Description - Where motorists on old U.S. Highway 30 once crept around curves high along the cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge, hikers, bicyclists and users of other muscle-driven forms of transportation leisurely enjoy the view from the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.
Copyright: - Oregon State Parks
Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
The Historic Columbia River Highway was designed by Samuel Lancaster and constructed between 1913 to 1922. Its purpose was not merely to provide an east-west transportation route through the Columbia River Gorge, but to take full advantage of every natural aspect, scenic feature, waterfall, viewpoint and panorama. When bridges or tunnels were designed, they stood by themselves as artistic compliments to the landscape. The Columbia River Highway served millions of travelers and became one of the grandest highways in the nation.
- The trail, two disconnected paved ribbons along abandoned stretches of the historic highway, give you more than 10 miles of sightseeing thrills. Between Hood River and Mosier, the five mile Twin Tunnels segment passes through two climate zones. Starting at the east Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead near Mosier, the trail leads through semiarid terrain dotted with ponderosa pine for about a mile until you reach the Twin Tunnels. Spectacular geologic formations tell the story of the gorge's creation.
After passing through the tunnels, you'll emerge into a forest of fir trees and other common western Oregon plants. Viewpoints along the 3.5 mile segment from the tunnels to the west Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead overlook the river.
Both trailheads for the Twin Tunnels segment require a day use pass which can be purchased for a small fee. A yellow self-service machine dispenses daily passes at each trailhead. There's a visitor center at the west trailhead with brochures and other information.
The other open, paved section of the trail parallels Interstate 84 between Cascade Locks and Bonneville Dam (the trail actually extends from Moffett Creek to Cascade Locks, but the western end of the trail is unpaved). Lush and green, this segment gets twice as much rainfall as the Twin Tunnels area. Ferns, moss-covered rocks and delicate, shaded wildflowers flank the 2.5 mile section from Cascade Locks to the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery. The trail then continues for another mile west to the Tooth Rock Trailhead, with views of Bonneville Dam along the way. Several U.S. Forest Service trails intersect this segment of the trail.
Vital stats: All segments of the trail are rated moderate to difficult for people with disabilities. A small daily fee is charged for the Mosier Twin Tunnels segment, or buy the annual permit for access to all state park day-use areas.
Recreation - The trail offers opportunities for biking, hiking, picnicking, viewing scenery, viewing wildlife, and viewing interpretive signs.
Climate - Climate in this region changes drastically with elevation. The area receives a high amount of precipitation. Much of the precipitation comes from October to April in the form of rain at the low elevations and as heavy snow in the higher elevations. Winter temperatures are normally cool at the lower elevations and cold at the higher elevations. Although snow is possible in the lowest elevations, it is infrequent and does not stay on the ground for long. Late spring, summer and early autumn bring the best chance for clear, sunny days and bring moderate temperatures.
Both segments of this trail are located in the Columbia River Gorge area. To reach the Twin Tunnels segment, between Hood River and Mosier, take Exit 64 off I-84 and follow the signs. To reach the Tooth Rock segment from the east, park under the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.