best around this time of year, when they're capped with snow. Is that going to matter much for the gorge? Would I be better off riding in other places before the snow melts, and doing this one later in the season?
    You're not going to see much in snowy mountain action going through the Gorge. You will see some snow-topped mountains in the distance, but unless there's a winter storm that goes through the Gorge and drops snow on the lower elevations, you won't get close. The exception being Larch Mountain Road by Crown Point, but the road is currently closed much of the way up. You can ride up as far as you can go, but it isn't plowed. (Larch Mtn. tops off about 4,000 feet.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Can anybody suggest some routes? I know there's an old "highway" on the Oregon side, and I think there are some cyclist friendly routes on the Washington side.
    I'm partial to the Oregon side that uses the Historic Columbia River Highway, as it passes by most of the highlights (Crown Point, Multnomah Falls and much of the other falls), has less traffic generally (barely any commercial traffic but can pick up with tourist traffic on the weekends), and has off-road sections. The other option on the Oregon side is I-84, which you'll have to ride parts of if you go east of Cascade Locks. (It's not as bad as it could be.) Washington has only one route, SR 14, which has its moments (Cape Horn, Beacon Rock) and goes through more towns, like Stevenson. But the shoulder is hit-and-miss, and traffic can be on the high side (especially with tractor-trailers). There are about six tunnels east of Stevenson.

    You can see much more info here:
    http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/BIKEP...rgeBikeMap.pdf
    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transp...article/322030

    And you can always loop, going out one side and coming back the other. Just note the issues with bridges: Bridge of the Gods (Cascade Locks-Stevenson) is narrow and has a steel grate deck, and the Hood River Bridge is off-limits to bikes, though it isn't hard to hitch across with a bike. I've done it a few times.
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  5. #5
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
    And you can always loop, going out one side and coming back the other. Just note the issues with bridges: Bridge of the Gods (Cascade Locks-Stevenson) is narrow and has a steel grate deck, and the Hood River Bridge is off-limits to bikes, though it isn't hard to hitch across with a bike. I've done it a few times.
    I lead a "loop" ride every July, heading up the Washington side on SR-14 or Washougal River Road and SR-14, crossing on the Bridge of the Gods and then returning on the Old Gorge Highway. We start and finish at the south end of the I-205 bridge. It works out to be about 82 miles. I don't know how early I would attempt this, but it wouldn't be too bad right now. (If only I were in *cough* shape.) As above- the Bridge of the Gods is metal grate and can be very slick when wet. It's rideable when dry.

    The nice thing about this route is that it catches the westerly wind on SR-14, but you're pretty sheltered on the Oregon side if you go up to Crown Point and down into Troutdale. (Check ODOT- they are working on the road up to Crown Point right now.) The last couple miles on Marine Drive into the headwind will wear down your soul.

    Here's my web page about the ride: http://www.ohpv.org/events/bog/BoG.htm
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
    The nice thing about this route is that it catches the westerly wind on SR-14, but you're pretty sheltered on the Oregon side if you go up to Crown Point and down into Troutdale. (Check ODOT- they are working on the road up to Crown Point right now.) The last couple miles on Marine Drive into the headwind will wear down your soul.
    The construction is done, last weekend a friend and I rode the Historic Columbia River Hwy from Troutdale up and over to Latroulle Falls without any problems (other than being out of shape...)
    Check out my UltraEndurance blog for ride reports, equipment reviews, and philosophical ramblings...

    "I just assume I'm not invisible. I assume I'm wearing fluorescent clothes, and there's a million-dollar bounty going to the first driver who manages to hit me. And I ride on that assumption."
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  7. #7
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kenl666 View Post
    The construction is done, last weekend a friend and I rode the Historic Columbia River Hwy from Troutdale up and over to Latroulle Falls without any problems (other than being out of shape...)
    The construction project is off and on until the end of spring. This is the latest update that was emailed to me last week:

    Phase 2 of the Crown Point Viaduct restoration project is underway. Here's the latest information, so you can plan your spring sightseeing trip.

    Historic Columbia River Highway traffic delays and road closures to Crown Point from March 1 to May 24, 2013.

    March 1 - April 14, 2013
    Larch Mountain Rd. to Latourell Falls
    • Open to all vehicles with periodic single lane closures and delays of up to 30 minutes.
    • Vista House open to the public, 10 am to 4 pm daily.


    April 15 - May 24, 2013
    Larch Mountain Rd. to Latourell Falls
    • Closed to all vehicles (including bicycles and pedestrians).
    • Vista House closed.


    May 24, 2013--to Mid June, 2013
    Larch Mountain Rd. to Latourell Falls
    • Road open beginning Memorial Day Holiday Weekend.
    • Occasional single lane closure may occur with traffic delays of up to 30 minutes.
    • Vista House open 10 am to 4 pm daily.
    So, it looks like mid-April to about Memorial Day would be a bad time to ride the old highway. The alternate for then would be to take I-84 to the Bridal Veil Falls exit.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Thanks for the superb info and advice! Much more than what I was expecting.

    Based on all of this, I'm thinking I might wait for late May, and then ride from Troutdale to Cascade Locks or The Dalles ... assuming I'm able to talk somebody into coming with me, and moving the car while I ride. If I can make that work, I'll stick to the Oregon side; if not I'll consider a loop going back on SR-14 in WA.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  9. #9
    Member C0500's Avatar
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    I live in Bend and spend a good amount of time wind surfing and cycling in the gorge. May - Sept is west wind season. Periods with low winds will be if there is a upper level low in the Pacific NW or High pressure east Hood River. A ride that I would recommend is starting in Hood River and riding the tunnel trail to Mosier, this is a piece of the old Highway. Then continue through Mosier up to the Rowena Crest. Great view here. Then down the switchys on the other side and onto the Dalles old highway. Then back up over 7 mile hill taking you back to Mosier adn back on the tunnel trail to Hood River. Not sure on the milage but is 50 + or so with lots of climbing and great views. This ride splits the east/west transition in the gorge so has great varied scenery. Another very good option is the local harvest ride century in Sept. Starts at the fairgrounds out of hood river and is a fantastic ride.
    Enjoy
    http://www.mbsef.org/events/central_oregon_500/
    http://www.mapmyride.com/events/543802/
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  10. #10
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    I just rode up the old Historic Columbia River Hwy from near Troutdale to Ainsworth State Park on Monday and Tuesday. There's definitely some construction going on right now, namely on the viaduct around Vista House at Crown Point. They had closed it to one lane and had a flagger. The new pavement on the stretch between Women's Forum to Latourell Falls is beautiful, though. To note: they haven't repaved the last quarter-mile near the bottom of the hill at the Latourell Creek Bridge, so you still need to use caution there as the old pavement is pretty crappy.
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  11. #11
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
    I just rode up the old Historic Columbia River Hwy from near Troutdale to Ainsworth State Park on Monday and Tuesday. There's definitely some construction going on right now, namely on the viaduct around Vista House at Crown Point. They had closed it to one lane and had a flagger. The new pavement on the stretch between Women's Forum to Latourell Falls is beautiful, though. To note: they haven't repaved the last quarter-mile near the bottom of the hill at the Latourell Creek Bridge, so you still need to use caution there as the old pavement is pretty crappy.
    Good to know. My wife and I are planning on heading to Crown Point Sunday- we're still easing our way into the season. Our fitness level right now is just plain ugly.
    Jeff Wills

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