Anyone who’s traveled along Interstate 84 to the Columbia River Gorge knows that there’s just one problem: The view, one of the most beautiful in the state, whizzes by at 65 miles per hour. The newest section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail open to visitors lets you soak up the grandeur at a much slower, gentler pace — by foot or bicycle, without vehicle traffic.
Kids, families, seniors and users of all mobilities may access the new 3-mile route between Wyeth Trailhead and Lindsey Creek, with continued access to Troutdale and Viento State Park for an out-and-back bike or walking trip, or just to wander a section for a bit. The main trailhead is at Wyeth (Exit 51 off of I-84), but you can also access this section of trail from the Starvation Creek trailhead (Exit 55), and Viento State Park (Exit 56).
The views are worth it. In the viaduct section, there’s a view of the aptly named Wind Mountain, with an area to stop and look east and west along the span of the Gorge. Traveling eastward along the trail into the trees, there’s an idyllic forest setting to explore, under tree canopy away from the interstate, and not as windy. Further eastward you can see almost into Hood River, and marvel at the rock formations that make the Gorge area so unique.
This section of trail provides “a wonderful way to connect with nature, travel historic highway sections and also explore the Gorge how visitors experienced the drive 100 years ago,” says Terra Lingley, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Nicknamed the “King of Roads,” the highway was the first scenic highway to be built in the United States; it marked its centennial in 2016 and became a model for others nationwide.
When I-84 was built (1955 to 1975), several sections of the historic highway were abandoned and left incomplete. State and local agencies have been working to preserve, enhance and remake those connections for visitors to enjoy. Currently, 68 of the 73 miles between Troutdale and The Dalles are connected, including both driveable and trail sections, leaving 5 miles left. Two more sections are slated for upcoming years, and the final trail connection is looking for funding.
If You Go:
Download maps, watch videos and find other resources on the Historic Highway’s website.
To avoid crowds and packed parking lots, consider these Tips for Touring the Gorge (go early or stay overnight; travel on weekdays and go car-free to truly enjoy the ride).