Missoula to Portland OR, L&C vs Transam
I'm planning a self-contained trip from Jackson, WY to Portland, OR from mid July to mid Aug (around 30 days total). I'll be following the Transam route up through Missoula. But from Missoula I'm trying to figure out the best route to Portland. I like the idea of following the Columbia river, so I was thinking of following the Lewis & Clark trail. However when I looked at the description of the two routes between Missoula and Clarkston, WA, on the ACA map I saw warnings of fairly poor riding conditions consisting of stretches of road with no shoulders and dirt/gravel roads. I also heard that the head winds can be pretty bad along the Columbia gorge.
Should I, instead, follow the Transam route down into Baker City, and either head north towards the Columbia river, or would you suggest that I skip the Columbia river and stay on the Transam toward the coast and then make my way to Portland?
Is there a 3rd alternative that someone can recommend?
I'll be camping around 80-85% of the time, so a route with nice inexpensive campsites would be nice.
US 12 between Lolo Pass and Kooskia is one of the nicest rides out there.
There really is no need to do the L&C overland section unless you really want "extreme".
Yes, you are likely to encounter very strong headwinds in the Columbia Gorge - that's why Hood River is the windsurfing capital of the U.S. You can either take the TransAm to Sisters and head over Santiam Pass and then via Breitenbush and Estacada to Portland - - or you can continue on to Lewiston/Clarkston and head over towards Mount Rainier via the Columbia Plateau, then down on paved forest roads east of Mount St. Helens from Randle to Cougar to Portland. Hwys 261, 260, & 24 are a fairly direct route to Yakima from Lewiston - but it will be HOT in late July/early August.
My wife and I have done both, in both directions (different years). Not surprisingly, there's advantages and disadvantages to both.
We actually rode the L&C before ACA mapped it; we followed Hwy 12 along the Clearwater River through Orofino, instead of climbing up and over the high plateaus near Clarkston. There was traffic, sure, but the highway was OK.
The major difference is that the TransAm (from Kooskia to Astoria) is longer than the L&C. For us, the TransAm took a week longer. So if you're time-constrained, riding down the Columbia might look attractive. Quite a few people finish up the TransAm by taking this route and cut off the extra miles.
Jamawami has good alternatives, and he makes a good point about the wind. In summer the winds howl out of the west up the Gorge. There's about a 50-mile stretch where a westbound rider can expect 20-30mph headwinds. You could say that the scenery makes up for it, though. And for 150 miles along the Columbia you have only a few (relatively) minor climbs.
On the other hand, the TransAm goes through Hells Canyon and the high desert of Eastern Oregon. Depending on the year, you can expect 100+F temperatures. You'll have wind, too, but not as predictable as the Gorge. Plus lots of 4000+ climbs.
So you take your choice. Either is classic western cycling country, and the memories of headwinds or heat will fade once you make it to the coast.
One route we took combined both: Ride the TransAm into Oregon. Climbing out of Hells Canyon, eight miles west of Oxbow turn onto North Pine Rd (FS Rd 39). This takes you along the Imnaha River and eventually to Joseph. The ride through the Wallowa Valley is one of the most magical tours you can imagine. To Elgin, over the Blue Mountains and into Umatilla, where you join the L&C. It's pretty remote in the Imnaha region, but good FS campgrounds. Camp at Wallowa Lake State Park and you won't want to leave.... See here for the route. This is the best part of Oregon for touring, IMO.
Good luck, great ride.
Heat or Wind
Thanks jamawani and EmmCeeBee for the advice. You've given me a lot to think about. Looks like either westerly winds or excessive heat will be unavoidable. I'm leaning towards the TransAm to Sisters to Portland route.