The Mt Hood/Columbia Gorge region is a cyclist’s dream come true. Nature handcrafted some stunning riding corridors, and with a little help from an enthusiastic local cycling culture, the area boasts an impressive network of paved, gravel, and dirt trails. If you also dream of smooth paved car-free road snaking beneath a canopy of fall colors, or buttery swooping single track, you have found your destination. As with most activities in the area, the biggest challenge will be making a decision about which world-class ride you would like to do.
We needed a little assistance with both our trip planning and outfitting ourselves with bikes for the day, so we stopped into Discover Bicycles in downtown Hood River. Well appointed with bikes for sale, rent, and a staff who speaks the language, we got the inside local scoop on some of the best rides around, and a trusty fleet of finely tuned bikes, each perfectly equipped for the terrain of the day.
Sightseeing tourists have long been acquainted with the Columbia River Scenic Highway, intricately carved into the landscape of the Gorge from Troutdale to past The Dalles. But large sections of this old historic highway are now reclaimed for foot traffic and bicycle enthusiasts only. There may be no more exhilarating way to spend a morning than lightly pedaling a paved road once constructed for the Model T Sunday drive. Our morning ride takes us from The Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead just east of Hood River through the Mosier Twin Tunnels and back for an easy 10 mile round trip. Along the way it is impossible to ignore the postcard dramatic views of the Columbia River Gorge. The inner child is sure to emerge when swooping through the two tunnels along the trail and it would be completely appropriate to let out the same whoop as the first day you learned to ride.
With the legs all warmed up, it was time to advance into a bit more technical riding, so we headed to Skibowl on Mt Hood for some lift assist downhill mountain biking. Skibowl operates as one of five ski areas on Mt Hood in the winter, but in the summer and fall months, they convert the bare ski slopes into adrenalin pumping downhill mountain bike single track. Ride laps all day accessing the ski lifts, modified to accommodate your trusty two wheeled stallion, or the one you rent from the bike shop at the base village. We were up for something on the intermediate side of exciting, and the forty miles of dirt trails in the Mountain Biking Park provided plenty of options. Its tough to keep your eyes on the trail when such impressive views of Mt Hood are looming merely a glance away. Save the mountain view selfies for the ski lift up, and the focused attention on the thrilling ride down.
Satisfied with our adrenalin rush on the mountain, we look to connect with local mountain biking professional and Discovery Bicycles ambassador, Heather Herbeck, for some guided trails. Paved roads end quickly out of The Dalles, and this provides the perfect setting for gravel grinding. Dirt and gravel roads contour into the rural foothills of the eastern Cascades with wide expansive views and endless loop opportunities. Heather senses we are well adjusted to some adventurous riding, so she ties together some gravel touring with single track mud bogging. High fives always feel better when you have to wipe mud off your face.
That kind of exercise is deserving of some luxury, and fortunately, The Dalles Ranch is only a few gravel road turns away. A sprawling forest retreat, the Dalles Ranch artfully combines a rustic feel with eyebrow raising modern amenities. The leather recliners in the award winning home theater will feel awfully nice after that extensive cycling tour.
Editor’s Note: To find your perfect road route, trail or gravel ride in the Mt. Hood/Gorge region, check out http://rideoregonride.com/rides/