Take a Guided E-Bike Tour of the Gorge

See waterfalls, wildflowers and vistas on this paved, car-free route.
Sol Rides,  Photographer
August 8, 2023

It’s a sunny early summer day, and I’m navigating the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail on a guided e-bike tour with Sol Rides, purring along the Twin Tunnels segment between Hood River and Mosier. With no concerns about cars, an electric motor providing a little extra oomph up the hills and our guide, Kat McElderry, taking care of navigation, our group of six is free to focus on the trickling waterfalls and fir-scented summer air. 

Mosier Twin Tunnels

Highlights Along the Highway

Henry Ford’s Model T was barely a decade old when Oregon introduced the nation’s first scenic highway, a marvel of engineering and craftsmanship that saunters gracefully along the walls of the Columbia River Gorge. A century later, that road has been reborn as the Historic Columbia River Highway, including 12 miles of State Trail free of motorized vehicles — all the better for taking in the spectacular scenery.  

McElderry motions us over to one of the highway’s original viewpoints, where hand-chiseled basalt railings bow out hundreds of feet above the Columbia. It’s just one of many embellishments found along the highway, dubbed “a poem in stone” when it was completed in 1922. The viewpoint is also perfectly situated to show off the magnificence of the river, zigzagging through tilted cliffs and rolling grasslands speckled with apricot poppies. 

As everyone snaps photos, McElderry points out striped mineral layers in the cliffs. A series of geologic events sculpted the Gorge, she explains, from ancient magma flows to the glacial waters of the Missoula Floods that scoured this deep seam in the basalt 13,000 years ago. 

“The Historic Highway is such a gem — for the scenery, absolutely, but also for the cool history and geology,” says Sol Rides owner Charlie Crocker. “That’s what we like to share with our guests. When they learn about why this place looks like it does, or how all the volcanic minerals play a role in Oregon’s great wines, it just enriches their entire visit.” 

Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail

The Accessible E-Bike

Crocker came to the Gorge in 2002, drawn by its wild beauty and access to world-class outdoor recreation. Soon he was sharing his skills with others as a river guide, kiteboard instructor and bike-shop tech.   

With the rising popularity of e-bikes he saw a new way for people to experience the area that would be affordable as well as easier than traditional bicycling. He founded Sol Rides in Hood River in 2017. 

While e-bike riders must be at least 16 years old according to state law, learning to use one is easy. “Riding a bike is approachable,” he says. “It’s something many people remember from their childhood, and something that different generations can do together.” Today’s group, in fact, encompasses three generations of extended family from California to Missouri. 

And most of all, e-bikes are fun. Sol Rides’ fleet of premium bikes are what’s called “pedal assist”: Because you start off pedaling them like traditional bikes, all it takes is a quick tap on a  touchpad to kick in the electric motor. Even those who have never been on an e-bike take to it immediately, and the surge of power elicits instant grins. After one practice lap around the Sol Rides parking lot, McElderry guides our group along a bike lane through town and toward the Twin Tunnels.  

Hood River Valley

Tours of all Types

Sol Rides offers three different daily tours in the Hood River area, along with e-bike winery tours, custom tours and rentals. (It’s best to book ahead of time.) Daily tours run about three hours and typically cover about 20 miles. 

“But we don’t really focus on distance,” explains Crocker. “That’s why we keep our groups small, so people can enjoy it at their pace.” Most tours, he says, have two to eight guests. 

Thanks to its handy headquarters location in downtown Hood River, Sol Rides’ two most popular tours — the Twin Tunnels and the Hood River Valley — depart right from the shop, without the need for shuttles or other logistics. Today’s custom tour takes in both destinations. From the Twin Tunnels, we’ve veered south along a couple of rural residential roads. Suddenly the route opens onto the broad Hood River Valley, a lush patchwork of orchards, vineyards and lavender fields with the snowy pyramid of Mt. Hood looming above. 

“You know, it’s one thing to drive through the countryside, but the driver doesn’t really get to see all the scenery,” says guest Matt Skarie as he casually pedals past rows of fruit trees that have just shed their blossoms to reveal tiny Bartlett pears. “Out here we’re surrounded by it, immersed in it. It’s a whole different experience.”

About The

Tina Lassen
Tina Lassen writes about travel and outdoor recreation for several national publications and websites, and is at work on a guidebook about watching wildlife in North America. She has lived happily in Hood River for more than 20 years.

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