Sunday, March 24, 2024

Hike: Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, Hood River, OR

Getting There

After the WTA trail work party the day before, I stayed in Hood River overnight. I didn't know what I was doing when I woke up. The weekend before I'd done a hike at Wind Mountain on the way home so I wanted to do something else. 

I drove up to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trailhead just east of Hood River.

From downtown Hood River, I took State Street east toward Hwy 35. The road changes to Old Columbia River Drive. It's another 1.3 miles up a winding road. I instantly recognized that I'd been here before.

I wondered if my Northwest Forest Pass would work for this trailhead/parking lot. I went inside the visitor center to ask the volunteer. We chatted for a long time about her history with the park service and volunteering. I shared that I'd been out in the area with WTA at Lyle Cherry Orchard.

My parking pass wasn't good here since it was a forest pass and not a parks pass. I bought the $5 day fee and got ready to go.

The Hike

Distance: 9.79 miles
Elevation Gain: 842 feet
Highest Elevation: 526 feet

I really didn't know how far I was going to follow this trail. It was paved the entire way but the volunteer I'd talked with gave me the mile markers where stuff was. It was about 4 miles to the east trailhead in Mosier. I'd been there a couple of years ago and checked out the tunnels.

I had my pack with rain gear and snacks. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to refill my water bottle. Oops. It was hardly a remote area but still a bit of a bummer.

I thought I'd go to the view point at mile 71 and turn back. I took my sweet time enjoying the views and explore every side trail. I found an open gate to a small meadow. There was a scramble route to the rocky outcrop but I wasn't sure if it was off-limit and didn't want to get too far off the official trail.

Just beyond the meadow was a small trail through some oak trees but there was also a gate and No Trespassing sign forbidding access for safety and preservation reasons. From there I could see the small pond I'd seen from the meadow. I'd scared a crane when I got there.

From the cliff above, I saw the crane had returned to its pond.

I found the viewpoint at Mile 71. I could see I-84 below and Lyle Cherry Orchard in the far distance. The weather was amazing and slightly chilly. I just had my base layer with was moisture-wicking. I had my soft-shell jacket just in case.

Since the volunteer had told me the tunnel was at Mile 72, I figured I'd just keep going. I didn't see anyone for the most part except a couple of bikers that zipped through.

On the other side of the tunnels was another lookout. It was cool to see the sloped terrain on the WA side of the river. Sedimentary rock that had been tipped at a 30° angle. The clouds were fluffy and gorgeous.

I ended up going all the way to the trailhead parking lot in Mosier. I'd hoped to find a drinking fountain but alas there was none. I used the lew and started the walk back to Hood River.

Near the west side trailhead, the trail splits for bikes and pedestrians.

Nice outing. Not exactly a "hike" because it was 100% paved but I'm marking it as such. I had my hiking boots on (which were pretty comfy TBH) and my backpack. And whew, 9.79 miles! Surprisingly, I had a decent amount of elevation gain (842 ft), comparable to EG at the Lyle Loop Trail (942 ft) even though it was spread over 9.8 miles here vs 1.7 miles one-way to the top of arc.